I only really got into snowboarding just prior to our eldest Daughter, Alex being born and it really came about from a difference in preference for types of holiday between Jackie and I. When we first met and talked about holidays, I was a firm favourite of the sun, sea, sand and …….. Sangria and Jackie was a staunch winter sports kind of holidaymaker. I should have known really as she has never been able to sit still since the day I met her, always walking here or there in the hills so lying on a beach for a week or two was never going to be her thing. Anyway, we deliberated for some time over where our first holiday would be together and in the end we both agreed that if she allowed me to book us on a trip to Rhodes for a week I would then head off to a cold, dreary, boring snow-capped hillside resort to see what this ski lark was all about.
So, we had our sun trip to Rhodes, was great both enjoyed and then Jackie, soon after returning announced that she had indeed booked our trip to Italy, Livigno to be precise. The reason for Livigno, it turns out is that a friend of hers, whom she met some time previous on another skiing trip now lived there having moved from Leeds and she thought it would be good to include a visit to see her and catch up whilst also doing some skiing together.
Well, as it turned out, between booking and actually heading off, we found out that we were in actual fact expecting our first child due in the July of the same year, so essentially that put paid to any skiing for Jackie and as we had planned the trip with our pals, Clark and Rosie, for the four of us to head off for a week it meant that Jackie defaulting to becoming our official holiday photographer. As the time drew nearer and I started getting more excited about learning a new sport I switched my desire from skiing to boarding on the basis that KP, Jackie’s friend who now lives in Livigno is a very keen boarder and could take me up on the slopes in between my lessons for further practice. “Great!” I thought, “free lessons from a seasoned boarder, what more could I ask for and that sealed the deal on whether I was going to ski or board. It was a great experience and one that thrilled me to the core. I started the week off by having lessons with Madness Snowboard School and in the afternoon, after the lesson had finished I either took advantage of the free tuition from KP (Karen) or went back up the slopes to practice alone. I loved it! It was something I instantly wished I had done years before and not left up to the ripe old age of 38.
We continued the rest of the holiday, feel in love with the place and have spent the past 5 years making regular trips there. After I came back the first time of course, the gear I had bought on the cheap either from Ebay or from TK Maxx was no longer suitable for a “seasoned boarder like me” so I went online, looked about, read up a little and eventually ended up with all new gear in readiness for the next trip, new board, boots, binding, clothes, the lot, no expense spared. After all, “you are a “nobody” on the slopes without the good gear”.
The following year, Jackie didn’t come along as Alex was still quite young so, my Son, Mark, his pal Ryan and my pal and work colleague Peter, all headed off to Livigno again and this was the first time that Peter had snowboarded so he was at the same level I was at 12 month’s previously. Mark and Ryan had both taken lessons before we headed out and then took some further lessons when we arrived, so it was yet another enjoyable event. Well it certainly was until the last run on the last day before we were due to head back in the early hours of the morning.
The four of us were getting in the last runs of the day, I came down the slope not too far away from the apartment and decided it would be a great idea to board all the way back off the slope and in between the chalets and apartments to get as close to the roadside as possible and I ended up on shear ice on top of cobbles and as you can imagine, trying to control the edge of your board in conditions like that are difficult at the best of times, let alone when you are on cobbles. My board went from under me and I came crashing down right on my tail bone or coccyx to give it its correct medical name. Eventually Peter caught up with me on foot to find me on my back in shear agony. He phoned KP for advice as she was working in one of the local clinics as a receptionist. An ambulance arrived, assessed me quickly. Somehow managed to manhandle me on to a spinal board and put me in the ambulance and took me on a 10 minute journey to the nearest clinic. In here I was examined as best they could and it was decided that I needed to head out to the hospital, which was an hour away for further tests, x-rays and MRI. Back in the ambulance and off we went. I arrived at the hospital in even more pain with the horrendously bumpy journey. I was prodded, poked, x-rayed, scanned, bloods taken and told that I had a fracture in my coccyx and that the blood results were showing a high level of chemical and until that came down I couldn’t be released. There was me lying in hospital, far from home, no phone, no way of getting hold of Jackie to let her know and our coach was arriving at the apartment to collect us in about 5 hours. I asked for some further info from an Italian Dr who actually spoke great English, he explained that my Troponin Levels were elevated that could suggest an issue with your heart. Well, I knew a little about Troponin from a previous encounter with my heart so I was aware what this meant but I was also aware that Troponin levels will also elevate when any muscle, not just the heart has suffered a trauma and asked him if the muscle damage that I would have undergone during the fall could have created the increase in level? To which he answered yes but they wanted to be on the safe side to be sure. I asked if the Troponin levels being high would give any cause to prevent flying. To which he answered “no, not specifically” and I asked if he was prepared to write me a fit to fly note, which if you are not aware, you need this to present at the airport otherwise no pilot, no airline in the land will allow you to fly due to possible risk and also possible lawsuit. He stated there would be no issues with a FTF certificate being issued but it would be against medical advice and I would have to self-discharge. I didn’t want to miss my flight, I wanted to get home and I promised him I would present to my local A&E immediately on arrival with their x-ray films, notes and anything else they wished me to take. Thankfully KP had managed to persuade her boss Luca, who has sadly passed away now in a deep sea diving incident, which is another reason we have not been back to Livigno the last couple of years, to allow her to drive the one hour to the hospital to come and collect me. I got back there just in time to be collected by the coach, in absolute agony and could not sit on my bum. I had to either stand or rest on my side as much as I could. That was no fun at all on the coach, nor the plane and nor was it on the 4 hour plus journey back in the car from Manchester Airport to home in Greenock, Scotland. Thankfully Peter did all the driving.
On the next trip we headed off to France for a change and on this occasion I was actually boarding due to the fractured coccyx injury, which actually troubled me for five years in total before I was fully recovered. Despite appointments with two different surgeons, who apparently will not operate as the injury/fracture is too close to nerves and will result in sever nerve damage and too close to the anal passage to risk further injury and complications. I was sent for physio and acupuncture but to no avail. It was literally just a case of waiting it out and letting time mend the way. Shortly after I picked up the injury we won a very large contract at work, which meant a number of meetings with CFO’s and other Directors of a big transport company in Scotland and with around 10 or so people around the board room table, I stuck out like a sore thumb as I could not sit and had to stand at every meeting for the best part of a year. It was a conversation starter each time anyway, if nothing else.
The France trip though was someone else’s turn to get injured. This time it was down to Jackie to break her wrist in three places having taken a tumble coming down the slopes mid-week. Although, she will have you believe that she was at the fun park doing half pipes and other tricks and it was the over indulgence of showing off that led to her taking a tumble and ending up in the plaster. A story similar to the one she was telling during a girlie night out in the resort amongst a group of guys who were buying her drinks in recognition of her daring adventures on a board!!!
So, roll forward to this year, February in fact where we have decided to hop over to Austria for the yearly trek for skiing and boarding. Only this year I decided that even though I have taken my board with me I want to try my hand at skiing. I get to mid-week, seems to be a pattern here doesn’t there with mid-week-mishaps? Out on the slopes in the first hour of putting he skis on and I take a tumble, although only bad enough to force a bit of rest overnight, the usual ice pack, elevation etc. The following day, back out on the slopes, manage to blag some free lessons with an English guy who owns a place out there and three quarters of the way through the day I take another tumble, only this one was a lot more serious, a lot more painful and in need of some attention. Off I hobbled to the local clinic where they x-rayed it, stuck a big needle in to relieve some of the blood that had accumulated and then gave me a brace, some crutches and advised to present to my A&E on arriving back home for further investigation and MRI scan for a suspected ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) damage. Oh joy!
Coming back through the airport was an experience. Wheeled through passport control and security by a medic onto a waiting ambulance and then the plane, same again at Edinburgh, yes that was not so fun, but still it was nothing compared to my previous with a fractured coccyx!
The result of that was an initial op via key-hole surgery to trim a torn meniscus, not the ACL they first thought, that was thankfully intact. As I write this I am about to head off back in to hospital in 5 days’ time for a second op, only this time it is to replace the patella, which involves cutting away part of the femur and placing a metal plate over it then cutting away part of the patella and placing a nylon dome onto it so that I will have nylon tracking against metal and hopefully be pain free.
So, that is the full extent of my joyful and somewhat painful snowboarding career spanning just 9 years. I think now is the time to remember that I am no spring chicken and at 46 years of age, although not particularly old in the grand scheme of things, I am carrying a bit of timber, not as much as I used to mind, having purposely lost over 2 stone in the last 3 months, I am also not the fittest of guys or in shape whatsoever, so it is perhaps time to look at something a wee bit more peaceful and relaxing such as basket weaving or crocheting to pass the days.