Altitude Sickness
November 8, 2017

Deep in pain

By Brady Crain

This past week, I helped a friend paint their house. When I do something, I do it fast, and I do it right, and with little help, I painted fresh siding on a 1,800 square foot, one and a half story, single floor ranch twice in 12 hours (spaced over two days).

You might think “Yeah, big deal, so what?” but this was not only fast, it used a set of muscles that I haven’t used in years (standing on a ladder with an arched back waving my arms strenuously for six hours at a shot), and it turned out to be a bad thing.

I am in pain. I am in serious pain. I am nearing kidneystone levels of pain. I can’t turn or arch my neck. I can’t really back up my car.

In the winter of 1999-2000, I was living in Burlington, working for IBM. I had passes at Mad River and Bolton, and with a flexible working schedule I got in a ton of skiing. One fine March day, I was skiing the quad at Bolton, and I found a cat track under the lift line with a really great launch. Bolton Valley has some of the best air of any ski area I’ve been to and this cat track was great air, so I cycled the lift and hit it again, this time with some real speed.

Now, that spring I was riding a pair of 1994 204 Elan skis that were among the first shaped skis in the industry, so they were very stable, very turn-y, and still very long. Given that my body weight was somewhere just south of 260 pounds and I was on very long, stable carving skis, I could go very fast. I hit that cat track like it was the 30-meter Nordic ramp at Dartmouth Skiway, and launched. I was in the air forever. I did a huge, full-split double-daffy (my signature move at the time – my legs were super flexible), held the extensions, posed for photos, smoked a cigarette, called my girlfriend on my brand new Kyocera Palm Phone, checked the time, realized I had probably better get ready to land, put my feet back together, and struck the landing.

I landed in a beautiful semi-tuck, knees bent, core tight, massive quads locked. But I landed in some soft, ungroomed snow, and it was a warm day. Being the rather hefty boy I was at the time, and having dropped somewhere between 15 and 20 feet, I made a nice big hole in the snow with my skis, which stayed right exactly where they landed.

My bindings, Marker MRR turntables, were cranked up to a DIN setting of 15 (the max, as was my habit), and even these bindings were no match for the force I applied to them, and my torture chamber Dachstein racing boots shot out of those bindings with a sound like a gunshot, and I flew, in exactly the position I landed, like I was fired from a rifle barrel while strapped to a chair.

I landed on my head, and my neck buckled up under me, pounding my chin on my chest, teeth cutting through my tongue, and I slid quite a ways, head digging into the snow. This was before helmets were really a thing, and I am pretty sure the result would have been different with a plastic helmet sliding on the snow rather than a wool-hat-clad head digging into the snow.

I lay on the ground wiggling my fingers and toes, arms, legs, etc., making sure that everything worked. I got up, gathered my gear, and skied to the bottom, getting ready to get right onto the chair. My bestie and ski-mate Jake looked at me aghast, asking what happened, and I said “I fell on my head.” Apparently I also had blood all down my face and beard.

He said, “Do you want to go to first aid?” because, you know, I looked like I had stopped a truck with my face.

My response: “No, I want to ski, because this is a season ender. I need to ski before the endorphins wear off.” So we got back on the lift, and as we ascended, you could very clearly see the tracks where my skis left the ground and then the hole where I reconnected (an unreasonable distance from the launch site), and then another blank spot of 20-25 feet before a long trench dug with my head. I spent a lot of time in the air, just on that one run. Unfortunately, not all of that time was right-side-up.

“Look Jake, that’s where my head landed!” As you read this, Jake is still shaking his head in dismay.

Within two weeks I was in head-splitting, excruciating pain all the time. I couldn’t turn my head, I couldn’t bend my neck to the front, back, or side, and mostly I cried a lot, because painkillers were not an option for me, and ibuprofen didn’t touch it.

I went to a chiropractor (Stephanie Marko in South Burlington), and I was in such bad shape that she saw me three times a week for $20 per week because my insurance wouldn’t cover it. She saved my bacon, and was my chiropractor for eight years, a true healer.

So the reason I tell you this story (I forgot this one when I listed all of my head injuries a few weeks ago) is that this is the kind of pain I am in again from these painting days (remember the painting? This is a story about painting). I am in the kind of pain where I won’t go near a chiropractor for a week or so, because that will hurt waaaaay too much.

It is possible that this injury was set up by the surfing injury and the radical handlebarectomy that I gave myself in the past month (likely in fact). The neck pain connects to the nearly gone shoulder pain in a very interesting way through the splenius capitis, sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, and deltoids. The assumption would be that the painting-inspired further out-of-position usage of arms (arched back, tilted head, strained traps and deltas) would have aggravated an already pissed off musculoskeletal region.

In any case, long story short, I have been resting this week with gentle rides on the trainer and easy walks, and will hopefully be back at it next week.

Sugarbush Resort

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