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It's Harder Than It Looks
I’m not ready.
But I am now all alone. Even though there are people up here that are running the time, they are not my friends. They are the enemies. Time is my enemy. I am looking down at my skies, the Atomic ones that I like. One has a binding, the other does not have a binding at all. The boot does not come off of the ski. It doesn't need to. Inside my boots the right foot feels cold. The other I don't feel at all. The day is clear and there is little wind. A perfect racing day.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
I push though the start gate and I hear the routine yell that is meant to pump me up for the rest of my race. The yell reminds me of that day. The day I fell. The day I lost my leg. As I hit the gates, they make a clicking sound. A sound I thought that I would never hear again. That day I was on my all time high; I was in the Olympics. I was on a flawless win streak. After pushing out of the gate, I felt like I was flying. I was going perfectly around those gates. I was winning over time. I rounded a particularly round turn, my skies slipped and I landed on my hip. Pain flared down my leg. My flawless run turned into a tumble down the hill. Then I snagged my ski on a gate. But my body kept on going. I experienced pain that felt like my lower leg was being ripped out near the knee. After that, everything went black.
Nearing the first section of turns my nerves jump. They are turns similar to the day I fell. Then they come. The red and blue flags are really inanimate objects, but in my mind they are snakes waiting to grab my skies again. I beat the first one, and then I am around the second one, and then the third.
When I woke up in the hospital for the first time after my fall, all I remember is feeling pain all over.
“Taylor, are you okay?” Alexa, my coach was there. Her voice was tender and astonished. This surprised me. I had gotten into many injuries before, and never before had Alexa sounded nervous. She has always had a fix to the problem.
“What’s wrong, Alexa? Did something happen? Other than me falling.”
“Yeah. Actually, I think you might want to look at your leg.” She looked sick. For the first time since waking up I allowed myself to look at my body. My arms had cuts and red burns on them.
“You slid so much that your speedsuit started ripping, that is why your arms have lot of marks on them, they were rubbed against your long underwear after the suit ripped away.”
I looked a little more and my arms, that now looked like they had been stung by a thousand bees, and moved to my legs. One looked fine, it had been protected by the boot. When I looked at the other, I threw up inside of my mouth.
I have beat the snakes!! The turns of the race are becoming less round and I am getting into the rhythm of the gates. My real leg is getting tired. It is much harder to complete a race with one leg that does most of the work than with two that can do equal work. I hit one more gate, that satisfying click telling me that I did it right. And I can see the finish line at the bottom of the hill.
My upper left leg is covered with a huge white cast. My leg might as well have been not mine. My lower leg however, was covered with a bandage that was red with blood. It might have once been part of me, now it might have been a next door neighbor to my right leg. When I look up there are tears in Alexa’s eyes. It breaks my heart.
“What will happen to me now?” This was a question that seemed to ring in the small, very white room that smelled of chemicals.
“I’m, I’m not sure. We will have to wait until the doctor comes.”
Until the doctor comes. I hate doctors. The time that I broke my ankle, a doctor told me ”It would take me 2 months for me to heal and start racing again.”It took my four weeks until I was winning again. WINNING. I sprained my wrist once. A doctor told me
“”It would take a month for me to get rid of a cast while holding poles.” I was out of a cast in 2 weeks. Doctors are never right. They always think negatively.
“Hello, my name is Dr. Roth.”
I jumped. I had been to lost in my thoughts and pain to see her come into the room. She was not pretty, not ugly. Her curly brown hair danced on her shoulders and she was wearing a white lab coat. She is conducting experiments on people, I thought.
“We took x-rays of your leg. It looks bad.” Here the doctor goes on with her negative comments.
“Oh, I’m sure it is fixable. There is a fix.” When she gives me a sad look, I know that I am very wrong. I still can’t feel the leg at all.
“I know you are not going to like this at all, Taylor.” Dr. Roth projects a x-ray on the TV in my hospital room.
“This is your leg. As you can see there at least six breaks, you can see that from the gaps in the bone.” She points to my leg bone, it looks crushed, like I had banged it with a hammer. “And from what the paramedics said to us when they did a physical on you in the helicopter, you ripped 5 tendons and you have at least 50 cuts on your leg. That is equivalent to getting stabbed in the leg the same number of times.” She sighed and blows her hair out of her face with a sputter. Then she takes a deep breath and continues.
“You also managed to somehow embed your shattered shin guard inside of your leg. There they are.” She points to small jagged shapes that seem to be floating in limbo inside of my leg.
“Is there anything we can do to fix it?” Alexa asks the question that I was to afraid to ask. The only sound in the room is the clock ticking over the door.
“There are some treatment options, we can try to remove all of the plastic shard in her leg and then try to help the bones mend. However, even if you made a miraculous recovery, it is possible that Taylor would never be able to walk, let alone ski again.”
Let alone ski again. That was not a option, I cannot stop here at my prime. I ask the next question. “Are there any other options?”
“Yes. If you decide that this is the right thing for you, then will with amputate your leg at the knee and you will get a fake one. The results are much better with this. You would be able to ski again.
"My stomach drops like when you are at one of those rides in the amusement park were they drop you really fast.
Dr. Roth sits down in the chair next to my bed. Alexa is now sitting at the foot of my bed. “All, I think Taylor, is that you could really successful with a prosthetic.” With that, she leaves the room.
I round the last turn and I am in the straight away. The wind whips in my hair and I feel deliciously happy. This feeling lasts about a second before I cross the finish line and hockey stop.
Alexa attacks me. “Taylor, you were amazing.” I look over at the scoreboard. I am currently in 4th place. But win or Iose, I have won for me. I walk down, behind where just the athletes can be.
Stephanie Jallen, a skier in the downhill, who only has one leg like me, walks over. “That was a great race, Taylor.” Wow.
I remember sitting in my room at the hospital watching her ski on TV. I had done nothing all day except watch the Paralympics. My fake leg was sitting on the chair next to me.
Alexa walked into my room. “Hey.”
“Lets go and try again” Try again. I had been trying again for days. Trying to walk again. It’s harder than it looks. I strap on my leg. Alexa helps me into a wheelchair and then she wheels me down to the “exercise” room. In the middle of the room there are two bars. Alexa walks me over to the bars and lets me grab each of them. After that, she stands at the other side of the bars. “Look at me.”
“Now try and take some steps.” I reach forward and take, one, two steps forward. A sound I never thought I would hear again. I take a third step and fall on my face.
But just like that, I have my life back.