catching a break

this week is our first planned vacation since we arrived in new zealand and we decided to spend 2 days skiing on my rapaheau and then 2 days in the resort town of taupo.

nice relaxing drive up on wednesday with some great views of the mountain from the town below. we went to a local ski rental shop and had the expected new zealand experience. after a great fitting we are told to keep the skis for as long as we want, and we can return them any time before 10 to avoid being charged for the day – “if conditions don’t look good, just bring ‘em back”

after an easy drive up the mountain we have our tickets and are on the lifts by 9:30. first run down a beginners slope to ensure we both remember how to ski and then we’re back up for an intermediate run. first half was great. for the second half we choose a route that is a bit icy but doesn’t look too bad. jackie makes it down and i start my run, taking it a bit at a time. half way down i turn and fall uphill onto my right side. nothing spectacular and some something i would expect to happen many time during a day of skiing.

i thought i had hit my tailbone hard, but when i tried to get up i knew it was something else.

my vacation was over.

i signaled to jackie who made her way up. several other skiers stopped to help and one went to get the ski patrol. the first ski patrol arrived to triage and called for the toboggan. after i was strapped to a backboard i was bundled into the toboggan for a ride down the clinic at the base lodge. the ski patrol were great – could not have hoped for better.

at the clinic i was given a full exam by the mountain doctor and some basic pain killer to take the edge off. he was able to rule out simple things and said he thought it like “something boney”. the primitive xray machine at the clinic was not conclusive but it appeared that i had a fractured femur – the big bone that runs from your knee to your hip and is *hard* to break. this earned me bonus points and a trip to the hospital in the rescue helicopter. after a quick 20 minute flight i was at wanganui hospital. jackie followed in the car after going to gather our stuff from the hotel, checking out and returning our skiiing gear.

the emergency room, xray (and i’ll later see operating theatres) are all brand new and state of the art. as expected i spent quite a bit of time waiting, but after an assessment from my 12 year old doctor that i did in fact have a broken femur i was given a bit of morphine and transfered to the orthopedic surgical ward for immediate surgery.

and here was were we traveled through a time tunnel. one minute modern state of the art – the next 1950’s rural russia. i was assigned ward room 17 that i shared with 3 others. no bathroom, no phone, no tv. decorated in classic state hospital green. the shared toilet is down the hall. the patient’s lounge features a lazy boy that would have turned away by the local salvation army, 2 other random chairs and a tv that only receives one channel (i expect it was purchased from ussr surplus and previously only featured soviet military parades)

there was one surgery ahead of me so i had a bit of a wait before being wheeled down to the operating theatre at about midnight. soon after we met the anaesthesiologist and surgeon. the surgeon explained the injury (NOF – Neck Of Femur) and the intended remedy. we were greatly relieved to hear he was putting in a plate & screws. the alternative of replacing the femur head with a prosthetic was a dreaded possibility. the surgeon answered all our questions, then marked (and signed) the leg to be operated on. i was wheeled into the operating theatre soon after and was out at about 2 in the morning.

after a short shop in recovery (i woke up *freeeeeezing* – they had to use radiant heaters to stop me shaking) i was back to my little slice of russia in the ward.

let the healing begin.

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