The Other Side of Injury

Never once have I ventured into the backcountry without people I love. I am fortunate to snowmobile with friends I have grown so close to I call them my mountain family. As with any action sport snowmobiling comes with the possibility for injury and no matter what precautions are taken accidents do happen. I, myself, have paid the price for that rush of adrenaline and spent time in a hospital healing from one wrong maneuver on my machine. Battling back to health takes incredible strength, courage and determination. But, there is another side of injury less discussed — the other side of injury.

The other side of injury lies beyond the doors of the operating room, somewhere down the hall in a waiting area filled with uncomfortable chairs, the hum of a vending machine, tired eyes and restless movements. The other side of injury is riding down the mountain towing a buddy’s sled behind yours with a pit in your stomach thinking, hoping, praying, that he will be alright after being helied off the mountain. The other side of injury is the late night phone call from half a country away telling you “Come quickly. It’s bad.” Those that are injured are not the only ones hurt. Those in pain are not the only ones in pain. I have been on the other side of injury.

I have waited on the other side of those doors hoping for a miracle. And while I walked out of the hospital without the broken bones and without the physical scars that doesn’t mean I don’t wear them too; my body has remained unmarred but my heart has not. And when you are so deeply affected by the reality of a loved one’s mortality, those memories stay forever branded in your mind. All I have to do is close my eyes to be taken back to the other side of injury.

Time stops.

I look into those blue-gray eyes as familiar as my own and time simply stands still.

My surroundings melt away and what is left in the moment is pure, raw emotion; a stormy sea of fear, worry, apology, courage and determination reflected back at me in the only part still recognizable in the face of the man laying on the hospital bed. The very same mixture likely echoed in my own eyes. I mentally push all doubt aside, in this moment I need to have

strength and so I try to infuse hope, bravery and love into my gaze.

The doctor’s question breaks the trance “Are you ready, Kyle?”

All at once the sensory flood gates open; the sterile smell of antiseptic unique to hospitals, the barely audible footsteps of creped soled shoes whispering across the linoleum, the hustle and bustle of hurried movements as staff rush to save lives. The sound of Kyle’s voice - far more jovial than expected for the situation - replying “Fuck yeah, bud. Let’s do this.” I don’t have to try now - my lips curve upwards genuinely and my eyes crinkle at the corners in ridiculous awe at the strength and character of this human. Before I have time to process the gravity of the situation at hand they start wheeling him away down a corridor, through two swinging doors leading to the operating room.

Our eyes hold for one more moment before the doors swing silently shut and I am left standing alone in a hallway.

The time to be strong is now over and I collapse onto my knees in grief. Strong hands lift me up and arms envelope me in an embrace filled with comfort and understanding. A friend. We hold on to one another as grief comes in waves, bodies trembling as emotion consumes us. I have no concept of how much time passes when I finally let go. No words need to be spoken as we look at each other because it’s understood what must now happen. There is nothing we can do we can do but hope. There is nothing we can do but wait.

And so we wait.

Endless hours pass.

Hallways worriedly paced.

Seas of tears shed.

Silent prayers prayed.

And all the while numerous wars are being waged; the battle in the operating room as doctors fight to mend the broken, working tirelessly to save the life you need saved. The battle of the injured and their will to push through and survive. And the battle in your own mind. The battle of keeping the thoughts of “what ifs” and fear at bay. In those moments time drags on — seconds are minutes, minutes are hours and hours feel like days and yet in those very same moments your mind races like a runaway train barrelling for hopelessness. “What happens if something goes wrong?” “Why is this happening?” “What if….” unspeakable thoughts fill your mind to madness. To a spectator I would appear outwardly calm but when the doctor appears hours later than they were supposed to it takes all my strength to stand. It takes all my courage to open my mind and heart to the understanding that words I don’t want to hear might tumble from the doctors mouth to crush my soul. And once again, as before when the time to be strong is over and, when the news is delivered — when good news finally arrives — muscles turn to liquid, strength turns to weakened relief and hope fills the heart.

I open my eyes again and the moments where my life tilted on axis vanish to the back of my mind. The pain which felt so intense moments before ebbs as easily as it flows and peace is once again restored.

But, I am not the same person I once was. The other side of injury has changed me. The other side of injury formed lasting invisible tethers to the hearts that worried and waited with me. The other side of injury reminds me the life can change in a blink of an eye. The other side of injury makes me hold on tighter, love deeper and live truer. The other side of injury helped me face my own mortality and appreciate that time is finite. The passion for this sport lives within us all. And every single day that we hop on a machine capable of not only taking us to breath taking places, making ever lasting memories, we face the reality of not only being injured but of putting someone else on the other side of injury.

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