Today is December 17th, it's the 40th Anniversary of my Skating Accident.
The day my precious skating was taken away from me. I was 18. I should have won Canadians that year. I was at the very top of my game. I was both incredibly artistic as well as technically brilliant.
Skating was my favourite thing in the whole world, I lived it, I breathed it, I lived for skating. Six days a week, eight hours a day. Up at 4:30 am, squeezing in my schooling around a jam-packed skating, training, dance & choreography day. I loved it.
It was the afternoon, I was up in the lounge at NSWC changing into my free skate boots, the ones with the stronger support, longer blades and bigger toe picks, from my figure boots, precious well loved Kneblis, beautiful handmade skates by the little old man in Toronto on Camden Street.
I tightened the laces, keeping them flat and perfectly tense, tying the last bow and tucking the ends into the side for neatness. I got up and looked out onto the arena, thinking I had a lesson with Brian shortly, and I was excited as I was really feeling good about the upcoming Divisional Championship. I stretched and warmed up my ligaments, made sure all my joints were warmed up, articulated well and was ready to get on the ice.
I clambered down the stairs to the rink, walked over to the entrance on the side, and flipped off my guards. I tucked them beside the boards and skated over to Brian. Skaters were everywhere, as NSWC had just bought Capilano, my home club.
Brian said, go warm up and then we'll get your program on and do a run through. Ok! I was in top shape graceful, powerful, confident. Brian put my name into the Music queue while I warmed up. The smell of the rink, the sound of my blades on the ice, I was home. It was my turn, so I went over to where I started my program, and as the music began, I started my long program carving out the beautiful choreography that was an original Brian Power choreography. Powerful, delicate, intense, expressive. He used every ounce of a skaters abilities to stretch them, to challenge them, to create beauty.
And as I rounded the corner to go into the intricate footwork section of my program, another skater was coming at top speed the other way. I had all the rights of way, I was the senior, I was in a lesson and I had my music on ~ except he didn't stop ...
All of a sudden I'm falling and I hit the ice with a thud on my stomach. I don't know what's going on, everything seems like it's in slow motion, I hear screaming and crying and everything stops. Brian is at my side, and he's talking to me quietly, I try to turn to see what's happened, and he pushes my head back, he won't let me look. My right leg jerks and I feel like someone is unzipping my leg from my thigh all the way down to my heel and then... all of a sudden I can't feel anything.
I see the sparkly ice in front of me, I see my breath in front of me, I smell the heaviness of blood, it is palpable. The rink is cleared. Brian is holding my leg together and I see Tebby skating over frantically, crying and ripping off his blue tee shirt, the very same colour as his eyes, to give it to Brian, something to tie my leg, but he can't let go. The guys on my team are skating over with a stretcher and I inch my way onto it. Somehow, they get me off the ice and into the reception waiting for the ambulance.
Kenny is sitting with me talking nonsense to keep me talking and alert, to keep me from going into shock, waiting endlessly for the ambulance to arrive. Forty-five long minutes later, they arrived to transport me to Lionsgate Hospital.
Carol, one of the skating coaches went by the lounge overlooking the rink later and said "why is there a red sweater on the rink? " It was my blood, it was so deep and thick, it looked like a sweater on the ice.
And later at the hospital, the Dr. walked out into the emergency area and said " Who saved this girls life? " And it was Brian, our incredibly brilliant, warm, strict and crazy coach who saved my life. His hands were paralyzed for days after, in his efforts to stop the bleeding, while he watched all our work bleed out in his hands.
It took me a year and a half to learn to walk again and in the meantime my bright Sports medicine Dr. Rauh brought 5 American Doctors to Canada to do the first micro neurosurgery in 1977 on my leg to reconnect the sciatic nerve which had been severed by more than 2/3. They reconstructed the nerve by taking the sural nerve and inserting it and re-cabling the whole leg in an effort to save my leg. My leg almost had to be amputated.
I was trained early on to be disciplined. To be tough. To be committed. And this I applied to my recovery. I got up every day learning to walk again. I fell. A lot. I got up and I fell again. My friends took me dancing and cheered me up. They picked me up when I fell. I couldn't understand why my leg gave out, it simply wouldn't do what I told it to do. And slowly millimeter by millimeter the nerve sheath grew back and millimeter by millimeter my nerves were able to tell my muscles what to do.
Kenny and I "trained " to get better... he was diagnosed with cancer that same year, and we made sure we stayed in good moods, we worked out together, we took our vitamins together to fortify our health so I could have my surgery and he could face an aggressive chemo.
We thrived, I made us a crazy goopy "pep up drink " full of High B complex vitamins, proteins, trace minerals and vitamins ~ Kenny did not lose a hair on his head, I walked again. We committed to our health, to living fully and to our friendship.
And Brian had taught me lessons in "how to accomplish things ".
He taught me life lessons that I could take with me should I not be able to skate. He saved my life and he taught me ways to go forward. It was my job to find my new life, the life of not being able to jump by leaps and bounds, but a new way of being.
And for this, I am forever grateful for the hidden gifts inside my life lessons.
Sometimes when we say goodbye to an old way of being, we say hello to a new life that beckons us.