Sunday, August 28

This is how it -- I mean, I -- went down

Remember the time I broke my leg? Here's the story in all its gory detail.

As a budding paraglider, you have to take risks. See me up there? That's pretty high, pretty risky. When you crash from up there,'re bound to take a hit.


Okay, okay, juuust kidding. That really isn't me. That's a pro. Fun to pretend though, right?

Anyway. This is what really happened.

I bought Mark a Groupon for a 4-hr paragliding class as a Father's Day present. I was hesitant to include myself in this adventure, but Mark insisted. Having recently committed to forgo lameness, I consented.

The day was set and awaited with much anticipation. My sister-in-law had also bought the coupon for my brother, and so had her sister and husband. It was to be a grand adventure.

The day arrived. I had slept poorly the night before, but we drove to Point of the Mountain at 6 in the a.m. excited nonetheless.

We were met by a crew of semi-professional paragliding men. They are the obviously outdoorsy type. We signed our lives away, were assigned our gear, and got ready for instruction. Instruction kind of went like this:

Outdoorsy guy: "We're going to talk about a ton of things right now, and you probably won't remember half of them," [nervous glances among us] "but that's okay. So, when I say 'flare,' you pull your arms down like this. Got it? Okay, we're ready to practice!"

At this point I commented to Mark that I was waiting for the rest of the "ton of things" that we were going to forget half of, but then we were running across the gravel parking lot with our arms over our heads and looking generally like chickens.

Then we went to the bottom of the hill. We watched an instructor do a demo. The message from the demo: "Keep your legs beneath you." Check.

They helped us get suited up.

Mark getting ready

Before we knew it, they were coming round and starting to push us down the mountain. I went fourth. None of the three people before me even made it a few feet of the ground, including my brother, Dave:

Here Dave is receiving the following invaluable instructions I had just received (and I quote): "Run hard, head up, fly long."

Dave runs hard.
Dave gets almost no air and stays safely close to the ground.

Do I look tough here? That helmet didn't fit. I had no inkling of the catastrophe about to befall me.

So, determined not to be a sissy (still have some baggage in the sissy department), I ran hard and tried to keep my head up. Perhaps it was a fateful gust, or perhaps I was just meant to fly, but before I knew it I was airborne. It happened really fast. One second there was ground beneath me, and the next I was cruising many, many feet in the air. This was neither thrilling nor scary. It was surprising more than anything.

There was a guy behind me yelling "Flare! Flare!" and a guy below me yelling "Keep running! Keep running!" And this, in some sort of senseless jumble, was what was going through my head:

When I "flare" (pull my hands, which were holding the strings attached to the sail, down), I go up. I do not want to go up.
How can I keep running when I am 10 feet in the air?
and They told me to keep my legs beneath me. I will keep my legs beneath me.

That was it. No real panic, no real fear, just kind of like, Um, not exactly sure how to handle this... I can't say it was really fun to be gliding through the air. The gliding part lasted 5, maybe 10 seconds. And most of that was spent in slightly alarmed ignorance as to how the crap to land this thing. But I was never really afraid.

I was a little surprised when I crash landed and felt an explosive pain in my left knee. The kind that makes you think, That was really, really, really bad.

I had landed straight-legged on my left foot. Because the sail was still in the air and going forward, it pulled me forward--and hard. First I hit my knees, then my right shoulder and my face skidded along the recently-mown mountain shrub. I thought for sure I'd be bleeding.

But my knee--oh, my knee. I knew it was bad. I willed it to not be bad, but I knew it was bad. The guy who had been yelling "Keep running" ran up and asked me how I was. He suggested that I walk it off. I suggested I would not be walking any time soon.

I got up and hobbled off the field to the parking lot, propped up by "keep running" guy. Ken, the man in charge, came up and asked how I was. I said I was bad. I said, "Do you have any ice?"

No ice.

"I really need to get some ice."

Ken: "Well, you could drive down to the gas station and get some."
Me: Seriously?! "My car's a stick shift, I don't think I can drive it."

So Ken asked a random young guy to drive me to the gas station. I got in his Honda. He got in his Honda.

Me: "Hi, I'm Dani."
Random Guy: "Hi, I'm Garrett."
Me: "Um, thanks for taking me to get ice."
Garrett: "No problem."

Garrett was really nice. He told me to not let this incident deter me from paragliding in the future, because it's really awesome. He drove me to the Maverik that felt like it was about 10 miles away. I was hurting really, really bad. We go to the Maverik, and Garrett said, "Adventure's first stop."

Me: "Or adventure's last stop, for me."

I had to pee. But after our interminable ride in the car, my knee had completely frozen up. I could not bend it. I tried to get out of the car. It was embarrassing.

Garrett: "Do you want me to just carry you?"
Me: "Sure."

That was a little strange.

Me, as I'm being carried into a gas station by a guy I just met: "Well, we're certainly getting up close and personal, aren't we?"
Garrett: "I dance ballroom at BYU. I'm used to it."
Me (not entirely sure what he is used to...carrying married ladies around?): "Oh, cool."

We go to the ice machine and Garrett fills up a bag. Suddenly I feel an alarming absence of blood in my brain. Afraid of passing out, I slide to the floor and weakly ask for some water. Garrett leaves for a minute to let me come to my senses.

At this point a tight-shirted, massively muscular guy in his 30s came to get a soda. I like this part of the story, because it made laugh.

Massive Guy: "That doesn't look good."
Me: "It isn't."
MG: "What happened"
Me: "I just busted my knee paragliding."
MG: "Man, that sucks. But at least you have a good story. This one time, I had a really bad cough, and I coughed so hard that I pulled one of these intercostal muscles between my ribs. It was awful. I couldn't sleep on my stomach for weeks. And I had to tell people that I got injured coughing."

He had a point. It was a good story. Since Massive Guy I have had many variations on this response, my second favorite being from some random guy at a park: "At least you were doing something cool, and not like, falling out of the bathtub."


Anyway. Garrett brought me back to the flight spot and I set up a cozy little bed for myself and watched everyone else for the next two hours.

A question I often get at this point is where was Mark? Why didn't he take me to get ice?

Everyone else was still up the mountain and unaware of how bad my injury was. I was also acutely sensitive to not making this much-anticipated experience lame for anyone else. When I got back he came and examined it and expressed his disgruntlement at the lack of adequate instruction that in part led to this fiasco. This, coming from Mark--the most charitable, non-judgmental, and forgiving person I know--meant the most: he was irritated on my behalf. We determined that a few hours of sitting there was not going to make anything worse, so he went back to finish enjoying his Father's Day gift.

And I watched. I was mad. I was embarrassed. Then I was mad. Then I was embarrassed. Then I was in denial. Then I was mad again. You get the idea.

Turns out that watching other people paraglide is pretty boring.

Mark getting some good air

After seeing my demonstration of how not to land, everyone else had a great time.

At the end, Ken, the man in charge, came up to check on me.

Ken: "How are you doing?"
Me: "I've been better, but I'm okay."
Ken: "How's the knee?"
Me: "I think it's pretty bad. It's all swollen and it really hurts."
Ken: "Well, what did you learn?"
Me: Eyebrow raised. "Um, that crashing from 10 feet in the air is not a good idea?"
Ken: "Well, it's an important lesson to learn, no matter how you have to learn it."

Which parting comment rendered me speechless.

So that's how I went down. X-rays a few days later revealed a fractured tibia. Not a horrible fracture, gratefully, and as far as we can tell no other damage. I've been wearing a brace most of the time since then.

I have been on crutches for three weeks now. I could write an entire post about life on crutches. Like how it's really hard to get in the shower. And how ridiculous I feel driving the electric carts at the grocery store (and how the ones at Home Depot are really slow). And how annoying it is to not be able to carry your own food. And how fast my left leg has atrophied and how my calf is completely gelatinous.

But this is long enough. (Brevity is not my strong point.)

So. For lack of a better way to end,

The end.