By Dr. Jeff Daniels EBS Medical Columnist
This year, lots of fresh powder coincided with Easter week and spring break, making for some busy days at the Medical Clinic of Big Sky. Let me tell you about March 25, one of the busiest.
The day started with a phone call from a colleague telling me I should get to the office early because someone was feeling very short of breath. Luckily, it turned out to be a pulled muscle in the patient’s chest that made every breath hurt.
Then the parade of knee injuries began. By the end of the day, we had collected six blue knee immobilizers placed on injured knees by ski patrol. Unlike typical days, half of the knee injuries happened to kids.
We sometimes joke that kids are “made of rubber,” but these three kids proved otherwise. We found no devastating fractures or ligament tears, but all three kids felt better in a brace generally used for injuries of the medial collateral ligament.
The three adults with knee injuries fared worse. Two middle-aged women, one from the Midwest and one from New York, tore their anterior cruciate ligaments. An older man from Florida tore every ligament in his right knee. It was so swollen when he came in from ski patrol that we rushed him into x-ray thinking there was a fracture of the tibial plateau, only to see normal bones. He needed a long brace and crutches to get back to Florida.
There were several skiers and snowboarders who had encounters with trees. One young man said he was boarding and ran over a raven, which threw him off balance. This caused him to slam his helmeted head into a tree trunk, resulting in a mild concussion. Another skier tumbled down a steep slope, only to be stopped by slamming hip first into a tree. He came in on a stretcher from the ski patrol, directly into x-ray, and right onto crutches when we couldn’t find a fracture.
An experienced skier from Bozeman didn’t see a clump of snow during a snow squall, causing him to fall forward onto his shoulder, snapping his clavicle. The separation of the two pieces of his collarbone was so exaggerated that one piece was nearly sticking out of his skin! We were able to help him with a shot of local anesthesia, which allowed us to place him in a clavicle brace, moving his shoulders back and pushing the pieces of his clavicle closer together.
We saw a young snowboarder from Nashville who hit his chin with his knees as he was going over a mogul. He now has a small scar under his chin – like many of us locals – to remind him of Big Sky.
We ended the day with another person complaining of shortness of breath. This was a young college student, who turned out to have influenza. She hadn’t gotten a flu shot, and didn’t have a high fever, but her test for influenza came back positive. She was not looking forward to the long bus ride back to California.
The best snow often comes to Big Sky in the springtime. We’ll expect some more busy days like this before the ski season ends.
Dr. Jeff Daniels has been practicing medicine in Big Sky since 1994, when he and his family moved here from New York City. A unique program he implements has attracted more than 700 medical students and young doctors to train with the Medical Clinic of Big Sky.