What do Steve Young and I have in common?

June 7th was the second day of IBM’s Corporate Technical Recognition Event, held this year in Montréal. I had been invited because I’d been elected to the IBM Academy of Technology in 1999, and the event was designed for invitees and their adult guests. We had been in Troy, New York the previous weekend for my 25th Reunion at RPI, and the two trips merged very nicely — but we had to bring our son, Jeffrey, along (it didn’t seem fair to him to leave him at home for 8 days).

So we decided that one of us would go on a CTRE sightseeing activity in the afternoon, and the other would go out into the city with Jeffrey. We found out that there was ice skating in a nearby building (1000 de La Gauchetière), and Jeffrey thought that that would be fun, so we agreed to take him there both afternoons.

On Tuesday, I’d gone to a wine-tasting called “Demystifying French Wines” at Maison du Gouverneur, while Diane went skating with Jeffrey; I enjoyed myself, though I’m still mystified by French wines, and Jeffrey and Diane had fun and came home mostly intact. On Wednesday, Diane was going to go on a walking tour of Old Montréal and Jeffrey and I were going to skate.

I hadn’t been skating in over 24 years; it took a while to get my skates tight enough so that my feet stopped hurting. I was happy when the Zamboni came out to resurface the ice so I could rest, but by the time the Zamboni was done, I was ready to go back out. And I was having a good time, skating at least five laps without stopping (up from barely one lap when I first started). I noticed that the rink was getting a bit more crowded, and that some of the skaters seemed to be skating rather quickly and without too much regard for the rest of us.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know if I fell down, or collided with another skater, or skated into one of the support pillars — all I know is that I have a vague memory of being helped off the ice, and then I remember being on the bench just outside the rink while two people were talking to me, asking me whether I wanted to take a taxi or an ambulance to the hospital. I asked if I needed to go to the hospital, and they said I should, since I’d been knocked unconscious for a few minutes. I asked them if they could call the hotel and get the CTRE desk and tell them what was happening — a few minutes later, I asked them to call again and let me talk. I asked the CTRE contact, Joan, not to take Diane off her tour, but when she got in, to tell her what was going on and to ask her to wait for me (at least that’s what I think I asked for!).

The ambulance came, and Jeffrey and I got in (I walked in under my own power); we sat down, and they took us to Hôpital St-Luc du CHUM. I walked out, and the ambulance driver started talking (in French, of course) to the admissions people. I know no French and was totally lost. Fortunately, the IBM people at the hotel sent help — John, a bilingual IBM Security person, who was enormously helpful over the next few hours. He introduced himself to me, told me what was going on, and, after he’d made sure Diane had gotten to the hotel, offered to take Jeffrey back there. This seemed like a good idea to me, and to Jeffrey, so off they went.

In the meantime, I’d been patched up (no stitches, just Steri-Strips) and X-rayed; the X-rays were negative, but they wanted to be sure I wasn’t bleeding, so they did a CT scan, too. A long few minutes after they finished the scan and brought me back downstairs to wait (on a gurney in the hall — Canadian ERs are short of space, too), John came back, escorting Diane.

We’d made babysitting arrangements for the evening event (dinner, a circus performance, and dancing), and although I’d asked the CTRE people to cancel the babysitter, they hadn’t had enough time to do so, and, in fact, suggested to Diane that she leave Jeffrey with the sitter and come to the hospital to wait with me. I am very glad that they did that — Jeffrey would have been completely bored at the hospital (I sure was!), and I was glad to have Diane with me.

We waited a long time (slightly over two hours) for the doctor to read my scan (I suspect I was being kept around for observation, too); eventually, he came over, told me that there was no evidence of bleeding or fracture, and told me I could leave…but I had to pay him in cash first (the hospital and ambulance would bill me). By strange coincidence, I’d taken out too much Canadian money for this particular event and was wondering how I’d get rid of it anyway…but I didn’t have quite enough to pay the doctor — but there was an ATM in the lobby, which solved that problem quickly enough!

Then we waited another hour for copies to be made of my X-ray and CT scan so I could bring them back to my doctor in California; they said I should go in for a checkup in a few days (sooner if I noticed dizziness, nausea, or severe headaches) and the films could be useful. Diane and I spent most of that time in the limo waiting, while John waited inside and periodically reminded people that he was there (again, it helped that he could speak French!).

Once he got the copies (about 9:15pm), we headed back to the hotel to see how Jeffrey was doing (we’d given up on the circus). He was fine (he and the babysitter had gone out so he could have dinner and a ride on the Métro), so we headed downstairs for a much-delayed dinner. After dinner, it was back to our rooms to send the babysitter home with thanks and put Jeffrey to bed. Then I went downstairs to write up the first version of my EditThisPage page telling the story. I guess I must have been feeling better by that time!

The next morning, I didn’t look so good, but I didn’t feel all that terrible. So we had breakfast, found some of our tablemates from the evening before and explained our absence, packed, and came home.

I realize that I was very very lucky that I didn’t hurt myself worse than I did (interestingly enough, I saw that the rink rents helmets during the Zamboni break, but according to their online price list, they only rent them to children). And I was even luckier that I was able to get in touch with the IBM event coordinators and that they were able to help me by sending over a bilingual security professional who not only helped with the language barrier but also was personable and friendly.

Will I go ice skating again? Probably, but it’s not likely to be any time soon.