The ski adventure tales continue! This was probably the lowest point of my ski season. But oddly enough it also resulted in more self-discovery and a very unexpected honour. It's funny how that goes sometimes...
Literally the day after my adventure up White Pass, myself, my mother, Sir Scott, and a group of other instructors and students from FIRE set off to the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiing (CADS) Festival. CADS Festival is a week-long national event, where members of adaptive snow programs from all over Canada come together to ski. Students are paired with two instructors at random, and lower level instructors are paired with higher levels for training. It's a win-win for everyone! It's an amazing week of fun, fellowship, and learning all at once.
CADS Festival travels around to different locations each year, but every two years it takes place at a resort just an hour and a half away from us, hence why we all got to go. Because I wear two hats, president of FIRE and a student, the week was a mixture of work and play... But mostly play... Sir Scott and I just so happened to be paired together for the week and were pretty excited to give my new seating a thorough testing. We both couldn't have been happier with the results, as I skied for five straight days with little to no discomfort. Well... For the most part... I'll get to that... This was another huge victory because I have never been able to ski for more than two hours per week. The glory of this accomplishment lasted two whole days... and then disaster struck... my head... on the snow...
I won't go into any detail about the events leading up to it, except to say that at the time I was skiing with a different instructor, and things didn't go as planned. Before I continue I want to say that this instructor is amazing at what he does. Accidents happen, especially in a sport like skiing! So without saying too much about the why, unfortunately I had a nasty fall, with the sit ski flipping upside down... I don't remember much of what happened before, or when the fall actually happened. One minute I was skiing, the next minute I was being picked up after being on my head. Scott was immediately at my side asking me if I was ok. The first thing I said was that I hit my head hard and I had a blazing headache. Admittedly I said this while trying to harness every bit of self-control I possessed not to burst into tears. The fact that the snow was icy and hard, and the impact of the fall on my head, was enough to scare me more than I care to admit. Scott being a former member of ski patrol came in handy, and he quickly checked me for a concussion. Nothing appeared to be wrong at that point except a headache though. After doing more tests, all of which I struggled to get through without crying, Scott took over and we gently headed down to the base.
A million thoughts flooded my mind in the time it took to get down. The pain in my head, neck, and left shoulder were increasing, which of course wasn't very encouraging. I thought the whole way down about the fact that this fall was very similar to the one that prevented me from skiing for two years. Would I have to go to the hospital? Did I break something? What about my neck? Had I undone all of the recovery progress I had made? Would I have to give up skiing for another two years? That consequence would be devastating, especially since I had only just started skiing again. The pain and these thoughts were becoming so overwhelming I just couldn't take it. Now this is the part that I'm still beating myself up over. Once we reached the bottom, and Scott knelt in front of me to see how I was, I just broke down and cried... I have to mention that Scott handled this situation amazingly well and I couldn't be more impressed.
This is where the self-discovery part came in. Even though I shed a few tears, and was pretty worried and scared, I managed to ignore it and remain my smiley self. My lifelong, somewhat debilitating fear of pain was starting to lose its grip on me! I was starting to feel like I had a breakthrough! Scott got me some ice, did his best to keep me distracted, checked for concussion symptoms again, and then said the dreaded words... "I'm taking you to the hospital."
Hospitals and I don't get along... at all... Ever since the horrors of bone surgery when I was four I've been terrified of them. The moment I heard those words, fear tightened its grip on me. For a moment anyway, but after that moment passed I went right back to joking and smiling. The half an hour drive there wasn't exactly pleasant pain wise, but I couldn't believe how well I was taking it. Just to give you an idea, usually pain and hospitals cause major emotional upheaval for me... But I made the whole trip with not the least bit of my emotions playing up, and even was able to enter the hospital with a smile. A HUGE breakthrough for me.
I had to wear a neck brace the whole time, went in for about 10 x-rays on my shoulder and a CT on my neck, but managed to pull through just fine. Mainly because my x-ray technician was extremely sexy... did I write that out loud!? No broken bones, just a small concussion and muscular swelling in my neck. Later on, I found out that I actually tore my rotator cuff in my left shoulder and sustained another whiplash injury, but in the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse.
I shocked myself and a few others, including my mother, by requesting the next afternoon to get back in the sit ski and go for a run. But here's my logic on this, which really just stems from knowing myself all too well... If I didn't jump right back in and face my fears, I knew it would get harder and harder, to the point where I wouldn't want to ski again. So to prevent that from happening, I simply forced myself to "get back in the saddle" again. And I couldn't be more thankful that I did.
The evening after my accident was banquet night, which resulted in a very unexpected surprise, but most of all a great honour. During the evening, the CADS national board presented awards to outstanding members of clubs across Canada. A very special award was given to an instructor who will forever remain a legend in my eyes. Vince was the craziest, most adventurous, and unique man I have ever known. He was the most deserving of the award Volunteer of the Year. I hope you're flying high in heaven Vince! When I am able to get my own sit ski one day, I shall name it Vince. My emotions were running high after Vince's award, and honestly, I was hardly paying attention to the next award being presented. All of a sudden I heard my name being called! But for what? What did they say? Administrator of the Year!? If I didn't have my seatbelt on I'm sure I would've fallen over. I was in complete and utter shock. Had I really just won a national award? I was so overwhelmed, tears filled my eyes as I went up to receive the award. It took me a good long while before I was able to process what had just happened. I felt undeserving of such a great honour, but at the same time, I couldn't be more grateful and touched.
The week of CADS festival was full of ups and downs, but I've concluded that even the downs taught me something positive. I learned that I can have courage in the face of pain. Often I beat myself up because I feel like I'm not strong. The times when I'm not strong always distract me from seeing when I am. So in the end, I'm thankful that the fall helped me to realize who I am on the inside. I would never have felt it had it not been for that fall. As the saying goes, it doesn't matter how hard you fall, just as long as you get up and try again. And never, never stop trying. Never give up!