Break a leg, this usually means good luck, at least when you say it to an actor/actress before they go on stage. No one knows where the phrase comes from, and I did look for it before writing this blog.
I was unfortunate to actually break my leg, on all days…my son’s eighteenth birthday! Strangely, I was on a ski hill at the time. It was sunny, warm, and beautiful. You could see for miles. And, I was walking! I slipped on the hill, went down, heard a sickening crunch, and slid down on my back into this little gully. It took them a very long time to find me. I saw skiers going by on the hill, fast, and they didn’t hear my shouts. By the time someone came along, I was all cried out. Not just the pain, but feeling sorry for myself. I had a lot to think about as I lay there. I did try to get back up the hill. My cell phone was in the little hut on the ski-hill, as was my walkie-talkie, and a phone to reach help. You see, I was working there part-time and I thought it would be fun. It was. The bonus was that you could ski for free. That weekend I was to receive my first lesson…that never happened.
One of the things in my job was to watch for skiers, accidents, all sorts of things that can go wrong when you have those lifts. People do really stupid things on snow and ice, much less skis. One of them wiped out my snow fences and I was going down to fix them when I slipped and fell. I accidentally pressed the emergency button instead of merely the stop button when he did that. So, I had extra time to fix them, after I apologized to everyone on the line because an emergency stop required extra steps. Well, they aren’t to restart the lift until everyone responds…I couldn’t respond, I was already down in the gully with my broken leg. I knew it was broken too, I’d heard, and felt, the crunch. It was really gross. There was no doubt in my mind that I had broken it, even though I’d never broken anything before (that I knew) in my life. It leads to a lot of introspection as you lay there, wondering if, or when, someone is going to find you.
They weren’t to start the ski-lift until everyone checked in, each booth, but after buzzing my booth several times, I could hear it, they must have given up on me and started it back up. That was good for me as people getting off the lift at my station might actually see me. Those going on up the hill above me wouldn’t be able to see me, that was the black diamond area. Those who don’t know what that is, it’s the more difficult part of the hill and only for experienced skiers. Below me was the bunny slope, perfect for beginners and children. Lucky for me a woman got off and asked if she could help. I immediately said yes and told her what had happened. Just then I could hear someone above us and I called to them. They looked over the edge and I told them to tell someone at the top of the lift when they got up there that the operator had fallen and broken her leg, to send someone. The woman who had first stopped stayed with me. I’d started to shake, not only from the cold, but from shock as it began to set in. I’d been there a while.
I saw the supervisor show up on a snowmobile, he asked me if I was okay. I replied through gritted teeth. I did try to keep my sense of humor and not be sarcastic. I was in a lot of pain. Ski-patrol arrived next and assessed me, put me in a basket to get me down the hill since I obviously couldn’t ride on the back of a snowmobile, and strapped me in. I felt every single bump on the way down that mountain. Then, when I arrived at the ski-patrol lodge, they nearly dropped me as they lifted me to put me on a gurney. I don’t look my weight (thank god) and I’m solidly built. They were surprised and I nearly panicked as they jostled me. The pain was something else. One idiot tried to do something with my leg, at the ankle where I had broken it. I threatened to slug him as he was causing me unnecessary pain. He looked alarmed at my very credible threat and they exchanged glances. They left my ankle alone after that. To this day I’m certain they were digging in their finger/thumb to see if I was faking it. Then, they left me lay for a long time on the gurney as we waited for an ambulance. I got to choose which hospital to go to. Since I lived not far from a brand-new facility, I chose that one.
As I lay there something about the date was niggling at my consciousness. I stared at the clock, watching the time tick by. By then I was becoming confused, a bit weird in the head from the pain, and tired…but certainly not enough to sleep. It was then that I realized that eighteen years previously, at about that time, I had gone into labor with my son Christopher (Chip). It was weird to realize that as I recalled the details. I couldn’t share it with anyone but I tried, they looked at me as though I’d flipped out. Ah well.
The ride to the hospital was painful too. It seemed to take forever as they drove along the highways.
At the hospital they gave me something for the pain, only after they gave me narcotics did they test me for drugs, um, duh! That is not how you do it when it’s a work-related injury! That is also how I found out I have a reaction to narcotics. Apparently, I can projectile vomit when I take them. Not everyone has this delightful ability and I don’t recommend it in the least.
The guy who took my x-rays looked younger than Doogie Howser (remember that show)? I kid you not, I asked him how old he was, I don’t remember now, but I do remember him laughing because apparently, he got that a lot. He confirmed the break. I do remember swearing when he did so. Apparently, I had a spiral fracture. That means where it broke it went up my leg and came back down. Ouch! They prescribed Oxy something for me…another narcotic that would make me ill (but, I didn’t know that then).
That was when they ‘allowed’ me to call my girlfriend. Now my girlfriend at the time was down at the ranch riding horses with her girls. The reception down there was notoriously horrible for cell phones, dropped calls, and basically crappy. Fortunately for me, I had her number memorized, because, who remembers phone numbers when you have an auto dialer in your phone? Her youngest daughter answered the phone. This is sort of the conversation:
Me: “J, this is not a joke, get your mom. I’ve broken my leg and I’m in the emergency room.” Now, we’d had this standing joke about me working at the ski-hill and breaking my leg so that’s why I prefaced it with, this is not a joke!
J goes running down the hill at the ranch screaming, “MOM!” and I hear the phone click, disconnected.
Shaking my head, I knew what had happened and considered calling my sister-in-law but she’s not good in certain situations and I really didn’t even want her to know. Fortunately for me, my girlfriend at the time, we’ll call her K, knew I wouldn’t joke about something like the emergency room. She also tried to call back and got the hospital, they wouldn’t put her call through since she wasn’t family. She decided to take her girls home and come to the hospital.
By the time she showed up, I was so loopy it was hilarious. I tend to get funnier at those points. She was not amused. Helping me get up into her Expedition was a lark as I always had to climb up into the big SUV. It wasn’t easy that time, especially with a wrapped leg. They couldn’t put a cast on it since it was swelling. The drugs they gave me were making me nauseous. She drove me, not home like I expected, but to her house. I had to crawl inside, using the crutches up her stairs didn’t work. Damn, that hurt. I managed to get up again and to her easy chair, my leg up in the air. I almost immediately asked for a vomit bag, I must have vomited a gallon. K is a sympathetic vomiter and grossing out, she left the room.
I called my son, someone had gone up and gotten my things from the ski-shack and gave me them which was a good thing since I needed my cell-phone. I asked him to go pick up my jacket and return the one I’d worn on the hill. They supplied those things. His girlfriend at the time was not happy. She thought I deliberately ruined their dinner together on his birthday. Happy birthday Chip, it’s a broken leg for your mom. I mean really, who would do that? The good thing for him was that he got to drive my SUV for those weeks I wasn’t using it.
I was hopping into my girlfriend’s kitchen one day on my crutches, slipped on water, and bumped my leg. They had to do surgery on that. One plate, seven screws, and they told me in eight weeks I’d get the cast off. They lied. It took eighteen. Even then it took me about eight months before I could walk fairly normal. I still can’t run without looking like I’m spastic or something, but, that could just be my age, or me. Two years later, I couldn’t move my toes so they removed the hardware from my leg. It’s a lot better without it. They said the titanium wouldn’t set off the alarms at the airport, but I never got to test that theory out…and I wanted to.
I got all sorts of casts, red ones, orange ones, but my favorite, which I still have glows in the dark. Pictured above. How cool is that? I thought maybe to make it into a lamp like the one they had in that movie.
My current girlfriend finds the idea repulsive, so maybe, not. She thinks I should throw it out.
So, break a leg means a whole lot of different to me…definitely NOT good luck!
So, on this, my oldest son’s thirtieth birthday (damn, how’d he get to be that old!?!?), I’m remembering one of his more memorable birthdays…Happy birthday Chip, love Mom.
Btw, I’m 30 too (with a few years of experience, after all, wasn’t I about 7 when you were born)? This should be interesting, being the same age as my firstborn!