By Alyce Collins
THIS SNOWBOARDER was having the run of her life before crashing into a tree at FIFTY-FIVE MILES PER HOUR and shattering her PELVIS with such damage that even surgeons were shocked, but she’s since got back on the same slope after eight months using a walking stick.
Owner of Pixie Cup, Amber English (28) from Missouri, USA, tried snowboarding as a respite from her beloved skiing and knew instantly that it would become her firm favourite.
After taking many trips to the mountains in Colorado, Amber did her first full season in March 2018 and after two months on the slopes, Amber was desperate to experience Step Bowl.
As she went down the slope, Amber’s adrenaline took control and she gave it her all. It felt like the best run she had ever managed because she was going so fast.
However, the trees started encroaching closer to where Amber was snowboarding and she was going too fast to stop herself, so she collided with a tree. Amber hit the tree at an angle, forcing her right hip to take the full brunt of the force.
The pain Amber was feeling was too great and she had to lower herself to the ground, while strapped into her snowboard, with her hands. Before long, Amber’s friend caught up with her and contacted ski patrol who took Amber to the bottom of the slope.
At the local hospital, a CAT scan revealed Amber had broken her pelvis in multiple places and caused internal bleeding. Hospital staff were amazed that Amber had gone so long without any pain relief and that she was still able to move, to some extent.
Amber required a six-hour operation to completely rebuild her pelvis, but her injuries were worse than the X-rays had shown, so the surgery took twice as long, and doctors told Amber her shattered pelvis was one of the worst they’d seen.
“I love the mountains – the snow, the views, and crisp fresh air,” said Amber.
“The day of my accident marked 30 days of my season pass at Wolf Creek resort, and Step Bowl was one of my go to spots on a powder day.
“It was my first full season to spend snowboarding and I was in love. On March 26, 2018, a friend and I hiked to Step Bowl and did our first tracks through.
“High on adrenaline, we set out to do the same run and I threw caution to the wind. It was my second run through Step Bowl that day. I was having so much fun, so I just gave it all I had and went for the best run of my life.
“As I was flying through the trees, I realised I was going too fast and the trees were getting tight. I freaked out and it all happened so fast.
“I hit the tree at an angle, so it was a full blow to my right hip, and there was another tree on the other side. The pain started taking over and I had a hard time comprehending what was going on.
“My snowboard was wedged between the trees and I was still standing. It’s a complete miracle I didn’t hit my head.
“I didn’t have the strength to remain standing and had no other option. I was in a lot of pain for a long time that day but lowering myself to the ground while still strapped to my snowboard was almost unbearable.
“My friend who was ahead of me eventually made it back and was able to contact ski patrol and load me up in a sled. I was trying to assess my situation, but I had never experienced a serious injury and was very naive.
“I called my Dad and calmly told him I had hit a tree and was hurt, but hoped it wasn’t bad. It was about an hour before I made it to the ambulance and was given some pain medicine.
“At the hospital they did a CAT scan to assess my injuries. The doctor’s face turned white as they started analysing where to send me to get the treatment I needed.
“In the simplest of terms, I crushed my pelvis. My medical reports are filled with severe fractures of every feature in my right pelvis and internal bleeding. My medical report says, ‘no comparison’ when describing the severity of my injuries.”
Amber required a full pelvic reconstruction in the days after her accident which took twice as long as hoped due to the severity of damage.
After surgery, Amber had to learn how to do everything again, but doctors continually told her that she was a ‘walking miracle’ to have recovered from such damage. Amber guessed that she was only travelling at approximately 30 miles per hour, but doctors said that to have done such extensive damage, it had to have been at least 55 miles per hour.
“I was airlifted to Denver where the medical crew was trying to stabilise my internal bleeding,” said Amber.
“My surgeon told me it was bad and said my injuries were worthy of a video game. I was told it would be up to six hours in surgery, but little did I know that my injuries were worse than the X-rays had shown, and the surgery took twice as long.
“My doctor later informed me that, out of the thousands of pelvic rebuilds he has constructed, mine was the top five worst he had ever seen.
“I’m a walking miracle, but it hasn’t been easy. Rehab in the hospital was hard. Relearning how to do everything was hard. But the entire time I couldn’t help but feel immensely blessed.
“I went through two weeks of intense in-patient physical rehab as well as eight months of out-patient physical therapy. I still do physical therapy exercise to improve nerve and muscular damage and maintain range of motion.
“I worked so hard to get back on the mountain by the next season and I did just that. I went back to Wolf Creek in December to face my fear head on and keep doing what I love.
“While I was extra cautious and my heart was racing as fast as it could, I redid my accident run within a few days of being back on the mountain.
“A positive outlook goes a long way. We all have a choice but choosing positivity will not only make life better for you, but those around you as well.”
To see more of Amber’s recovery, visit https://www.instagram.com/amberkenglish/