Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Backtracking - The accident

The day after the Opening Ceremonies started as usual.  After breakfast, we were getting ready for our morning training session, when Gary started having terrible abdominal pains.  He was literally bent in two and decided to wait a while to see if the pains subsided before heading on the snow.

I was feeling fine and headed up to the trails to start training.  It had been a cold night after a very warm day so the snow was hard and super fast.  I was on classic skis, the first part of the training was going well, when I went down the very steep down hill which hair pins into a very steep uphills.  It had been hairy in the previous days, this day, it was scary.  I was going at very high speed, lost control of the skis in one of the grooves and hit the protective fence (unpadded) with my face.

Our coach was skiing behind me and immediately unclicked my skis and walked me to the help station a few meters away.  I was losing a lot of blood so I was put on a snowmobile and taken to the ambulance, from there, to the olympic hospital at the valley floor.

At this point, we were still hoping that all I needed were a few stitches, however, people around me were a bit agitated and it was rather unsettling that I could understand almost nothing of what was going on around me.  Once arrived at the hospital, I understood that I had gotten hurt pretty badly when instead of being taken in for stitching, they took me to the diagnostic department for MRI and CAT scans.  Our coach called Gary, who had been sick the whole day and told him what the situation was.  He immediately came to the hospital and I managed to see him before being taken into the operating room.

That evening the first reconstructive surgery of my face occurred.  It is all a blur to me, but I remember waking up in the intensive care unit with the breathing tube still inside my chest.  Early that morning, it is hard to say since there are no watches and no light in the intensive care unit, I realized that they were taking an abdominal ultrasound.  Immediately, another flurry of activity started and I was taken into the OR again for a laparoscopic explorative surgery since they had seen some fluid in my abdomen.  Thankfully, that turned out to be a false positive.

When I woke up the second time, they finally removed the breathing tube from me and I started slowly coming back.  In the afternoon of the day following the accident, Gary was finally allowed to see me, it must have been a scary sight, he was allowed to stay only for a few minutes since there were other patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

The following morning, I was moved to a private room to start the path to recovery.  My hair had been soaked in blood and disinfectant and had created a hard, uncomfortable helmet around my head.  The first thing I asked was if it could be washed, which they tried to do as best they could without moving me from the bed. Not exactly a spa experience!  I was told that I could not move for 48 hours.

On Feb 12, I had to undergo a second facial surgery, during which the doctors tried to reconstruct all the bones and insert draining tubes.  When I was brought back to the room, the nurses left the bed far from the wall and I was left stranded without being able to call for help.  At this point, I had my first breakdown.  I had accepted being alone and unable to communicate for the past 4 days, but to be unable to call for help was a bit much.  I cried a bit, which is sometimes good and when Gary arrived he spoke with the staff to ensure that there was at least one nurse who could communicate.  However, I decided that it would be better to be proactive and I downloaded a translating app, which at first the nurses thought was funny, but that week they had so many non Russian speaking athletes that by the following day, everybody had the app on the phones and we were more easily communicating.  When I started walking around, the doctors and nurses started giving me the thumbs up and saying: you're too cool - which was kind of nice!

On Feb 15, I had to undergo another surgery, this time to drain my sinuses all the blood that had collected there as a result of the accident and to straighten my left orbital bone.

On February 16, for the first time, I was able to get up on my own, clean up, get dressed and stayed up the whole day.  This made me very happy, as all of you know I value my independence of action, and being able to do just about everything myself again was a huge gift.

All these days that I spent at the hospital, Gary was trying to slowly recuperate from his bacterial gastroenteritis.  Trying to train and come down to the hospital almost every day (a trip that takes 45 minutes each way), proved to be a bit too much and on the day of his race, he was feeling worse than ever.

Stay tuned for the next update......

The pictures for this update are not that exciting: my hospital room and the view from there

Monday, February 17, 2014

Backtracking - The Opening Ceremonies

February 7 would be a busy day.  As a quick aside, we are in a building which is about a 5 minute walk from the dining hall, where all athletes and team members go for their meals.  The dining hall is opened 24 hours a day and tried to cater to the variety of tastes, cultures and habits of the 1,100 athletes living in the Endurance Village.  

The dining hall is located in the main Village Building, a bit like a Lodge, where all of the amenities can be found: fitness center, wellness center, movie theater, disco, game hall, a small clinic, press offices, organizers' offices, laundry and some very limited retail.

Back to the 7th, after breakfast, we prepared to go up to the trail head for training.  The Laura Center hosts both cross country and biathlon and is served by a number of shuttle minibuses that takes around.  The very first day we went to ski, after the second turn in the minibus, we noticed a antiaircraft missile station about 50 mt from the road.  There was o skimping on security!

After the training session, we had a quick lunch and returned to the apartment to get ready to leave for the OC.  I was the first back and realized that a pipe had broken on the first floor - apparently still being worked on as I entered the building - and there was no running water in the building.  I made the quick decision to go to the gym to shower and left a note for the rest of the team.  

By the time I returned to the apartment, the water had returned - a bit brown apparently - so the guys had taken a shower there.  

All ready to go, we were to meet the other teams at 4.47pm, walk to the Gondola, board the Gondola for the 15 minute ride to the valley and then board the buses to be taken to the Coastal Village where all arenas are located and the C would take place.  

At about 7.30, we were all under a huge tunnel where it was like a tailgate party.  The atmosphere was festive, the athletes were going from team to team to say hello and to exchange pins (who would have thought that was such a popular thing!), and in general we are all excited and getting ready to go.  Here are a few photos:

The order of entry into the stadium was determined by the Russian alphabet, we were after Denmark and before Zimbabwe.  The teams finally start moving, there are volunteers steering us all, it is quite an exercise in logistics but somehow it worked!

The TV crews give us the go ahead, as we start up the ramp the country is called, the music is playing, Gary si waving the flag and we are steered around the right half of the stadium to our seats.  It was all very exciting and touching, we settled in our seats sandwiched between the very friendly Argentinian team and a very loud Brazilian team, and we get ready to take in the show.

After sitting down, we cheered on and welcomed the other teams in the stadium.  Most impressive in terms of sheer number: Canada, USA and Russia.  

The show itself was vey well done, a great display of the Russian glorious past, very well done.  

The evening concluded with a few speeches and the lighting of the torch. 

Great atmosphere all around, fantastic feeling to be part of something so much larger that oneself!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sorry about the long silence....

But the past 6 days have been surreal.

On Saturday morning, Gary woke up with horrible stomach pains so he delayed his training hoping to feel better.  I went out and started training on hard, icy conditions, on a very treacherous downhill I lost control of my skis and hit the fence with my face.  I shattered my nose and was taken to the hospital for surgery, MRI, and all the rest.  Because of the hit to the head, I could not move from bed for 5 days, today, it is the first day that I managed to sit and stare at my computer for more than a few seconds.  Needless to say, I did not start my race.  

Gary had been feeling ill the whole week but still managed to train and come down to the hospital to see me every day.  This morning, he was feeling worse than ever, but with a herculean effort he managed to start his race knowing that I was very much looking forward to seeing at least him out of the Olympic start gate and into the beautiful stadium.  That was all he could manage before collapsing.  

I am at the hospital for a few more days looking like the phantom of the Opera.  Tomorrow I will need to undergo another surgery – this time a very small one they told me – to remove a blood clot that dried up in my sinus and if left there would be extremely uncomfortable.

Gary is at the Olympic village, he was thoroughly checked by the doctors there and is under therapy for the next 10 days.  He caught an acute bacterial gastroenteritis due to tainted water.  

So, after the Opening Ceremony, which was quite amazing, things have been pretty difficult.   

Update from Sochi
In the next few days, we will do our very best to rest and recover and we should have time to look at our pictures and post some more facts about this experience of a lifetime that started like a fairy tale but went horribly wrong!

Stay tuned.......

Ci scusiamo per il lungo ritardo nel comunicare ma gli scorsi 6 giorni sono stati a dir poco surreali.  

Sabato mattina Gary si e' svegliato con lancinanti dolori addominali ed ha quindi deciso di rimandare il suo allenamento sperando di sentirsi meglio.  Io sono invece uscita per il mio allenamento.  Le piste erano ghiacciate e durissime ed ad una curva particolarmente pericolosa ho perso controllo degli sci ed ho sbattuto il visto contro la staccionata di protezione.  Mi hanno subito portato in ospedale per risonanze, ricostruzioni del setto nasale ed osservazione.  Per precauzione, mi hanno fatto stare immobile a letto per i primi giorni e solo oggi mi sono sentita abbastanza bene da sedermi ed accendere il computer.  Inutile aggiungere che non sono riuscita a gareggiare.  

Gary non e' stato bene durante tutti i 5 giorni in cui io ero in ospedale, ma ha comunque cercato di allenarsi tutti i giorni e di venire a trovarmi in ospedale che e' a 45 minuti dal villaggio olimpico.  Stamattina si sentiva peggio che mai, ma ha fatto un sforzo sovrumano per iniziare la gara solo perché sapeva che io ci tenevo tanto a vederlo uscire dallo stadio olimpico.  Purtroppo dopo solo 300 metri e' collassato.  

Io sono in ospedale e sembro il Fantasma dell'Opera.  Gary e' al villaggio olimpico dove e' stato sottoposto ad ulteriori test ed e' sotto terapia farmacologica.  Pare abbia preso una gastroenterite batterica acuta a causa dell'acqua.  

Quindi, dopo la Cerimonia di Apertura che e' stata bellissima, le cose sono state abbastanza difficili per noi.  

Nei prossimi giorni non faremo altro che riposare e guarire, e speriamo di avere un po' di tempo per pubblicare un po' di foto e qualche commento su questa esperienza iniziata come una favola, ma presto diventata tutt'altro che!

Non cambiate canale....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Settling in and Welcoming Ceremony

On February 4, our missing pieces of luggage finally arrived.  Today, we were on the snow for the first time with our own skis.  The race course is absolutely stunning in terms of views and set up but bit daunting.  There are numerous very steep uphills and downhills (the equivalent of an intermediate downhill ski run).  On one of the downhills we recorded speed of 67km/h, just a bit scary.......

Il 4 febbraio sono finalmente arrivati i nostri bagagli mancanti ed oggi siamo riusciti ad allenarci sulla neve con i nostri sci.  Il percorso di gara e' bellissimo in quanto a panorama, ma da sciare intimidisce un po'.  Ci sono numerose salite e discese equivalenti ad una pista blu da discesa, tanto per darvi un'idea su una delle discese abbiamo raggiunto 67km/h!

In the afternoon we traveled from the Endurance Village, where we are staying with all cross country and biathlon athletes, to the Mountain Village where all the downhill, snowboard and speed events are taking place, in order to attend the welcoming ceremony for Dominica.  During the ceremony the President of the Dominica Olympic Committee exchanged gifts with the Village Mayor, the flag was raised, the national anthem played and the wall of truce signed.  The Wall of Truce represents the commitment by all participating countries and all the athletes to reject violence and compete in the true spirit of the Olympics.  It was a really special afternoon.  Here are some pictures.

Nel pomeriggio si e' tenuta la cerimonia di benvenuto al paese e le nostre assistenti sono venute a prenderci per portarci dal villaggio olimpico Endurance al villaggio olimpico Mountain dove risiedono tutti gli atleti di sci discesa, snowboard, combinata e salto.  Durante la cerimonia il presidente del comitato olimpico di Dominica ha accettato il benvenuto e scambiato regali con il sindaco del villaggio.  Hanno alzato la bandiera con l'inno nazionale di Dominica ed il Presidente ha firmato il Muro di Pace che rappresenta l'impegno da parte di tutte le nazioni partecipanti e tutti gli atleti alla non violenza ed a gareggiare secondo lo spirito olimpico.  E' stata una cerimonia molto bella, ecco alcune foto.

Flags at the Mountain Olympic Village

The team at the Mountain Village Olympic Rings

Flags Boulevard at the Mountain Olympic Village

The Dominica Flag proudly flying

Ice Sculptures 

Right before the Welcoming Ceremony

Underneath the flags

Gary pointing at the Dominica Flag

Felix Wilson, Dominica Olympic Committee President on stage

Signing the Wall of Truce

The team boys with the majorettes

The team with our Sochi 2014 Assistants

Back to the Endurance Olympic Village

Our neighbors: The Czech Republic


Italy occupies the two floors underneath us - they forgot to hang their flags.....

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sochi bound!

We are here!

On Saturday morning we left Montana at 10:30am, arrived at the Bozeman airport ready for departure.  8 bags - how many will arrive with us?  We hope all of them......

We made it after a daunting 28 hr trip and an arrival time of 3AM in Sochi! We are in our apartment - definitely not the Four Seasons - but new and clean albeit a bit small for the four of us. I believe this is our issue given we are generally used to somewhat larger dwellings. That said, there is a first rate wellness/fitness center with four different types of saunas/steam rooms, indoor/outdoor pools, hot tubs and even bubbling foot massage machines. All done in beautiful bisazza tile. The only distraction is the occasional very large Eastern European coach in a speedo (don’t forget that image – we’ll send pictures).
We are at the endurance athlete's village very close to the XC and biathlon venues. Security is pretty intense as would be expected although I was a bit surprised at the vigorous frisking Gary received by a TSA equivalent woman in her 60s at the Sochi airport.

The weather was glorious and the snow conditions are firm and fast. Unfortunately, our skis and Gary's suitcase have yet to arrive, and the worst is they still don't know where they are so we haven't set foot on the snow. We did venture up to the stadium and chills went up our spines as we gazed at the massive Olympic symbol located right at the start line. I can only imagine what the opening ceremonies will be like. We are so fortunate to be here.  More pictures to come soon, in the meantime, here is the view from our apartment:

Ed eccoci qua pronti a partire per Sochi!  Sabato mattina siamo partiti dal Montana e dopo aver toccato Los Angeles e Mosca siamo arrivati a Sochi alle 23.50 di domenica (dopo ben 28 ore di viaggio).  All'aeroporto di Bozeman abbiamo imbarcato 8 bagagli - quanti arriveranno con noi?

All'arrivo a Sochi siamo stati incontrati da 2 volontarie che ci hanno diretto ed aiutato nelle varie procedure di sicurezza.  Purtroppo solo 3 degli 8 bagagli sono arrivati, quindi abbiamo perso un po' di tempo in aeroporto.  Siamo arrivati al villaggio olimpico Endurance alle 3 di mattina!

L'appartamento che ci hanno assegnato e' nuovo e comodo, non grande ne' lussuoso, ma in un villaggio olimpico non ci si può aspettare un 5 stelle!  A 5 minuti da noi ci sono la sala mensa, palestra, piscine ed un centro di benessere veramente degno di nota.  L'unico elemento di disturbo e' la vista di alcuni degli allenatori dell'Europa dell'Est in costume da bagno succinto - faremo foto!

La sicurezza non e' da scherzare, ci sono addetti a tutti gli angoli, polizia armata dappertutto e le nostre credenziali vengono controllate ad ogni punto di accesso.

Il tempo e' bellissimo, le condizioni delle piste sono ottime e molto veloci.  Purtroppo abbiamo passato il primo giorno a cercare di rintracciare i bagagli ed i nostri sci quindi abbiamo potuto allenarci solo in palestra.

Lunedi' siamo andati a vedere lo stadio che e' da brividi soprattutto alla vista dei cerchi olimpici e di tutte le telecamere già in posizione.  L'essere qui ed il poter partecipare ai giochi olimpici invernali ci fa sentire particolarmente fortunati e privilegiati.  Altre foto a seguire a breve, questa e' la vista dal nostro appartamento.