Remis gazed past chalet windows, up the hill to where several hot shots were out doing extreme flips on the half pipe. He was just as crazy as those kids and loved to challenge his abilities and style, not so much for the audience, which seem to always appear after a while, but more for the few like him, who also lived to develop new and different maneuvers. The sheer joy of trying or perfecting a difficult jump, flip, or aerial challenge, was what Remis lived for. The swirl of steam escaped from his mug into his face as he watched the next generation display their skills.
There was a storm forecast for today, but like the other enthusiasts out there today, he decided that there would be fewer bodies on the hill, allowing for more time and less interference. He was right of course only the crazy snowboard enthusiasts who longed for days when the hill was nearly empty were out to enjoy it. The other end of the hill held the usual skiers, an entirely different crew, or at least that is what Remis, and most boarders thought. Skiing is for conventional and less exciting athletes, unless you are a jumper but you’ll not find that kind of dare devil on this hill.
He couldn’t believe his eyes, was that a double or triple back slide, Remis wondered as he squinted to get a better look. Damn, the kids were getting pretty young these days, it seemed they were fearless. Remis, nearly twenty-four was ancient by snowboard standards but he loved the sport and for the last fifteen winters he was still competing. Beaver Valley was close and less crowded and it even had a decent half pipe, so it was a good place to practice. Just as he drained the last of the hot chocolate and felt sustained for the remainder of the afternoon, he noted the lights flickered. Hmm, maybe the storm warnings were true, thought Remis as he headed to the hill. Storms did not scare Remis, they were always saying how terrible weather was going to be, only to be wrong ninety nine percent of the time. People were so easily influenced these days.
He was about to attempt his latest quest, to land a triple back slide cork, which most of the younger boarders were practicing these days, when he heard a “Hey Remis,” behind him.
Matt Johnson, his boarding partner for many a season and someone he’d gone to high school with, slid beside him. They often arranged boarding trips together and even though Matt wasn’t his caliber when it came to maneuvers, he loved boarding as much as Remis did.
“Hey Buddy, when did you get here, I didn’t see you earlier.”
I got off early today, due to the storm warnings,” Matt said, rolling his eyes. “The winds have kicked up a bit and everyone is up in arms. I thought, why not do a few runs.”
“Yeah, I know, my parents tell me that I really don’t know what a snow storm is, and I have to admit they might be right,” Remis smiled, “the lights at the lodge flickered a few times but that happens here all the time, right?”
“Yes, the hydro situation here is always in peril,” Matt grinned, making his whole face look amused. He had one of those youthful faces, a perpetual teenager, freckles, pale blue grey eyes, curly blonde locks and a wide grin that took over half of his face. The only thing he was missing, were pimples. The pipe’s lights came on just then and Remis looked at his watch, 3:30 pm. “That’s a little early isn’t it?” Remis asked, frowning.
“Yes, a tad, I’d say, but I see that some clouds have moved in, these are probably sensor lights and it is getting a bit dark. Ooh, the storm, it’s coming,” teased Matt as he slowly descended down the pipe enjoying a gentle sweeping side to side, to start his session.
Remis however, contemplated his newest challenge. If he thought the activity through in his mind, he somehow managed it more easily. He found that pre-thinking his anticipated movements, proved better results and improved techniques. It was like meditating his movements and once he imagined himself landing it, he opened his eyes and took off without hesitation. When he landed the jump perfectly, he smiled triumphantly, but he failed to see that the skies were getting darker still. Boarders began leaving the hill.
“Wimps!” thought Remis as he unstrapped his board, getting ready for another run.
“Do you think we should call it quits,” asked Matt, “the wind is getting wilder,” He was looking a little concerned as he scanned the sky. The snow whipped up, making it harder to see, and the lights are flickered a few more times.
“Maybe there really is a storm coming.”
“One more run,” said Remis, with a devilish grin on his face, “one more perfect landing and I’ll have it committed to memory! Five is my lucky imprint number.”
“Sure, sounds great,” Matt replied, not sounding as excited as Remis was right now, “one more and we’ll call it a day.”
Snow had drifted in on the half pipe and even though Remis landed the last four runs, he could see that this one might be a bit impeded, but he began his meditative state while Matt was strapping his board on. One of his straps was frozen and he had to stop to clear the ice build up. This took a few minutes and once Remis opened his eyes he began his moves automatically almost like he was in a trance. He looked down the course, placed his goggles and adjusted his chinstrap and did a mini jump to start as he began his run. Matt watched from the top of the pipe, and he knew something was not right when he saw Remis head into the slope on an angle. He watched him hang upside down much too long, with not enough force to continue the curve needed for this maneuver, his eyes widened as he watched his friend, come down awkwardly hitting his helmeted head on the icy run. Matt sped down immediately, to where Remis lay now not moving at all. He knelt down beside him, but seeing him limp like this was frightening.
“Hey Remis, can you hear me?” You took quite a tumble there, landed right on your head. Can you hear me Remis?”
Not a word, not a sign, he took off his mitt and placed his hand before his nose, and he could see his chest rise and fall, but he knew enough not to move him and instead looked around to see if anyone was nearby. “Damn!” He couldn’t see a soul out here. Everyone had left the pipe already. Matt could see a few people up near the skiers hill and yelled out to them “Help, help, he yelled, I have a man down,” yelled Matt, but no one heard him, the wind was becoming wild and the hill was emptying of people fast now.
Luckily Matt had on a bright yellow coat and he jumped up and down trying to get someone to notice him, he waved his long arms above his head trying to capture just one persons eyes. It worked, a young boy looked over at him just as he reached the lodge door, and he pulled a taller persons coat, pointing in Matt’s direction. Soon the supervisor was next to Matt asking him what happened.
“He was trying this trick and something went wrong, he landed on his head,” Matt said worried. “He’s still breathing but he’s definitely out.”
“Okay, said the big man, “don’t move him and he left to get more help.” He returned with a sled and straps and two other people, what seemed like an hour later, to Matt.
The supervisor, Oscar, was built like a warrior, and he was totally in charge as he approached Remis.
“So, it seems the ambulance can’t get through, apparently the weather is much worse in town, visibility is down to zero and choppers can’t come either but I’ve been told what to do so lets get him onto this sled but first we have to put on this collar. He’d pulled out a padded neck brace while his assisters seemed unsure Oscar, walked them through the procedure. He had one of the men hold his head while they slipped on the collar and secured it with Velcro straps.
“Now on the count of three we will move him onto this stretcher in one quick smooth movement,” said Oscar, the leading the trio. And with the countdown they managed the transfer perfectly. He was fastened to the sled and brought to the chalet, and for the seventeenth time, Matt repeated, “Hey Remis, can you hear me?”
Once inside, Matt became even more concerned, “We’ve got to get him to the hospital, but how?”
Oscar, was oversized in every way, hands, head and body, all looked gigantic to Matt.
“We’ll have to call the ER and talk to one of the docs there.” Although he was big, Oscar was worried, Matt could tell by the sweat on his brow and the raised bushy eyebrows.
The lights flickered again, and the remaining fifteen skiers and boarders, the die-hards who to attempted to leave the parking lot, but who returned due to white out conditions, frowned as they looked up to the lights. Oscar had his phone on speaker as Dr. Murphy, the ER doctor, asked about Remis, “Is he breathing?” came a loud clear voice.
“Yes,” replied Oscar, “his chest is moving well.”
Can you check his pulse? Just feel his wrist and see if the heart rate is normal. Do you have a stethoscope?
Sorry Doc, no stethoscope, but I checked his pulse at his wrist, and it feels strong.
Okay, good, you have him in a neck collar?
“Affirmative,” said Oscar confidently, “He is strapped into the sled at present. He can’t move.”
“Okay, do you have an oxygen tank there just in case?” asked Dr Murphy.
“No, Doc, no oxygen tank,” said Oscar looking a bit more worried with every minute that passed.
Okay, lets check his pupils, open his eyes and see if the pupils are the same size, instructed Dr. Murphy
Oscar opened both of Remis’ eyes, and they were the same size, no differences.
“The pupils are equal, I think , I’m really no expert,” confessed Oscar.
“Is there any medical person here,” Oscars voice, boomed .
“I’m a paramedic student,” came a tiny voice from the back of the room almost as a question, and a pale faced young man walked toward the table. “I’m afraid I’m relatively new to the program,” he continued sounding apologetic.
“Okay,” came Dr Murphy’s voice, “young paramedic, what is your name?”
“I’m Eric,” his voice had gained some volume.
“Eric, do you know CPR,” asked Dr. Murphy.
“Yes, I do.” replied Eric, as he checked Remis’ pulse. “His heart rate is about 70 beats per minute and strong at present, his respirations are 16 and he is definitely unconscious at the moment.”
“Can you check his pupil responses Eric, I just want to make sure his brain in not injured.”
Eric took out his phone, turned the light into Remis’ eyes, “Yup, they are equal and look to be normal size but both are very slow to react.”
“Okay, we’ll have to keep an eye on that but can you check his abdomen, to make sure there is no swelling there? I’m worried about internal bleeding.”
Eric undid his jacket and snow pants, the procedure was slow as he gingerly proceeded. Eventually he was able to say that it didn’t look like he had a distended abdomen. “Also no abnormalities to his extremities that I can see,” said Eric, now feeling like he needed to add what he knew.
“Okay, just keep an eye on him, call me the minute things start to change, and we’ll keep trying to get someone in to help out,” he added optimistically.
Remis looked peaceful and was placed on top of a table where he was now surrounded by concerned faces, each looked as helpless Matt himself felt. Oscar sighed wiped his wet brow and looked at Matt, “we need to watch him and hope that help comes soon.”
Time dragged, and people came up to Matt, not sure how to help or what to say which was awkward and unproductive. Matt felt helpless and yet he became aware that Remis seemed to be there somewhere in the atmosphere. Matt was not religious, especially. Raised christen but certainly not a church going sort, he did, however, believe in life after death and had many a conversation about it with his friends. It had always comforted Matt that Remis felt the same way about the after life. As he stood there beside him, Matt felt that Remis was there also and very much alive. He watched his chest rise and fall; he looked so peaceful, without a worry, just, blissful.
The lights flickered several times and then they went out completely and the lodge fell into darkness except for the fireplace. There was a unified gasp from the people in the lodge who now realized that their cell phones were the only access to the outside world and screens lit up the room as everyone began to text their loved ones. After several moments, Matt suggested they turn off their phones, as there would be no way to charge them, now that the power was out. Matt managed to call Remis’ family to inform them of the situation. He was almost in tears before he ended the conversation telling them he would call as soon as things changed. He felt extreme fatique, emotionally worn out. The winds howled now, and everyone was painfully aware that the poor bastard on the table was in trouble.
Matt and Eric did not leave Remis’ side. They were offered hot chocolate by some of the by standers, some of whom Matt recognized as frequent patrons of the lodge. Oscar kept checking back and asking if they needed anything, and the crowd gathered around the fire and tried not to stare at the young man on the table. Matt asked Eric, what he thought was going on with Remis, hopeful to have something positive to hang on to.
“So many things began,” Eric, trying hard not to be an alarmist. “He could have sustained a spinal fracture but it wouldn’t necessarily cause him to be unconscious, while a brain bleed might, but it could be just a severe concussion too, so there’s that. At this point he is stable, but unconscious. Lets keep our fingers crossed that an ambulance can get through.”
Oscar’s phone rang and startled a few people in the lodge. He’d put the phone on speaker just in case Eric was needed. “How’s the patient,” asked Dr Murphy, he sounded tired.
“The same,” said Eric quickly, “still breathing well, still unconscious.”
“We tried sending snowmobile out but the storm is just too crazy, we can’t see a thing out there. I’m going to ask you to keep checking his pupils, and heart rate Eric, let me know when things change, we will continue to try to get help out to you.”
The next three hours passed with Eric and Matt taking turns checking Remis’ pupils and heart rate, and all the while Remis seemed to be in a deep sleep. The storm continued to rage outside, Oscar found candles, and the lodge looked almost pretty with several flickering lights, snow laced windows and the tangerine flames in the fireplace.
How long would he stay like this Matt wondered, as he rechecked his pulse.
“I’m right here buddy,” Matt whispered in Remis’ ear. “I won’t leave you, not ever.”
He held Remis’ hand tenderly, and started talking to him as if he could hear him. “Remember that time in Mrs. Collins class, when we gave her such a fright by making those animal noises when she turned to write on the board? God, I thought we were in big trouble but the class cracked up because she kept looking out the window looking for a cow? We probably should have had at least a week detention but she let us off. What a sweetie she was huh?”
Matt seemed to be in another world as he spoke to Remis, and then suddenly it was like he could hear Remis voice, “Don’t worry Matt, I will be okay, thanks for being here with me.”
And with that Matt thought he felt a twinge from Remis’ hand. A mere reflex maybe, but something for sure, something positive.
Oh thank god, thought Matt, he’s going to be okay. The peaceful look was now a full-fledged smile. Such relief Matt had not felt for a long while.
Matt was grinning now, and he nudged Eric who had been watching the fire, “I think he’s coming around,” he said softly. “He managed a week grip in this hand.”
Eric checked his pulse, then checked pupil response, “Shit, this is not good. His pupils are not reacting at all now, and his pulse has dropped considerably, we need to call Dr Murphy now!”
Matt saw that Remis’ chest was barely moving now, “what does all of that mean?”
“It means he likely has a brain bleed and we don’t have much time. Matt, he may die.” Eric was trembling. The minutes were a jumble of voices, Dr Murphy, Eric, and Oscar but Matt witnessed his friend depart. Everything was blurred except the strong feeling of peace, of quiet and harmony.
Matt gazed at his friend’s face and realized that the light was fading from his face. He had already said good-bye.