I’m so funny–did you SEE that pun?! But Sunday, I wasn’t really laughing.
Cool found an article about an EZ-123 pass in the area. Four different ski resorts were participating and you could choose the one you wanted. They offered, 3 lessons, WITH rental of all equipment (board, boots, bindings, goggles, helmet), and 3 lift tickets good for the whole day for just $79! I thought that was a steal, considering the times I went snowboarding at the Tahoe resorts were in April (post-season, when snow wasn’t optimal) when lift tickets were discounted. And lessons–forget it! Unless you were with 4H or something, lessons were impossibly expensive in Tahoe, so I only had 1 ski lesson when I was 9 years old and part of the 4H ski club. And when the rental places were hungry for ANY business after the season was virtually over, so you paid substantially less. But still WAY above the deal Cool found.
And we are trying to get involved in a more healthy, active lifestyle. And planning on moving to snow-sport country, Colorado. And I’m trying to have a little fun in my life instead of all school-work-prepare drudgery. So I was for it! And I had a total meltdown on Saturday after work, which made Cool have a bad day, and that caused US to be completely out of sorts. So we needed some fun on Sunday, and planned on going to the 10:30 AM lesson.
They want you to be there an hour early, and somehow we were running a little behind. So we arrived in a sort of rush to make the class (you remember my lateness phobia). We paid, got our passes, and were told to go to the last door for our rentals. They fitted our boots and handed us the snowboards, and we hustled to the learning center. Everyone else had goggles, and some had helmets. I don’t know where they got those or how we missed them, but oh well–we made it. And in Tahoe, helmets aren’t really a “thing” I guess because my friends and I never wore them, we didn’t wear them with elementary 4H, and I don’t think I ever saw ANYone on the slopes wearing one. So though it seems like a safe thing to do, I wasn’t alarmed that we weren’t wearing helmets. . .
Our lesson had 12-15 people, mostly kids. And kids learn quickly, have no fear, and jump right back up if they fall. So it’s not a fair comparison to adults. And I’ve never had official lessons, or really snowboarded, but I went 2-3 brief times with friends growing up, so I’d at least been on the snow–so I wasn’t a fair comparison either. Cool struggled. As you do as a 30-something learning a new physical task. She needed to go slower, but she didn’t do any worse then expected for her very first time on the snow. These things require practice, patience, heart–and good humor.
I was caught in between–trying to follow the speedy class, but also wait for struglasaurus-Cool. The instructors kept telling me to do whatever, but I had to hang back and almost disobey because Cool would be waaaay behind and not know what we were supposed to be doing. So I was pressured to be a fair bit below her on the hill. And she crab-walked down one time, did some falling and crawling, so it wasn’t alarming to see her crumpled when I looked back at her. But she might be hurt? Cool normally has a very low pain threshold, and her anxiety kicks in making her a little bit of a hypochondriac. So I figured she was just being a baby about a normal fall. Or tired. Or slow to get up, or frustrated and giving up or something. I tried to motion to her with thumbs up vs thumbs down, but she only half-way responded. And she was too far away to be certain what gesture she returned. And one of our instructors looked to be talking with her, so I figured she was receiving some coaching.
Then, they were both walking down the mountain in the direction of the first aid center. Uh oh, so I followed them in to see what was happening. And I had to un-do my bindings and ditch my board, so I was behind. When I got inside, 3 women and a man were securing Cool to a backboard. Fuck! Of course we should have gone back for the helmets. Cool has a history of injury. Her mom had been adamant that if she tried snow-sports she would break an ankle, and had tried to dissuade her. She didn’t look terrible to me, but I wasn’t certain what happened. I had obviously missed something. . . The first aid was serious, I could see these people meant business. And I frantically signed to her “money?!” And tried to mouth, “How much does this cost?!” But there was a lot happening and she was distracted and she said “Free.” Which I was dubious about. But who was I to step in and tell these people to give us a moment to discuss things? The law does not consider me Cool’s legit family, and they could kick me out of the room all-together if they wanted. So I had to just stand there watching and wondering and worrying.
They strapped her in, loaded her on a hospital bed, and began assessing her status. Unfortunately, I had reminded Cool to take her 6(?) bipolar/anxiety meds before we went. So of course, her pupils were dilated. And her meds ALWAYS make her foggy headed so when they asked her to remember 3 items to evaluate head trauma–of course, she forgot the 3rd. But that’s her normal. I was still 90% certain she had just taken a normal fall–not sustained any severe injury. And Cool is a passive petal. If pressed strongly enough, Cool will just go with the flow, do what she is told, and think about what SHE wants or the consequences afterward. That’s Cool’s normal as well. So she was just being compliant, not really thinking about the finances, or what the backboard meant, or the things I was freaking out about.
After about 20 minutes, the 12 people (this was code red stuff) began asking if Cool had any family, or a friend or something) with her. And right away she told them her mate. Which, is our term for US because I reject the term “partner” because it sounds too business-like and stiff. But they apparently, didn’t know what the hell she was talking about (more ammunition for the brain damage theory) and since we are not legally-anything, she had to say “girlfriend.” Which I HATE. We have so much more to our relationship then mere dating. It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with gay stigma in a crises situation.
It made me really annoyed when they confirmed with me, “You’re her friend?” And I was like, “Mate,” all exasperated. The head doctor guy told me about the pupils and said Cool had complained of neck pain and wrist pain (and stomach tenderness, sore feet, as well as head-constriction discomfort) and they couldn’t rule out brain injury because of her non-responsive demeanor, pupil-size, and forgetting that 3rd word. I tried to explain that was Cool’s norm. This was just her personality and meds. He said an ambulance was on the way, and immediately I said, “No, no, no, under no circumstance could we afford an ambulance ride–I can drive her.” And he said 1) She was on a backboard and was not getting off of it–he would absolutely not release her. 2) He wanted to make ultra-sure she was OK (CYA) 3) tried to downplay the expense because she has health insurance. To which I was like, what–health insurance doesn’t cover 100% and we were now looking at ambulance + emergency room + any diagnostics, not including any treatments if they were in fact warrented. He persisted that he would not release her, but I could talk to the ambulance people and sign a liability waiver–which I said I would love to do. But I knew I had no legal right and SHE would have to be the one to sign it.
Then, I finally was able to get within Cool’s vicinity (since the 100 people had dispersed, and people realized I was “legit”) to talk to her for the first time. Cool was in invalid mode, with an oxygen mask and the whole bit and I leaned in and started telling her she had to speak for herself and deny the ambulance that was on its way. I think it was the first time she realized where this injury was taking her, and the first time money really entered into her mind. I felt like all the medical staff surrounding us felt like I was unsympathetic–but I know Cool. I know her hypochondriac stuff, her finances, and how she doesn’t THINK until later. And I figured if she was legit-hurt, I could drive us down the mountain and we’d go from there. But I also felt like I had no legal right to step in. As Cool’s closest relative–that this incident is going to directly impact–that felt awful.
An hour after the call, the ambulance arrived. And they loaded Cool onto a gurney and arranged for me to drive her car along behind. I was helpless. I guess Cool decided she wanted to go to emergency on the ambulance–and if that’s what she wanted (despite the consequences) I had no right to say otherwise. Part 2: Emergency. That’s tomorrow–stay tuned.