Conquering the Mountain Part II: Special Days
by Maureen Suhr
The following is Part II in a series of posts from Crested Butte, Colorado, where members of the HSS Pediatric Rehab team are skiing with a group of current and former patients from Hospital for Special Surgery and our Pediatric Rehabilitation Department. The “Big Apple Skiers”, as they call themselves, include four young adults, aged sixteen to twenty-three, and one 9-year-old, all with cerebral palsy. To read the first installment, click here.
We’re mid-way through our week of skiing with Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, Colorado. Our muscles are sore but that isn’t slowing anybody down! By now, most of the skiers are riding the lifts up the slopes and shooshing down! The skiers keep amazing me with their abilities. As a novice skier (I’ve been skiing all of 3.5 hours now) I am more acutely aware of the physical requirement of skiing. Yesterday afternoon I was just congratulating myself for successfully coming to a stop on the bunny slope without crashing through the fence when I heard a shoosh and saw a blur. It was Erin turning into the lift line like she was Picabo Street. “Erin!” I said, “I had no idea you were such a speed demon!” “It’s enjoyable, but very scary,” said Erin, taking it all in stride.
That evening we sat around the dinner table recounting the day’s events. I asked Max (23), our only veteran skier, how the trip was going for him. “Can we make this an annual trip?” he asked. “This is awesome!” Max is now skiing down the slopes with only a small metal bar between the tips of his skis. The instructor and volunteers with him offer only verbal cues to improve his skills as he tackles more and more challenging terrain.
My colleague Magda is an expert skier and has the privilege of serving as both volunteer to assist our skiers on the slopes and videographer to capture all our smiles, triumphs, and the occasional funny moments. At one point she was fortunate to catch up with four of our skiers, Rosemary (16), Daniel (17), Sara (9) and Max, on the same run. She was able to convince three of them to stop for a picture, but Max was on a mission to break land speed records on the way to the bottom of the mountain. Magda was fortunate to get that picture because Rosemary and Daniel both agree that they don’t like to stop. “Going fast is the best part,” said Rosemary. “The only thing that could feel better than this would be riding on a motorcycle,” said Daniel.
Tuesday was a very special day for our group for many reasons. We eagerly climbed into the van for our second day of skiing. It was Sara’s sister Christina’s twelfth birthday. One of the staff members at Adaptive Sports Center made her a cake and surprised her at lunch time. They even arranged to have a “Happy Birthday” sign at one of the ski lifts. It was only day two of our trip but we already felt we were a part of the Adaptive Sports Center family.
That night, we were all exhausted after two days of skiing but we had more fun waiting for us. We were lucky enough to participate in a dance workshop held by the Crested Butte Dance Collective. For two hours the stage at the Center for the Arts in Crested Butte was ours. Three instructors led us through a journey of music and dance. We learned to feel the music and rhythm through all parts of our body. We learned to be comfortable in our own skin and express ourselves through dance regardless of our physical limitations. We again learned to try new things and push ourselves physically and mentally as we tried aerial dance moves on a hanging hoop or lyra and a the fabric or lycra swing. Most importantly we learned that there are some exceptional dancers in our group!
Wednesday, was a day of rest, shopping, snowball fights and laughing. We are really feeling like a family now. We encourage each other, laugh and learn from our mistakes, support our triumphs, and continue to push each other to surpass our goals and create new ones. Half a week down, I can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of the week!
Maureen Suhr is a doctor of physical therapy and board certified pediatric specialist, and is the assistant section manager at CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion, Hospital for Special Surgery. She has volunteered with the Foundation for Orthopedics and Complex Spine and traveled to Ghana in November 2008 to assist in the rehabilitation of children and adults following joint replacement and spine surgery.
Magdalena Oledzka is a physical therapist and board certified pediatric specialist, and is the section manager at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner’s Children’s Pavilion, Hospital for Special Surgery. She is NDT trained in the management and treatment of children with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor disorders.