About a year ago, in the fall of 2004, I needed to clean out the gutters on the back of my house. So, I got out my 28′ heavy-duty aluminum ladder, and put it up against the roof and climbed up.
I’m not particularly freaked out by high places, but extension ladders have a special place in my stomach, especially the way that they bounce when you get into the middle of them. I read the Fine Homebuilding forums, and there are lots of bad endings to the stories that deal with ladders, so I’m particularly careful on them.
To clean the gutter, I have to climb way up, do a section, climb down, and then move the ladder. I carefully lift the ladder to the vertical, pick it up, and walk it over to the next spot.
Those of you with a physics background may be familiar with the term “moment arm”, which is the distance at which a weight operates. So, you have a 24′ arm with a weight on it. When the center of gravity moves away from the contact point at the bottom, this produces a torque, which – if not counteracted by the cycling-degraded upper body strength of the holder – moves the top farther away from the contact point, which increases the torque. And so on.
The best thing to do in this situation is to let go of the ladder, so I held onto it as it speedily approached the ground. Luckily, I had a standoff on the top of the ladder, which caused the bulk of the kinetic energy to be converted into rotation of the ladder, which spun around and whacked me in a manner which can only be described as “upside the head”.
I got a nice bruise on my head, and a severe laceration, which led to a quick trip to the emergency room where I talked about the tour with a PA who had recently ridden in France while she put a lot of stitches in my ear. A *lot* of stitches.
The point of all this – to the extent that there is a point – is not that ladders are dangerous. It’s that on that day, I took out a loan from the spousal injury bank, in the amount of 2.5 units of gore and one visit to the emergency room.
That loan has been sitting there, accruing interest, for about 15 months. Until last Sunday.
Sunday was a great ski day – Stevens Pass had had 73.5″ of snow in the last week, and during our lesson we skied a lot of great snow. At lunch, my wife said, “I want to ski Corona this afternoon”.
There are lots of things that make a ski run hard. The main factors are:
- Poor sightlines
Corona all of these- it’s a tight entrance where you can’t see the run until you’re into it, with lots of obstacles and big bumps. Kim slid into it until she could see better, and made a few tentative turns on the top third.
Corona is guaranteed to bring out the worst in my skiing, though I did okay on the entrance, sliding over the first bump (there is only one bump at the top – it isn’t wide enough for there to be two. Kim was about halfway down when, in the middle of a turn to the right, a bear jumped out of the woods and knocked her off balance. She slid a bit and then landed hard on her left leg. .
I knew it was a serious fall, but despite her obvious pain, Kim put her skis back on, skied to the bottom of the backside, got on the lift, and the skied down the frontside to the lodge.
Monday morning was spent at her doctor’s office. Monday midday at the Overlake hospital imaging department for ultrasound, and then another 4 hours in the ER getting treatment for a blood clot. And Wednesday morning, up at 5:30, eat breakfast, watch my wife shoot up with Lovenox, and then an MRI appointment. The initial diagnosis is a calf tear, and we’ll find out exactly how bad it is when she goes to an orthopedic surgeon, hopefully in the next few days.
Given what’s happened since then, I think I’ve paid that loan off, and Kim is now the one holding the loan. Perhaps I’ll learn how to juggle knives…
Strangely, there weren’t any bear tracks near the site of the fall.