Natural disasters at the History Museum, part 1

By Hannah Silverman

Ice skating is a dangerous sport. I know this because it was the sole reason behind the wrist fracture that destroyed the use of my writing hand for one whole month. Well, you didn’t think I was going to blame myself, did you?

I was ice skating at the preview opening of the Natural History Museum’s Ice Rink in London. So when I refer to ice skating as a sport, I’m not likening my participation to Jayne Torvill. I’m more like Elmo on Ice, red and pom-pommy with a laugh I used frequently to distract people from my skating shortfalls. My style is more of an occasionally swift manoeuvre that is somewhere between wannabe-elegant and ‘it’s only a matter if time before she falls’.

Turns out, it was.

Me starring in Elmo on Ice. See what I mean, the resemblance is uncanny.
Me starring in Elmo on Ice. See what I mean, the resemblance is uncanny.

After a confidence inducing hour-and-a-half of swirling around the ice, I was pretty chuffed that even though it had been 10 years since I laced a pair of skates, it was blatantly clear I had still had “It”. I was doing that thing you do with your feet where you weave in and out and I even performed a very slow turn without stumbling. Plus I posed for numerous Instagramable selfies while free-standing in the middle of the rink. I would definitely high five you right now if I could.

I was appropriately frustrated with the slowmos as they shuffled around the central Christmas tree and when the crowds thinned I indulged in a little show-off speed race with myself, of which ironically, for reasons that are about to be disclosed, there were no winners.

You could say the evening took a turn for the worst, and so did I. Absolutely out of nowhere a figure appeared in my peripheral. Realising I was obviously far more advanced than she was, I knew I needed to speed up to get ahead so she could pass. All she had to do was wait. Instead, she decided to turbo-charge ahead and would have crashed right into me had I not had the foresight to perform a movement I like to call, the would-be brake. In other words, I kind of fell.

I sat in the ice for a few moments, mainly because I knew everyone was looking at me and the moment I stood up people would stop thinking “oh that poor girl” and start laughing. If I’m honest, it was more of a pride thing, but little did I know, I had actually fractured my wrist on the fall and if you think about it, that’s a lot worse and I had every right to stay put. After the embarrassment subsided what followed was a a bit of shock, some watery eyes and a referral to Emergency from a lovely paramedic who told me I’d probably fractured my wrist.

It’s only today, some four weeks later, that the cast has actually been removed and I’ve naturally become a bit of an authority on the topic.

For the next two months I can’t lift heavy things (so I’ll be lazy), run fast or use the gym (so I’ll get fat) and have no other choice but to require friends and strangers to make me cups of tea and peel my grapes (so there will be a lot of waiting).

This is more of what to do and what not to do piece than an entry in glamorous review of the venue – which was gorgeous and twinkly and winter wonderlandy, by the way. Rather its a two-part series written by the Natural History Museum paramedics first ice skating emergency referral of the season.

The scene of the crime.
The scene of the crime.

Part 1: The Before

Penguins know their stuff

You know when you see photographs of kids holding onto penguins as they stand on the ice in the middle of winter and everybody thinks they look so brave? Well, they are actually petrified little scardey cats who are clutching onto them for dear life so they don’t fall over. The penguins are also plastic and dont do a whole lot other than perform as a crutch for armatures. My advice? Use one.

The fall from grace

So, you’re zipping around on the ice like a queen and finally building up the momentum and confidence need to own that joint. Then, you feel it. That shaky, tumbly sensation you’ve probably felt before in a warmer climates at far earlier times in the morning. With a fall imminent, you won’t have time to cognitively consider which part of your body it would hurt least to break. If humans had that ability there would be more of us with broken nails, and less with crutches.

So, the how of the fall is not up to you I’m afraid, but the recovery is. Ok, I get that you will be in pain but the shame of the fall itself is actually more debilitating. There you are, sitting with your derrière wedged in the man-made frost and without even opening your eyes you know what everyone’s looking at. You’re the Jennifer Lawrence of the ice rink, more than likely in a less expensive dress but thankfully (probably) with fewer cameras.

Take your time to compose yourself, elegance will be your saving grace. Slowly stand up, grab the nearest rail and compose yourself and plan your exit to the paramedics. What not to do is probably a little more instinctual, but for the love of snowmen do not curse, do not release a river of crocodile tears (authentic pain only thank you very much) and do not blame anyone (even if they did cut you off that effing little …) because for the sake of avoiding an argument, and immediate medical attention, it probably was your fault.

Be really, really good at waiting

If you’re planning a night on the ice bring a magazine, ‘sall I’m saying. Hospital waiting rooms aren’t designed by HBO and staff aren’t trying to break a World Record in the Speed Olympics.

Skate late or forever hold your tube

If you require emergency services, you’re probably going to be substituting post skate cocktails for casts and these puppies don’t set themselves. See, the later you skate, the later your potential injury will be inflicted and the higher the chance you will miss the last tube. So skate late or skate closer to home.

Don’t be a loner

Nobody wants to be hanging around a waiting room alone. We of the injured variety need company, because you can only do the same cross word puzzle so many times. You will also need someone to run out and grab you dinner, open doors and sign your name. You poor little puppet, it’s not easy in the initial throws of breakage. Sympathy is coming your way.

Part 2: The After. The saga continues here.

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