Warren Miller: My body’s like an old car | VailDaily.com

Warren Miller: My body’s like an old car

Warren Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

In 1900 the projected life span of the average American was 38 years. Today, in 2010, the projected age for the average American is 78.

I don’t know how they arrived at that new number but if I am any example they didn’t contact my manufacturer to extend the warranty on my life expectancy to be that long, they just did it.

It seems that when you reach a certain age, your wheels just start falling off, not unlike an automobile. Your body parts start wearing out, but fortunately you can buy a replacement for almost any body part except your brain.

Everywhere I go, someone or several people have just had a knee or a hip replacement and are always talking about it. In some cases, they carry a DVD of the surgery in their purse or briefcase and will show it whether anyone wants to see it or not.

One of my most memorable ski days was with a friend and his beautiful wife. She had an incurable lung disease and the doctors were able to do a double lung transplant and save her life. She was such an inspiration to ski with for a couple of days. I can’t really explain the feeling.

Dr. Richard Steadman of the Steadman Clinic in Vail repairs a lot of worn-out knees, and some of his colleagues replace a lot of knees of men primarily who spent too many of their macho years boogying in the bumps.

Steadman says, “After the age of 40, don’t ski in bumps and don’t play tennis.”

Since I don’t do, either, I felt I was safe. However, about 10 years ago, Dr. Scott Hormel (who studied with Steadman), the orthopedic surgeon who had inserted a 16-inch stainless steel rod in my right leg after I broke it in a fishing accident, said, “Warren, I hate to tell you this, but you are going to have to have a knee replacement before you go skiing next winter. However, I have a friend named Ted Burris who has a great knee brace with an articulated hinge. It transfers the weight of your thigh to the top of your calf. If it works for you, we can postpone your knee replacement for a few years.”

That was nine years ago and I ski every day the sun is out. I can’t ski on cloudy days anymore because I have macular degeneration in both eyes and need the sunshine to get any perspective. I didn’t get to ski much this winter because in January I fell while going 3 miles an hour and broke my back.

My back is well now and the road back to physical fitness takes a very long time at my age. I’m not complaining. I am just emphasizing that when the warranty runs out on your body parts get ready to pay some doctor to repair all of those bad things that you did to your body when you were younger.

Such as driving all night to get to a ski resort and sleeping in the parking lot for an hour or so while you were waiting for the ski lift to start. That way you could get a full day of skiing and then drive all night Sunday night so you could complete your Monday’s assignment at work.

Your body parts wear out one piece at a time. Not unlike that old car of yours. A shock absorber here, new brakes there, maybe a new engine, but the parts do wear out.

Honest, I am not complaining. I have had a fairly accident-free life except for the stupid things that I have done. All accidents are just that, a case of terminal stupidity.

Such as the time someone borrowed a pair of my skis and changed the bindings. When I next used them I had a rucksack full of cameras on my back and didn’t think to check the bindings before I started down the hill. I went into a wide snowplow to slow down and stepped out of both skis. Instantly I was sliding down an icy run on my stomach with my hands out in front of me and the rucksack holding my body against the snow. I jammed my left arm and shoulder into a bump and tore my rotator cuff. Surgery was next and then a 4-month recovery without windsurfing that entire summer because of my stupidity.

When you have skied as long as I have, since 1937, it is very easy to take things for granted. Bingo! An accident. However, if I sat down and recorded how many broken ribs, arms, a leg, both shoulders and recently my back, and if I kept up the same rate of injuries, I would bankrupt Medicare.

So what to do about this? I make sure whoever is driving my golf cart is sober. I check my ski bindings every time before I step into my skis, I don’t do any sky diving or go scuba diving below 6 feet of water and other things such as those. Most important, I keep my medical insurance paid up at all times because I don’t know when the warranty will expire on the next body part.

Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff log onto Warren Miller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.

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