Four years ago today, my family’s life was forever changed. The morning started out like any other ski day. Ira and I and our two youngest sons were eager to hit the slopes. As we rode up the lifts and skied down, we enjoyed every minute of our exhilarating time at Keystone Mountain. This day was especially noteworthy since I had recently returned from my first trip to India. After spending 2 months in a Third World country, I was ecstatic to be back in the Rocky Mountains. My elation was cut short. Without any notice a precarious moment took center stage. In May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, I recount what happened on March 26, 2010.
My stomach tightened. The phone rang again.
“Is Dad with you?” Aaron questioned.
“No!” I blared.
“He’s not here. Jordan is hiking up.” My heart pulsated. My skin was damp. Time crawled.
The phone rang again.
I answered. Aaron’s voice echoed, “Dad’s in bad shape. Call the ski patrol!”
I skied to the lift operators. Calm down, calm down. “My husband’s injured!”
“Where?” the shorter one asked.
“It’s the steep face on Wild Irishman.”
“What’s he wearing?”
I couldn’t visualize anything—his jacket, his ski pants, or his helmet— everything vanished.
Trembling…sniffling, I said, “I can’t remember.”
I slid onto the next available chair. Bad shape. What did that mean? Was he bleeding? Had he hit a tree?
Globs of snot oozed out of my nose. I shook. Snorkel-snorkel. My mitten smeared the rest on my face.
The phone rang. “Dad’s head… Where are you?” Aaron roared.
Droplets were pooling in my eyes. My vision clouded. My goggles fogged up. My jellylike legs wobbled as I skied down to their position. Heavy wet snowflakes fell. Wind hit me head-on.
A Good Samaritan was waving people away. Skis were placed in a big X uphill from Ira. Aaron and Jordan were standing near three men in red jackets emblazoned with white crosses.
Ira was yelping, “Help me! Help me! It’s too tight!”
A neck collar secured his head and a strap held his right arm above his head. His body was tied firmly to a sled.
What was too tight? Was it his head? What had happened?
Jordan had hiked up the mountain calling, “Dad, dad, where are you?” No one responded.
Then Jordan had found him on the side of the run, dazed. Towering over his fallen father, Jordan had watched Ira’s hazel eyes roll back and forth. Ira’s skis and poles had come off and were now lying haphazardly on the steep mountain slope. He had tumbled or flown several yards. No trees were nearby. His helmet was on his head. Ira didn’t know anything. He didn’t recognize Jordan. He drifted in and out.
During a lucid moment, Jordan heard the words “my right arm.”
Traumatized, Aaron and Jordan told the ski patrolmen about the arm. Their main concern was the head injury. Ira couldn’t answer simple questions. Where was his memory? The boys and I looked at one another. Our tears crystallized. Ira’s words made no sense.
The ski patrolmen wasted no time. One pulled the sled. The other two cleared the way. Skiers and boarders alike yielded as the patrollers took the sled and made their way to the medical clinic.
No matter how many times I have skied since March 26, 2010, I am still haunted by what happened. All skiers and boarders know the risks. Everyone can fall down. In most instances, the accident is minor. On a few occasions, the event is more serious. Traumatic brain injuries can occur after simple or traumatic falls. The outcome is never certain. There are too many variables. A helmet may offer some protection, but it cannot prevent a traumatic brain injury.
Ira had been wearing a helmut. But without knowing the details of his accident, it was not possible to speculate what would happen next. I had to be confident that the Keystone Ski Patrolmen and the medical personnel at the Keystone Mountain clinic would do everything in their power to address Ira’s serious medical needs. Hope that everything would be okay had to override my overwhelming fears.
I watched helplessly as Ira rambled incoherently and screamed uncontrollably. I was stunned. When I was asked to consent to an induced coma, I sat motionless. Tears welled in my eyes. I was not ready to lose my b’shert. (Yiddish- Divinely ordained soulmate or spouse) I was not prepared.
Four years later, I am incredibly grateful to all who came to Ira’s aid. Our family is fortunate. Despite the intensity of the accident, Ira recovered from his traumatic brain injury and his shattered shoulder. The doctor’s initial prognosis was far bleaker than reality. Our prayers were answered.
As I take time to reflect, I still struggle with the unpredictable nature of life. I would love to have control over every aspect of my life, but that notion is impossible. My future is not conveniently mapped out for me. Too many unforeseen factors override my best intentions and plans. I need to remember to be flexible and resilient when the unexpected happens.
When my family went skiing on March 26, 2010, the thought of a catastrophic accident was not on any of our radar screens. Since that time other unpredictable and disappointing things have occurred. Some have been mild inconveniences while others have dramatically altered my life.
But, isn’t that part of life’s journey?
Yes. Precarious moments can be a disruptive aspect of life. Finding a way to reclaim my comfort zone is part of this tumultuous process. I need an appropriate amount of time to process my response and then move on.
As I react to each obstacle, I gain strength from the knowledge that I can meet each situation head on. Fears and anxieties may try to take hold. I may falter a bit at times. I take time to regroup. I dig deep. I persevere and become determined to counteract my apprehensions and irrational thoughts. When I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I know that I have been able to retake control. I may not be able to control other people or my environment, but I am responsible for my thoughts and actions.
After the events of March 26, 2010, I am more aware of the precarious moments in life but insist on living my life without any restrictions or hesitations. I cherish my relationship with Ira and the time spent with family and friends. Today, we look forward to a magnificent spring day skiing at Keystone Resort.
- Can you share how you cope with precarious moments?
Confronting an Irrational Fear (Returning to the ski accident site)
Remembering a Yearly Anniversary and Passover (Passover occurred just days after the accident)
Coping With the Uncertainties of Life (Response to Terrorist Bombings)
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.