Sunday, June 22, 2008

Our story, part 3: stage diving, or the end of the ballet career I never had*

In March 2006 I was part of a week-long residency at a museum/theater space in western MA, rehearsing and preparing to play a newly-written opera. One fateful night, before the dress rehearsal started, I put my viola on my seat and went backstage to go to the bathroom. Apparently there was an announcement that the tech guys were going to run through light cues, but there wasn't an intercom backstage, or it wasn't working, or something. Anyway, when I came back out, the theater was pitch-black... guess they were testing their full blackout. :-)  In the commotion of trying to get back to my seat and waiting for them to turn the lights back on, I stepped around what I thought was the conductor's podium... but it was actually the edge of the stage.

Now, this was not your normal stage. The musicians were sitting atop a sort of "reverse pit" that stood six feet above the four-foot stage itself. I stepped into the void and fell once, rolling onto the stage, and fell again to the floor. The whole time, I was yelling, "oh my god oh my god oh my god," and the scene turned to complete pandemonium. People were swearing a blue streak (amazingly, *not* me) and screaming, "turn the *^%(^ lights on! someone just fell!" In a rare moment of lucidity, I held my arms to my chest to protect them, and I ended up falling on my back with my neck cradled by three giant spotlights. Coupled with the moments afterwards, when I saw my friends and colleagues looking down at me with ashen faces (that memory still makes my heart stop), it was the most frightening moment of my life.

It kind of felt like this. source

I'm pretty sure I didn't pass out, or at least not for long. My head kind of hurt, but so did my elbow - and since my priorities are completely out of whack because my arms = my job, I kept flexing my fingers, trying to make sure my hands still worked. I didn't even think to look at my ankle, which was in a big suede boot and therefore certainly not messed up.

Never thought I'd find myself sourcing from here, but if the shirt fits...

Soon, I ended up at the very small local hospital near the museum. The nurses there were amazing about getting me in right away, letting my friends be with me in the room, and just generally making things less scary. They took X-rays, set my broken ankle, and told me I'd be OK to play the performance the next night. Setting it was excruciatingly, horrendously painful - and I'd soon find out why.

At 7 the next morning, I was awakened from my Vicodin-induced slumber by a different doctor from the one I'd seen the night before. He told me that X-rays unfortunately can't capture most of the talus, which is the bone "inside" the ankle that basically allows the joint to move. They had already seen that my tibia and fibula were broken in several places, which is obviously bad but still relatively straightforward to treat. When he looked at the corner of the X-ray, he thought that something might be wrong with my talus. Actually, he was virtually certain, and told me I should go back to Boston right away for CT scans and probable surgery. I made dozens of phone calls - to my parents, Tim (who had been playing a show the night before and not heard about it until very late), and an orthopedic surgeon who is a friend of my parents - trying to convince them that I was fine and could play the opera that night. I could go back to Boston right away the next day! I'd be fine!

The doctor friend was the one who put his foot down (so to speak) and said, "Look. If they're telling you they won't do the surgery at the local hospital, you know this has to be bad."

Next up: why I'm telling you this.

*And for that, the world is very thankful.

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