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

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