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The day began with a brilliant sunrise and renewed hopes for the 05-06
ski season. It ended with my arm in a splint.

I joined WM and the Kiwi for a backcountry excursion on the flanks of
Vermont's third tallest molehill. An early start had us comfortably at
fir-line by 10am, enjoying the warm temperatures, blue sky and
untracked snow in every direction.

At this point I shed skins in favor of snowshoes, in a futile attempt
to keep up with WM as we pushed upward through narrow streambeds, old
logging skids, and on occasion thick, dense upland forest.

On the upper reaches, the snow turned noticeably lighter, and footing
was more difficult to gain. The snow from the past week bonded poorly
to the bulletproof snice below, which was also more prevalent than at
the lower elevations (where in many spots it had largely melted out,
leaving new snow to fall on almost bare ground). I was soon to regret
this change in snowpack with every ounce of my body.

Reaching the starting point of our descent, we took in the beautiful
spring-like weather once more before gearing up.

And then it was honest to goodness powder skiing, a skier and two
boarders taking turns down a steep windy ravine.  Eventually we were
done with that section, and traversed over to the next gem - an open
face interspersed with trees and boulders, with a deep healthy
snowpack and an elevation of no less than 3500'.

I dropped in, picking my way through powdery drops that felt not at
home in Vermont. Excellent terrain.  At the midpoint of this
short-but-sweet face, I stopped to pick out my next turns. A
straightline down a narrow slot, and into an open snowfield where I
could check my speed. And then I was executing, entering the slot,
gaining speed, seeing an oncoming tree, taking a hard hockey stop with
a flick of skis to the right.  Instead, of stopping upright, however,
my skis gave out with the poorly-bonded new snow, and I was sent
downward onto my right side. And here the details are a little sketchy
- I think I caught my arm at an elevated position, but am not entirely
sure. Whatever it was, the impact went directly to my shoulder, which
popped out of its socket. Overall not a catastrophic fall, but what
must have been an incredibly awkward one (my skis were still on and I
suffered no impact elsewhere).

Seering 10 out of 10 pain almost instantly.  And then as I somehow
made my way to the clearing below, it all hit me at once - I'm over a
mile in on an undeveloped mountain, with probably 1800' of gladed
mountainside still to descend.  Things briefly went black, and I
thought I would faint but didnt.

My assumption was a separated shoulder, but I couldnt be sure.  I've
never had one before but this seemed like the logical amount of pain
for one. I also couldnt remember what I'd learned in my WFA class
years back about reattaching shoulders, and WM and the Kiwi werent
jumping at the idea of playing doctor (not that I blame them).

And so we decided the best and quite possibly the only course of
action was to ski out. With WM carrying my pack, I was able to make my
awkward way down, my shoulder throbbing while hanging loosely at my
side.  I dont know whether the next 45 minutes were a testament to my
skiing ability, my pain threshold, or my CMH phatties, but in a
painful bizarre stance I was able to ski out. The deep grabby snow was
a lifesaver, because it checked my speed for me and I didnt have to
think too hard at the task at hand.

Finally, upon reaching the trailhead, the Kiwi drove me to Richmond,
where my g/f met me and got me to the Fletcher Allen ER. Following
what seemed like an eternity of administrative bureaucratic hell and
three attempts to find a vein, I was given enihprom and what the
doctor's assistant described as a massage to help my shoulder relax.
As the pain from this process reached another climax from which I
thought there could be none greater,  my shoulder popped back into its
socket and I felt the most instant, miraculous relief from pain that
I've ever thought possible.  A separated shoulder for more than three
hours was now just a memory.

As I lay in the hospital bed another ski victim came in, this one a
child from MRG with a fractured tib-fib. His screams of agony filled
the ward as the attendants attempted to take off his ski boot.

And so I sit here now, my arm in a sling for who knows how long. I am
out of commission for 2-3 weeks, but need to see an orthopedic surgeon
before I know for sure. Hopefully no serious structural damage, as I'm
not in much pain as I sit here and type with one hand.

For anyone curious, we had no cell phones but did have WM's two-way
radio, which he communicated with his wife on (she was at home in
Duxbury) throughout the ordeal.

If anyone has suffered a separated shoulder, I'd be interested to hear
your thoughts on the rehab/healing process..

-eo

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