What do fresh lobster, rescue toboggans, epic conditions and ACL’s all have in common?
Yes, just five days into our “700 day time out", we were telemarking on the back side of Mt. Crested Butte when “bang” in 2 seconds and one crossed ski, Christine went from healthy, just embarked on a great adventure “Colorado ski chick on sticks”, to a smiling but hobbling torn ACL statistic.
I knew that this adventure would bring the unexpected, but somehow I didn't expect to lose my favorite ski partner just 5 days into it. The speed with which she went from one condition to another was the biggest wake up call of all. In all my imaginings of what we would be doing up here during our season in CB, having her on crutches never even entered the picture. There she was though, sprawled out on the snow sucking up her left knee, ouch!
With-in three minutes CB’s ski patrol was on-site, Christine was wrapped up in rescue tarps, packed into an orange toboggan and barreling down the slopes to the clinic like a presidential motorcade, escorted by four ski patrolmen (all handsome and heroic according to her).
Thirty minutes later, the official diagnosis - ruptured anterior cruciate ligament - the skier's dreaded torn ACL.
A bumpy wheelchair ride across the snow ruts out to the parking lot, a copy of the x-rays and the experience of the exact same injury on the opposite knee ten years prior, left us no choice…it was time to bail out of Colorado. They don't like to do ACL surgery until the swelling goes down and that usually takes about ten to fourteen days. Meanwhile they put a brace on your knee, say “take it easy, take a pill when it hurts and be careful of the ice". Be careful of the ice? In a town so overwhelmed with historic amounts of snow that they were no longer plowing the sidewalks, but were now tunneling through the huge piles to allow people to get from the street to the shops' front doors...
We headed South!
Twenty-four hours and a lot of Mileage Plus miles later, there we were at DIA. A special TSA search process which seemed reserved only for those hobbling had made us late. This left us no choice but to chase through the airport, me pushing a $3 luggage cart as a wheel chair, an old pair of crutches as a protective bumper and Christine, her leg sticking out like a battering ram, was buried under our carry on luggage. With minutes to spare, we headed to the most remote of the British Virgin Islands.
Anegada is a coral reef island east of Tortola, separating the Atlantic from the Caribbean. Two hundred and eleven people, fifty-seven iguanas and the most amazing lobster you will ever taste call this little island home. It was the perfect place for rehab! Eighty-five degrees, no need for any clothes other than easily donned t-shirts, shorts, swimsuits and a knee brace. No dangerous icy walks here, no nightly tales of epic powder runs, just lots of rum, soft flat beaches, inviting hammocks and the slowest laid back atmosphere you can find this side of the equator.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served with our toes in the sand. Nightly visitors from anchoring sailboats kept the serve yourself beach bar lively with entertaining stories of the calm seas and wild shenanigans that seem to define sailing in the Sir Francis Drake Channel.
It was a time of short walks, long naps, warm water and good books, as if perfectly designed to keep injured muscles strong, swelling down and sore joints more flexible. Physical therapy was snorkeling (remember, just no kicking!) and wading in the beautiful lagoons. In the colorful living aquarium, small amounts of extra effort to push out further in the buoyant water were rewarded. Treasures, like huge conch shells, appeared like Easter eggs in the shallow reefs and sandy bottoms of the island’s Atlantic side.
On the Caribbean side, a mile away, short excursions out the door of our simple hotel led across the island's one lane road, past wandering wild cows to the nearby salt ponds and the islands incredibly pink flamingos. Two hundred pictures later and we still don’t have a single one with a head out of the water.
Life on the island allowed us to get back to normal, to get used to a new if temporary set of circumstances. We had to adjust our plans a little and we learned to be better cognizant of the unforeseen. The accident would have forced us to slow down anywhere, yet the culture and environment of Anegada allowed us to realize that slowing down, especially together, wasn’t such a bad thing.
Postscript: Just seven weeks to the day after her surgery Christine was back on her skis for Crested Butte's infamous closing day.