Meredith C. Carroll: 10 things I learned about finally catching a break

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off
Meredith Carroll
Courtesy photo

Since March 9, my parents and sister have been sipping glee-and-evil cocktails while reminding me about how I always used to want a broken leg. Never mind that my wish for a plaster cast (full-leg preferred) and crutches easily dates back 30 years; I finally caught a break.

If I could go back in time and share with my younger self some milk, cookies and the story of having 10 screws, a plate and titanium rod inserted into my right leg on the second Saturday of March in the year of the What the F*#$ Did I Ever Do to Deserve This Bulls%!t 2019 at a few minutes before midnight, which was almost eight hours after breaking it mid-slope and needing to be evacuated off the mountain and then rushed to the hospital where I howled for a few hours, and that was just while an army of emergency medical professionals endeavored to divorce my ski boot and leg, here’s what I’d tell Little Me:

1. Never tell a story in four words (“I broke my leg.”) when you can do it in 838 (or, if possible, more, especially when not tethered to such creativity killers as newspaper word limits, other people’s discomfort in learning how you either heard or felt the bones crack but can’t remember which, and an un-oxycodone-ized brain).

2. You weren’t a good skier as a kid, you’re not one now and, wait, what was No. 3? Oh, right. Then, now and never is when you’ll be a good skier. Yes, you’ve skied for decades. Yes, if Will Ferrell ever makes a winter sports movie (suggested name: “Old Ski School”), surely you’ll be featured in a triumphant montage cruising the blue groomers. But if the past 11 days are any indication, at the very least you can take comfort in knowing that what you lack in on-piste ability you more than make up for in on-couch sitting.

3. You may have never won NASTAR gold (or silver or bronze; you got whatever medal the losers got just for entering) but at long last you finally have something to show for all the skiing: X-rays of a broken tibia and fibula. Unfortunately, though, it’s not the kind of achievement that anyone (except, you know, you) writes home about.

4. Never stop looking for the lovely couple from Basalt who stopped when you crashed. Yes, you instantly forgot their names (although to be fair, you also forgot your own) but they didn’t miss a beat, stepping in to look after your 7-year-old daughter, staying by your side, telling you ill-timed horror stories of their own broken legs, distracting you with their calm and heartening you with their patience. When you finally find them, make sure to look them in the eyes because they need to really see yours to understand the impact of their kindness.

5. If you come back in your next life and all the ones after that trying to perfect the super-iest of super heroes, you’ll still never be worthy of the Snowmass Ski Patrol. Their ilk — Wendy, in particular — are role models dipped in Oscar gold and then slow-cooked in a roux made with intensity, humanity and the fortitude of gods. The EMS team that benevolently withstood your raging micromanagement (“Don’t take Owl Creek!” and “Watch for the potholes in the roundabout!”) also is way above your pay grade.

6. You will be gifted with an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Eleanor Von Stade, whose droll and confident energy clearly communicates that she sees you, she gets it, and she’ll guide you expertly, empathetically and thoughtfully to a successful conclusion.

7. You will learn from experience that while big cities have big hospitals with impressive facilities and fancy capabilities, Aspen Valley Hospital also is impressive and fancy. Yet precisely because it’s not so big, AVH’s nurses, physical therapists, technicians, assistants and other helpers are seemingly never too busy to stop and let you weep about the plight of your bad karma each time they come in to clear a tray or check your vitals.

8. There will be so many (many) bumps, bruises, scrapes and near misses over the years, and each time you’ll marvel at just how much the human body can withstand. Except, nope. You’re still not infallible. Yes, you.

9. Plaster casts aren’t a thing anymore. Now when you break a leg, you wear a contraption that can be best described as the less-comfortable second cousin of a ski boot that will one day meet its maker at the bottom of landfill, where it belongs.

10. You will finally get a Barbie dream house to call your own — in the mountains! — and live happily ever after. And then on March 9 in the year of the What the F*#$ Did I Ever Do to Deserve This Bulls%!t 2019, you will break your leg and come home a couple of days later to no fewer than 37 stairs between your car and the bathroom, but you wished for it, so enjoy.

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