Monday, February 18, 2013

What defines you?


I wanted to write about Lindsey’s fans or to write about Lindsey victories; instead I am forced to write about her accident, her surgery, and her recovery. 

***

I left Lindsey’s bus like I always do, right on time and got to the finish area like I always do, five minutes early.  I waited in the finish like I never have, for hours and hours.  Delay after delay. Fifteen minutes upon fifteen minutes upon fifteen minutes.  All I could think about was how cold it was and that I couldn’t imagine how much worse it was for the racers waiting and preparing, then waiting again, at the start.

I was texting Lindsey. We were planning to meet back in the bus for lunch when the race would be announced cancelled.  I walked leisurely back.  It was 1:45 with the last possible time to race at 2:30.  At 2:17 Lindsey texts me:
“Ok it looks like we are going to race.  Get my bag and go back to the finish please.”
“Get your game face on,” I say.
“ I will” Lindsey writes.  “Oh, its on!”

I wasn’t surprised at Lindsey’s enthusiasm; but considering she had been up since six in the morning and waiting around for half of the day, her reaction put me more at ease.  Sometimes, like in St. Anton, I get nervous in the finish.  Sometimes, like in Cortina, I am completely relaxed and calm.  This time, I wasn’t even thinking.  I had no expectations whatsoever.  Of course, I always want to see that time in green saying that she is in the lead, but I never had a thought of what was to happen next. 

Racers went down one by one.  The course looked rough.  I prayed for the fog to keep away.  My praying didn’t do any good.  These weren’t ideal conditions.  This course was not acceptable or safe.  I watched racers go off course, hit ruts, and racers ski blindly through the fog.  I thought whatever the problems, Lindsey just had to ski her best and hang on.  Lindsey could do it. 

There were a lot of delays on the course, making Lindsey come down at 3:15.  After waiting at the start for 4 hours she pushed off with remarkable power and energy.  She was in the lead.  She was fast.  So fast, that she flew farther off of the jump than the racers before her.  She went into a track on the course no one had skied or slipped.  Her right ski sunk into a pile of snow, stopping her speed and causing her to summersault into a gate and crash going 70 miles per hour.  Sliding down the hill she finally stopped, her cries were agonizing. 

I was in shock of what to do, of where to go.  I stick to Lindsey’s side wherever she goes.  I am with Lindsey until she has to go to the start and I meet her at the finish after the race.  I am always there to help her.  This time, I didn’t know how. I was completely lost.
I sent her a hopeless message: “Please be okay.”

After talking to the US Ski Team press agent, Doug, who said he would give me any information about Lindsey once he knew, I left the finish without a word, and not a word was spoken to me.  I went to Lindsey’s Red Bull team hotel hoping to find out where to meet up with her.  I wanted to drive to the hospital myself.  I was sick of waiting around.  After 15 minutes or so we finally were taken to the hospital to see her.  I was shocked that while I was walking through the completely white and desolate corridors of the Austrian hospital, that through the windows were photographers snapping pictures.  I was near tears and felt completely disrespected on Lindsey’s behalf.

When I saw Lindsey I couldn’t stop my tears.  I hugged her for a long time.  She was crying too, she was scared.  In less then 10 minutes her mind had been turned from a perfect winning run, into a painful, heartbreaking, reality:  her season was over. 

As an omen or a stroke of luck, Lindsey’s long-time Doctor was right there beside her.  He and the Austrian doctors went over Lindsey’s x-rays together.  It wasn’t as bad as Lindsey thought.  It wasn’t the end of her career; Vancouver wouldn’t be her last Olympics; and this wouldn’t be her last World Championships, but it was going to be a long, and tiresome road to Sochi.

There were a lot of stages of emotions in the hospital: crying because of pain, crying because the season was over, learning this isn’t going to be the end.  Medicine induced curse words, medicine induced laughing, and medicine-or-not-defiant-Lindsey.  She refused to leave the hospital in a wheelchair and she refused to stay in a hotel the first night.  We finally got her to stay at the team hotel that night. 

She was nauseas the first night because of the pain medication and also because she hadn’t eaten since breakfast that day.  Everyone was coming and going, and there were phone calls, plans for the next days and weeks being made.  It was a blur.  It took a few days of solitude in the bus for the reality to really sink in.

On the morning we left, while I was packing up the car, Lindsey sat watching the women’s race on TV go on without her.  She cheered for her teammates and her friends, but I think that getting into the car and driving away from her life, going to Vail for surgery, took all of her strength. 

After a lot of talking and consulting, Lindsey and Dr. Sterett found the best plan for her surgery. Family members and friends were crowded around her hospital bed, there to support her.  She was nervous and having them there helped keep her mind at ease.  Everything went as well as could be expected and she woke up from surgery groggy but happy it was finally over.

It only took a day after the surgery for Lindsey to go to the gym.  You can’t keep her sitting still for long.  That’s Lindsey.  I told her this was karma telling her to relax finally, but she rolled her eyes at me.

Being an athlete is a very fragile profession.  You may not be good enough, you may not be strong enough, and the conditions may not be safe enough.  Athletes are tightrope walkers and there aren’t any nets.  Falling is part of the game, and getting up is what defines you.  Lindsey might not have two legs to walk on yet, but she has her fans, family, and friends to support her until she can. 

Thanks to all of you for your well wishes and support through Lindsey’s recovery. 

Best,

38 comments:

  1. Thank you for bringing us all up to speed on Lindsey's story. It's heartbreaking, but also a relief to read she will be back at some point. When I saw the images on television I was simply shocked, so I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for you as a sister or Lindsey herself. I wish her all the best and hope she will be back in Sochi for gold. She is a great athlete and a great person. So I can't do anything but hope and pray for her right now. She is also very lucky to have someone like you to stick with her through whatever comes her way.

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  2. Thanks for sharing, best of luck to all of you!

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  3. This was such a great post! Both you and lindsey are so inspirational! keep up the great writing and everything you both want to achieve!

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  4. I love this line: Falling is part of the game, and getting up is what defines you. And can't wait to share it with my kids. I think it pertains to business and life in general. In an America that now battles obesity more than hunger we all need to strengthen our minds a little. Your writing was great as it kept me on the edge of my seat. It's great to see the closeness of sisters. Congrats and my best to a strong recovery. From Texas: Al Escamilla

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  5. You seem like an amazing sister! Best wishes to the entire family. I had the EXACT same thing (same knee, same injury, same cause) happen to me on the same day and this line just killed me, "She was crying too, she was scared. In less then 10 minutes her mind had been turned from a perfect winning run, into a painful, heartbreaking, reality: her season was over." Me too. Same emotional rollercoaster. All my best! Sochi will be amazing, we all know it will :-)

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  6. wery wery nice from you to write this

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  7. Forza Lindsey, ti aspettiamo a Cortina

    and you Laura, keep us informed

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  8. God saw that Lindsey needed yet another record to break, so He set her up for launching the most successful comeback ever following an injury of such severity.

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  9. yeeeey i love this blog!!!!!! great!!!!! keep up the posting! but how can i follow you? where is the follow button? :)

    thanks,
    Martina
    www.homesweetbakery.blogspot.it

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  10. get well soon Lindsey and stay away 4 T

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  11. In 2011 Lindsay was interrupted from a post training break by a group of young kids,at Coronet Peak skifield NZ. She allowed them to take photos with her and signed helmets with grace, humour and a genuine smile. She was really willing to share herself, and she had something special that connected with these kids. I started following her career with more interest, not because of her results but because of who she was inside.
    Now she is recovering from a major injury, but she is still providing inspiration.. including to my 10yr old son, who recently had his knee reconstructed following acl rupture on a ski jump. Her inner strength, determination, and willingness to share publicly what will be a long and difficult rehab is heartwarming. Your role in continuing to support her is unmeasurable but also demonstrates what in life is really important. Results are always impressive but it is the inner qualities of both of you that are truly inspiring.....

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  12. Laura- This is a great blog. You made me feel as if I was there. I am a huge Lindsey fan and I wish her a speedy and full recovery.
    Thanks,
    Larry

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  13. Awesome blog!!! thanks Laura and the best luck for Lindsey!!!!!

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  14. I believe in you Linds. You can do it!

    and Laura, you seem to be the best sister ever! Keep us informed please.

    Take care girls

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  15. This woke quite strong emotions within me as soon as I read the first paragraph. I, like many others know how attached one can be to family members and I see that you are not an exception. Then Lindsay must be happy to have her family and friends around her.
    I wish you both well and I hope that she will be back on track to this autumn. And you Laura, take care!

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  16. Great blog Laura! You're a very talented writer. Lindsey is very happy to have such a caring sister. I'm glad we can know more about what was happening that day and what Lindsey had to come through. She's the best! Wish her a speedy recovery. Hope she can hit the slopes as soon as possible.
    I'm sure she'll get back even stronger in 2014 for the Olympic season. :)
    Greetings from Croatia!

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  17. Great to read your first-hand account. What a beautiful bond you two have. You are both wonderful role models. I hope Lindsey's recovery goes perfectly so that she can dazzle us yet again next year.

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  18. Great to hear it from your point of view. Glad that Lindsey is doing well ,but I'm very sad I won't get to see her race anymore this season. Hoping and praying that she'll compete in the 2014 Olympics. Goooo Lindsey!!!! I love you!!!

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  20. Great text Laura! I wish Lindsay will come back to the competition as soon as it will be possible. She is a winner and she deserves to compite in Sochi and win the gold olympic medal. I´m going to pray for your sister's recovery. All my support and strenght from Spain

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  21. I saw my leg in pieces and was banging my hand against the ground. Pain? Nope - It almost ruined my chances to adopt my daughter. Strive for your goals then pass your lessons on. I took my life back and she got a new one.

    http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/208176_4614964009127_1602826530_n.jpg

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  22. Thank you for that information. :-)
    I am austrian but Lindsey is my absolut Favorit skier. Hope she will make well while she train to get up. I saw the race too and she would have won that surely.
    Best wishes for her health and hope she get up to that Nr.1 that she is again! Your Johannes :-)

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  23. Thank for letting us fans into you private space and for sharing, Lara. Greetz to Lindsey. And tell her, there might be some truth lying in what her sister says... ;-)
    Nico

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  24. Thanks Laura for sharing Lindsey’s accident and her surgery. May you can add a 'Follower' button to your blog layout. This makes it easier to follow your blog and get new entries immediately :)

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  25. Forza Lindsey e un giorno spero di vederti un augurio dal tuo più grande fan italiano
    translation in your language Strength Lindsey and one day I hope to see a greeting from your biggest fan Italian

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  26. All the best. Each day of earnest rehab with continued conditioning in what you can do is a day closer to returning out there.
    Dr. Steadman and Howard Head Sports in Vail did a great job on my R ACL knee.

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  27. Thank you for sharing this moment with us. Your sister is a fighter with an enourmous strength. She'll be back! :)

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  28. great blog Laura! I was in the finish too & it was terrible i remember how i saw the helicopter flying over me with Lindsey when i was going to the train station cause i didn't feel like watching the rest of the race....
    I found it not right to start the race after such a long delay & the conditions were bad but the FIS is always doing what they want :(
    it's amazing that Lindsey is already doing workout! Wish her all the best!
    Can't wait to see her back next Season :)
    many greets from Austria, xo Marion

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  29. Great blog Laura! Thank you for sharing your personal experience with us! It's amazing that Lindsey is already working out! Her determination and fighting spirit are one of the reasons why she is an inspiration to me and I wish her all the best during the recovery! I can't wait to see her back on the slopes! :)
    Mafalda

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  30. Sending Lindsey good, healing thoughts. Ski racing is a tough sport for tough women-she'll be back, I'm sure!

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  31. Thank you Laura for the great blog. Tell Lindsey we (the fans) are anxiously awaiting her return to the slopes. It may take a while...but it'll be worth it, meaning I'm sure Lindsey will secure a few more first places (the 62 record is soooo close) upon her return to competition. I really wish her all the best and I hope she'll recover as swiftly as humanly possible.
    Stay safe :)
    Ricardo

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  32. Dear Laura !
    this blog, despite a very sad story inside, is really well writen. I'd like you to know, that you made it into the front page of our news! :)

    And about that day : I've seen you on the big screen in Schladming in that moments, and a bit later when you were leaving.
    I didnt have the courage to say anything to you, and honestly i don't even know what would be the proper words at that moment.

    I wish Lindsey all the best for the time of recovery,
    and hope to see her back in the next season.
    :)

    Xoxo to both of you !:)

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  33. Schwestern..... schön von Euch zu lesen!
    Gute Besserung beste Skiläuferin, sending a big hug from Austria. corinna

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  34. Thank you for giving us, fans from all over the world, the details of that tragic day, February 5 th.
    I have been a huge fan of your sister for about 6 years, watching all her races live on TV. And, on that fateful day, I was awfully shocked when I saw what happened. It's hard to imagine what Lindsey went through but, with all your talent, you helped us understand it. The physical pain and the psychological trauma were certainly hard to bear. She seemed to have regained all her energy after her 4-week break, the best proof being her 2 latest victories. The world championships had become her main goal for the season and I'm sure she could have won 2 gold medals. And, with all the races still to come, I was convinced she was going to break the record number of victories (62) this year.
    Unfortunately all her dreams were shattered in a split second. However, regrets are useless, only the future is important. I was not surprised to read Lindsey's 1st declaration, focusing on the future and not the past. No one doubts she will do everything "humanly possible" to be ready for the Olympics. Her determination and her strength of character are truly extraordinary !
    Best wishes to Lindsey for a full recovery, and best wishes to you, too. Everyone would like to have a sister like you !
    A fan from France (please excuse my mistakes in english)

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  35. I was following the race on TV when your sister's crash, that awful crash, occurred. That awkward movement of her knee after hitting the gate didn't lie, something scary had happened. Trust me, all at once I felt empathy for her as I started to feel sick, and was about to faint. I had had a lot softer injury to my knee (ACL tear) playing football almost two years ago and my memories are still vivid.
    That's why all I can say to her is to not give up and keep her mind clean. She has shown astonishingly determination in not giving up on her career. When she is back her example will be a lesson for everyone. I wish her not a quick (you have to be a bit realist on that) but FULL recovery. And all the best to you, I hope you'll become a respected writer.
    Keep up updated.
    Thanks,
    Matteo from Italy.

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  36. Sending Feel Better, Heal Better vibes to Lindsey!
    We would LOVE to send her a CastCoverZ! care package with a forearm crutch bag and Tubez! knee brace cover, her choice of fabrics! Check us out at www.castcoverz.com and you can email me at kristine@castcoverz.com or call toll-free 877)633-4310 and ask for Annette, our owner!

    Thankz!,
    Kristine
    CastCoverZ!

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  37. Awesome blog Laura! I saw the crash as it happened though a live steam it was terrible!! i remember hearing those cries which were the hardest to listen to. i didn't feel like watching the rest of the race after Lindsey crash....
    It was not right to start the race after so many delays for such a long period of time and the conditions were so unsafe in the first place. But the FIS is always doing what they want and not even considering the safety of the racers :(
    it's so awesome that Lindsey is already going back to the gym! I wish her all the best and send Lindsey my thoughts and prayers!
    I'm so excited to see Lindsey Back racing Next season!! :)

    All the best!!!
    Cam :)

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  38. I know Lindsay's crash has been a long time ago, but I'm still following her at close quarters. It has been approximately 2 years since I fell down skiing and broke my tibia, had 4 breaks on my Tibia Plateau and tore off my ACL. I can tell that my knee even looked worse than hers :-) After 7 months of rehab, I was playing soccer again and working out a lot. People would come over to talk to me, basically saying that I was crazy after everything I had been through. But you know, knee surgery is definitely not the end of the world! The first time on skis, I was scared of falling down again on that knee. When I look at her pictures and stories, I just know that you have to live your life to the fullest and enjoy every day! I said goodbye to my weak knee and I’ll spend the whole winter season on skis! Thanks Lindsay for being my inspiration to continue pushing your body to the max!

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