Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ice ice baby, or, Me and Eric Lindros -- we're like this *crosses fingers for emphasis*

Living in Canada, Canadians quickly learn to embrace winter. Realistically, we don't have a choice. So we skate, and we ski, and we snowboard. We snowshoe and build snowforts. We play hockey and broomball and snowball wars. We go snowmobiling and ice fishing. We sometimes say 'screw it' and lie on the couch eating potato chips and playing Wii for entire weekends in February. And we toboggan (also known as sledding, for my non-Canadian readers). Oh boy do we toboggan. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any incline steeper than 15° that doesn't have snowsuited children hurtling down it at breakneck speed 24/7.

Yes, these were the thoughts that were going through my mind as I sat in the Emergency Room at Queensway-Carleton Hospital Sunday night, clutching a couple of paperbacks and waiting to see a doctor. Douglas Adams once wrote, "It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as pretty as an airport.' Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort." Much the same thing can be said of waiting rooms in hospitals, along the lines of "It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as restful as an ER waiting room.'" -- especially on a Sunday night. During a freezing rain storm. In winter. In Ottawa.

Not that it wasn't interesting -- oh no, interesting was definitely at a premium that night. I counted three people with splinted arms in slings (see freezing rain, above), and some poor guy had dropped an ice auger on his foot (imagine a wicked sharp corkscrew-shaped steel blade about 3 feet long, handily topped with a small but heavy gasoline engine. Now imagine what that would do when dropped on one's foot. Ouch.) There was a nauseous man who was so wan and pale that he approached actual transparency, who arrived with a girlfriend and his own bucket. The bucket sat at his feet. The girlfriend sat a healthy distance away. Parents were there with small unhappy children with various complaints. But I digress...

Why was I sitting in Emerg, you ask? Well let's return to the subject of my first paragraph. I took Rachel tobogganing. Leah was at a playdate, and I bribed Rachel with the promise of tobogganing in order to get her to come with me to run errands. Late afternoon found us on the toboggan hill practically behind our house along with Darian and Payton, the two girls from next door. Rae and I had our foam snow saucers: and the other girls had their snow tube: which was about five times the size of the saucers and would seat two comfortably. We've been having some alternating warm and cold weather, and the hill is very icy. This makes for long, fast runs -- ideal really. Some enterprising kids have made a jump on one side of the hill by building the snow up into a bump. It's now a mogul of pure ice. There's no way I'd take the foam saucer down the jump run, I like my vertebrae right where they are thankyouverymuch, but Darian was sailing down the jump run and floating over the jump on the big inflatable snow tube.

It looked like fun. So I asked if I could take a turn (idiot). Rae wanted to ride with me, so she jumped on my lap -- thus putting all of our weight on one side of the tube. You see where this is going, don't you? What we had was an unbalanced centre of gravity:

Where R = centre of gravity, M = my stupidity, mj = the amount of air displaced in the tube due to mine and Rae's combined body mass, and rj = the slope of the ice jump.

We slid majestically down the run and hit the jump. Our combined weight on the back side of the tube meant that instead of going over the jump, the tube headed straight up and shot out from under us so that we fell backward onto the jump with the tube landing on top of us. The back of my head hit the ice followed instantaneously by the back of Rachel's head hitting my face.

You really do see stars, you know.

When Darian asked if we were OK, my first question was, "Is my nose the right shape?". I seriously thought my seven-year-old's skull had broken my nose. We were starting to lose the light, so off we went home. Rae and I collected Leah from her playdate and I cooked us all supper with a big headache. My dinner stayed down for all of 6 minutes before it came back up again. Hmmmm, vomiting after a head injury -- this sounds like a job for....The Internet!

Never look up symptoms on the Internet.

The rational part of my brain was saying, "You're fine. You just bumped your head. Go to bed early." The not-so-rational part of my brain just kept screaming, "Natasha Richardson! Natasha Richardson!!!" over and over again. So, I called Telehealth and talked to a nurse. She said that although I hadn't lost consciousness and could remember the incident, the vomiting meant that I should go to the ER. Damn. I was hoping she'd tell me to go to bed early. No such luck.

Connie next door took the girls for me (candidate for sainthood, seriously) and off I drove through the freezing rain to the hospital.

The wait in Emerg actually wasn't that bad. On the whole it was better than the strategic planning and branch integration meeting I sat through this week. Sure, there was more puke in the ER, but much less jargon. (I swear, if I hear 'stakeholders' or 'core competencies' one more time at work, I'll need a bucket of my own.) I had some books with me, and another patient found a channel showing back-to-back CSI episodes on the TV in one corner of the waiting room. So, after two CSI Miamis and a half a CSI New York, I was called in to an examining room, feeling somewhat of a fraud, since I was feeling very normal (although tired and headachy). Ten minutes later, a doctor examined me. She shone lights into my eyes, made me follow her finger with my eyes, felt my head, checked my reflexes, asked me a zillion questions, and then said she didn't think I needed an X-ray. She told me I had a mild concussion and I should rest for 24 hours, take Tylenol or Advil for the headache, and have someone wake me every six hours.

So I spent Monday at home sleeping and reading, which was nice. And now I'm back at work wondering if I should see how outspoken I can get at meetings this week and blame it all on the concussion. Could be fun, people.


  1. Ohmygosh! Glad to hear you're OK! Ouch. (I hate the expression "stakeholders" too!)

  2. What a story! Glad you are ok...and kudos for seeing the funny side.

  3. Very happy you are ok.
    Made me remember the year Ty went down an icy hill, couldn't stop and ran into a gazebo. Broken leg.
    But being CDN we all have good tobogganing stories.

  4. Is it wrong that I was thinking "thank goodness it wasn't one of the kids!"?

    This post is remarkably well-organized -- you must not have scrambled your brains too badly :).

  5. I was thinking of Natasha Richardson too. Only this time, thank goodness, the outcome was better. SO glad you're okay!

    Stay away from the ice for a while or else I'll send Josie to break-bad with you. She's had stellar results in recent months.

  6. Anonymous5:09 PM

    I feel the need to mention (for our American friends) that sledding in Canada refers to snowmobiling.

  7. Yikes! I am impressed by your bravery in getting on that thing in the first place. For me that would be the sort of activity I stand and applaud my children for doing! And yes, I think you need to come up with some absolutely scorching one liners for your meetings this week. You won't get away with blaming the concussion for long, so enjoy it while you can! (And get well sooon and stuff)

  8. stakeholder.
    Core competencies.
    (With you on this, I hate strategic planning sessions.)

    Well, I think puke makes ED waiting rooms ugly, that and blood. Just saying it could look like a spa, but still the puke factor.

    Glad it's nothing serious, although I do hope you took full advantage of the situation.

  9. Susan - doesn't 'stakeholders' make you think of guys who hunt vampires? Or maybe their assistants??

    Jen - blogging definitely makes you see the funny side.

    Jo - Ouch. Poor Ty! At least I didn't need a head cast.

    Allison - believe me, I was very glad that my face acted as a cushioning agent and Rae's head didn't hit the ice. I think that maybe the red wine drinking has culled the herd of the weak brain cells, and the remaining ones are robust and hearty.

    Jen - I will stay far away from the jump area of the hill. Scout's honour.

    Anonymous - you're right! I'd forgotten that. It's been a while since I lived in Sudbury, where 'getting a new sled' probably meant an Arctic Cat or Polaris.

    Loth - I get too bored standing around at the top of the hill. And it's cold. It's really a rush to slide down the hill at top speed with the wind in your face. Just so long as your face and the hill don't meet.

    Nat - who comes up with those terms? Perhaps someone who *is* actually brain injured?

  10. Anonymous8:19 PM

    You're so hilarious. I want to come live with you so you can tell me stories every day. And now I'm going to spoil the gushy bit by asking whether it's a good idea for someone with a concussion to drive?

  11. Well at least your nose wasn't broken on top of the concussion. Seriously, when I go sledding I stay at the top of the hill standing near the nice fire the park ranger has going in the 55 gallon drum. With a thermos of cocoa spiked with Bailey's. Think about it! You need to rethink this whole going down the hill thing, LOL :)

  12. XUP - why thank you. We should get together for coffee or wine and stories soon. And yes, the Telehealth nurse did tell me to have someone else drive me to the ER, but the only person I could think of was the person who was looking after the girls. And I really didn't think I was too badly hurt.

    SaraJ - Ours is only a neighbourhood hill by the library, so no campfire. You might have something there with the hot chocolate and Baileys though.

  13. Antynorton2:33 PM

    Good to hear you survived. You could have called on us, you know! And I want to know where SaraJ goes tobogganing!

  14. Anty - you're right, I could have called you. Chalk it up to the blow to the head that I didn't think of it. And SaraJ lives in Ohio. That's a bit far to go for tobogganing.

  15. Oh, bump! Poor you.

  16. Seeing stars. Been there... done it. Hated it.

  17. Anonymous9:47 PM

    Nice brief and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

  18. hey al, hows the concussion.

  19. "So I spent Monday at home sleeping and reading, which was nice"

    mmmmm, that part sounds awesome (sorry you had to get a concussion to get a day of rest though!)

  20. Sounds as though you sustained less mental damage than Lindros. Heh. Sorry about that. I'm a Wings fan.

  21. Hanging out on the Casualty Dept may be non-conducive to an appreciation of achitecture but so glad you did. Head injuries/ice/vomiting all = get it checked out!