It was New Year’s Eve and I was in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota celebrating with family and friends, enjoying great skiing and great company. It was a warm early season day and the skiing was great.
However, the snow wasn’t terribly deep, and I remember thinking that I should avoid the bare spot under a patch of trees at the bottom of the slope. Unfortunately, I was going too fast.
My skis hit the dirt and I was sent head-over-heels, hitting first on a hard and icy spot before striking my right shoulder and finally coming to stop. I resembled Beetle Bailey from an old comic strip – simply a heap of body parts. After accidents like that, I find myself thinking about what just happened and wishing in vain to go back five seconds and do something differently. But of course, there was no re-doing it.
Immediately I felt a burning pain coming from somewhere, and as I was checking each bone, I could tell the trouble was somewhere near my right shoulder.
The pain did not subside with time, either. The doctor in the emergency room reviewed the x-rays with me and pointed out a separated acromioclavicular joint, which ties the shoulder girdle and arm to the body and the chest by virtue of the collar bone or clavicle. A few days later, my orthopedic partner, Dr. Ramsay, told me that although I had torn the joint, it wasn’t unstable, and the only real problem was that I should expect it to hurt for maybe six months. And though eventually my shoulder healed back to full capacity with rest and rehabilitation, I remember how difficult those first few weeks were following the accident and how difficult it was to accomplish even simple tasks.
It was a lesson for me in understanding how important the shoulder is and how rehabilitation exercises can allow someone to actively take part in their recovery. It also made me realize how disabling joint pain can be, and how it can limit an individual. But it is most important to recognize that accidents due to recklessness and bad choices can happen in a flash.
All accidents cannot be undone, but many can be avoided.
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