The biggest story of my life is unique, and according to others, inspiring. In February 2002, I was enjoying the best alpine ski racing season up to that point in my life when a skiing accident almost killed me. Doctors said there is no medical reason why I survived severe internal bleeding.
One night while skiing too close to the edge of a trail, my ski hit the side of a wood post which quickly changed my life forever. The trail had some trees and bushes on the left side. Plus, there was a water pipe running up that trail which was supported with wood posts. That night temperatures were in the lower twenties with wind chills in the teens. It was a great night for skiing especially after getting fresh snow the previous two days.
Initially I lost balance when the edge of my ski hit a wood post. Having years of experience on the slopes, I automatically remained calm. Twice I tried hard to throw my body to the right to get back onto the open part of the trail. Both attempts were unsuccessful. It was very strange. I wondered why I was not safely laying on the snow. Throwing all my weight down towards the open trail should have gotten me safely onto the ground. Later on I discovered the reason why those two attempts were unsuccessful. It was because at that point both of my skis were cutting through the next wood post; my skis literally severed off the entire top half of the post. The wood posts were approximately five to six inches wide.
My feet were still inside the bindings on my skis which explains why throwing my weight to the right did not work. The bindings held my feet and my body in line with the wood post when I was attempting to try to fall onto the open snow. After the skis finished slicing through the wood post, then the skis flew off my feet and torpedoed through the air. As I continued sliding down the edge of the trail, I noticed I was gaining speed. At one point I clearly remember looking up towards the sky at an angle to see both of my skis flying in midair. They were like rockets flying high and fast. Immediately I thought “Wow! How did my skis get that high?” They had to be at least a dozen feet up in the air. Luckily no one else was around when the skis finally came back down to the ground.
Next, I remember sliding underneath the water pipe. My eyes were now scanning the narrowing bushes and trees downhill from where I was currently sliding. My mind quickly searched for ideas of how I could possibly get out of this situation. I was an advanced level skier, but even an expert could not have gotten out of that situation.
Finally, I had about a full second’s notice to realize how this was going to end. While traveling approximately 20 to 25 miles per hour I saw that I was inevitably headed towards a wood post, and knew what part of my body would collide with the object (it was going to be my abdominal area). Crazily, my mind thought “at least my legs are not going to hit the post.” At that moment I did not want to break my legs so I could continue skiing; maybe not that night, but very soon.
I stopped sliding on the snow when my upper abdominal area slammed into one of the big wood post. The impact was so hard that the force wrapped my body around the post like a rag doll. I clearly remember my entire body rebounding back to the other side of the post and landing a couple inches away from the post. Immediately upon impact, my liver split open (the laceration was over 18 cm long, and later I developed a blood clot on the liver). In addition to internal bleeding, I also had a bruised spleen, partially collapsed lung, and torn cartilage in one shoulder. The excruciating pain was overwhelming. The only way I could get through it was to literally live life one second at a time. Thinking ahead even just ten minutes into the future was too much to handle when dealing with that kind of extreme pain.
The only piece of equipment I did not lose during the long fall was one ski pole. The pole strap got stuck around my wrist, drug on the ground, and pulled my arm which caused the shoulder injury. According to a satellite map, the straight line distance I traveled during the fall was between 300 and 350 feet (both skis flew considerably farther downhill).
There was no one else around on that trail when I fell. No one saw what happened, and the chairlift closest to that trail was not running that night. I knew I had to scream for help despite the intense pain. Shock set in quickly, and breathing was extremely difficult. I looked back uphill and noticed the broken post lying on the ground a short distance downhill from where I first lost control. I knew it was vital to keep reminding myself that I had to tell the ski patrol about the broken post. At that time I did not realize informing the ski patrol about the broken post would be a very important piece of information for them to figure out how far I slid; I just wanted to let them know so the post could be replaced.
While laying alone on the cold snow my intuition told me that I had internal bleeding, but at the same time I just knew that I would be okay. Luckily it only took about a minute before someone found me. A grandpa who was a chaperone for his grandson's school group skied up to me, and it was a huge relief seeing a familiar face. He retrieved my glove and placed it on my snow-covered, freezing hand. Before he could leave to get the ski patrol, a ski patroller skied down that run and stopped to help. John A. is the ski patroller who rescued me, he discovered the internal bleeding, he stayed by my side the entire time, he got me the advanced medical help I needed fast, he took excellent care of me, and him and his family will always hold a special place in my heart forever.
Inside the ambulance, the two volunteer EMT's, who were around my age, made the ride as best as they could for me. They calmly talked to me the entire time even though I could not talk very much. And, I will never forget hearing them make the call to the hospital saying they were bringing in a patient with possible internal bleeding.
We were not even halfway to the hospital when the driver of the ambulance told one of the EMT's that a car in front of us was not pulling over. The car slowed down to a very slow speed, but refused to pull over for the ambulance despite the lights and siren being on before the ambulance caught up to the car. As a patient laying in the back of the ambulance, dying, I will never forget how an uncaring person prevented me from getting to the hospital faster. The roads were good without any snow or ice on them, and there was not much snow on the shoulder of the road. So, there was no excuse for that car not to pull over other than the driver not caring about the life of another human being. Eventually, after about a minute, and after the ambulance driver honked the horn several times, the car finally pulled over.
When I arrived at the hospital, all I wanted was for some of the pain to go away, but it did not begin to lessen until after a full week of being in the hospital. Even now, using words like extreme, severe, excruciating, intense, and horrible to describe the pain seems like those words are not even close to being strong enough words to describe that kind of pain.
While intensely shivering inside a very large ER room with lots of equipment everywhere, I remember having to wait a really long time for the doctor to come into the room. Other hospital workers took x-rays of my neck and shoulder which showed no fractures. When the doctor finally arrived, they did an ultrasound on my abdominal area. Because of the extreme pain and having a hard time breathing, I was laying flat on my back and not moving at all except for the uncontrollable shaking from being so cold. When the doctor looked at the ultrasound screen, I clearly remember him saying "there is so much blood I can't see anything! I can't make anything out!" That comment got me to turn my head, look at the doctor, and look at the screen. The lady assisting with the ultrasound adjusted the settings on the ultrasound machine so the doctor was able to see what was going on inside of me. That helped him to see right away that my liver was gushing blood everywhere inside my abdominal cavity.
Next, I remember hearing a call over the speaker in the hallway (the door to my room was open). The person's voice was calling code blue for a certain room number. Because I was in decompensated shock, my brain was thinking that the call was for someone else. During that moment, luckily I did not realize that the call I heard over the speaker was for me. About 20 people rushed into my room, so now there were about 30 hospital workers standing around me along with my mom and aunt by my side. My cousin was at home taking care of my disabled brother.
A hospital worker started putting in a second IV in my arm, and she said it was in case I needed surgery. Hearing the word surgery made tears start falling down my face. I was reminded by both my mom and the hospital worker that it was only if I needed surgery, and they clarified that I did not need surgery right away. That helped the tears to stop flowing.
One hospital worker asked if I was cold since I was shaking so hard that the instruments underneath my bed were rattling loudly. When I said yes, she quickly had another staff person get me a few heated blankets. Over the next several minutes, hospital workers kept taking off blankets when they would cool down and replace them with new, warm blankets. After about 10 minutes I finally stopped shaking even though I still felt cold. After that, they rolled my bed down to the CT scan room. The scan revealed how severely the liver was lacerated.
When I was done getting a CT scan, they moved me to a smaller ER room. That is where I waited for an ICU room to open up. I remember being extremely thirsty from the decompensated shock while in ICU. They gave me a few ice chips inside a cup that I quickly devoured. The hospital worker did not want to give me any more, but the nurse was nice and gave me more ice chips two more times. They told me I needed to sleep because my body really needed the rest, but I did not feel tired. I was so thirsty that I wanted to drink all the water in an ocean! When they refused to give me more ice chips, I imagined holding my mouth wide open so the water from an entire ocean could start flowing in to satisfy the intense thirst.
It did not take long for me to fall asleep about an hour later. Since I had internal bleeding, they had to monitor my hemoglobin levels by taking blood every hour. I was lucky to have slept through 12 hours of them coming in every hour to take blood. The next morning, I woke up to the sound of my cousin's voice asking the nurse if she could see me (they were standing on the other side of my ICU curtain). The nurse said no and told my cousin that I really needed to sleep. I kept my eyes closed for a couple more minutes simply so the hospital workers would not know that my cousin's voice woke me up. I spent 22 hours in ICU until they had to move me because ICU was full and they needed to open up rooms. I will never forget having to literally live one second of my life at a time that entire night until falling asleep in the ICU room.
Being in decompensated shock caused me to lose a big portion of my memory, and my mind is still foggy with many things that occurred before 2002. In addition to losing memories, I forgot how to spell many words, forgot how to form sentences, regularly could not remember the word I was looking for to complete a sentence, and lost all feelings attached to every existing memory. The only feelings I knew were pain and laughter; the laughter was thanks to my funny aunt who visited me often in the hospital.
The first time I realized how much of my memory was lost was in the hospital when I went to write out thank you cards. Suddenly I was wondering how to spell words and how to form sentences. Since I did not want to make a mistake on any cards, I would scribble out words on a piece of scrap paper, slowly trying to figure out how to put the words into sentences, and then hoping the order was correct. Eventually I knew that I would relearn on my own how to correctly spell words and form sentences again. It was a challenge, but I was not worried about it.
I looked at all of the lost feelings as a wonderful, unique opportunity to experience things as if it were the first time again. My favorite experience was inline skating again for the first time. I knew how to inline skate really well, but all the feelings associated with inline skating were brand new. I'll never forget experiencing the thrill of going downhill, the winds blowing on my face, or the warm sunshine on my arms. When the next skiing season began, I enjoyed experiencing what it was like to ski again. This was awesome because I could not remember my first time skiing at age 8. The feelings of freedom, the cold winds, snowflakes hitting my face, and feeling the snow under my carving skis were just a few things that made that first day back on skis amazing.
When I got home after the accident, I was still in severe pain, walking was difficult and slow, and I was physically very weak. I had no idea how long the recovery process would be, but it was something I never thought about very much in depth.
A couple weeks after getting out of the hospital, I went to a store with my mom and brother. We were walking in the crosswalk area towards the front doors of the store. No vehicles were coming when I started walking, but a very big truck came around the corner right after I started walking in the crosswalk area. The truck had a stop sign, and at first I felt bad that the person would have to wait for me to walk at turtle speed. I tried to walk faster, but the pain was too severe. The guy in the truck kept revving up the engine, and he would take his foot off and on the brake so the truck kept inching closer and closer to me. I was very scared and knew my life was again at risk. This impatient guy could easily kill me right now if he wanted to especially in my gentle state. I was holding both arms by my abdomen, guarding the extremely painful liver and spleen, while having a hard time breathing just from walking. My breathing quickly became labored regularly because of the recovering partially collapsed lung. I avoided looking at the guy, and prayed that I would make it into the store alive. While still in the crosswalk area, as soon as I walked just barely far enough for the truck to clear me, the guy sped by me fast. I will never forget the rush of wind on me from the rudeness I just experienced. It was a huge relief when I caught up to my mom and brother.
At a follow-up doctor’s appointment three months after the accident, I was told something that had previously been withheld from me. Doctors said there is no medical reason why I survived the skiing accident. Internal bleeding like I had is so horrible that I understand why all the medical books say it ends people’s lives. The doctor also explained why they do not like doing surgery on people who have internal bleeding because their chance of survival decreases with surgery. They simply treated the shock and monitored hemoglobin levels. They said if my hemoglobin number dropped below 13 that they would have to do surgery. I dropped down to 12 for two hours, and luckily avoided surgery. The doctor asked if he could use my medical images and story at a mortality and morbidity conference to help others learn from my accident. I gave him permission, and hope that what other doctors learned from my accident can help save at least one other person.
Despite all the pain from the accident that lasted for years, I could not wait to get back on the slopes the following season, and could not wait to get back to ski racing. It was easy to get back into skiing, but it took ten years before I could finally race without having the fear of falling.
The constant pain from a lacerated liver lasted for 6 full months. Then I was able to get through 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and eventually 10 minutes of being pain-free as long as my entire body remained completely still while laying down. It took two full years before I could get through an entire day feeling okay with the constant lingering off and on pain daily.
Five years after the accident, I thought it was impossible to ever make a complete recovery. My health was poor, I did not like how pain had taken over my life, and I knew that I had to make a change. I did not want to live the rest of my life with frequent pain, poor health, and never feeling good. But I did not know what to do or where to start, so I continued on the same path wondering if anything would ever improve. I hated the way pain was controlling certain parts of my life, interfering every time I would go skiing, inline skating, or simply walking up a small incline. I desperately wanted to change, but I simply did not know what to do to improve my life.
One day in front of the chalet, I saw a friend who I also raced with at the time. She asked if I was ready for the racing season to start, and I said not really because I had sprained wrist. That is when she told me about a new supplement that was giving thousands of people awesome results. After seeing all the scientific evidence the company had to back up their products, I realized I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try. I knew it would take time to see if the supplement would help to improve my health. But, I was completely amazed that all of my liver and spleen pain was gone after only 3 months of taking the new supplement. Suddenly I had my life back, good health, and the freedom to enjoy life without regular pain.
The skiing accident taught me that life can sometimes be too short, and reminded me of the importance of living life to the fullest. It’s what we choose to do with our lives now in the current moment that matters the most now and in the future.
One and a half years after the skiing accident, I joined the volunteer ski patrol and discovered a passion for helping other people on the slopes. I continue to enjoy lots of time on the slopes every winter, and hope to be able to continue racing and ski patrolling until I'm at least 90 years old.
I hope this story has inspired you to make positive changes in your life. And, reminded you of the importance of being considerate to others because you never know the difficult battles others are going through. Having good health is extremely important. Without it, life cannot be fully enjoyed. Good luck on your journey through life, may you always be healthy, and may you always find time to live life to the fullest.