Been a while since I've been in here. This is a long one so I'll put a TL;DR at the bottom.
We had a Vail trip from Feb 23-28th this year and on the second day, my wife ended up with a burst fracture of one of her vertebra jumping off a cornice. After a 3 hour sled ride down the mountain (she was out past the pommel lift in Mongolia Bowl) with no pain meds, she ended up in emergency surgery at Vail Health.
It's odd to say that you were lucky breaking your back but she was extremely lucky.
First off, the vertebra she broke (L1) is below the spinal column so she wasn't paralyzed and will eventually (probably another year or so) make a full recovery.
Second, we ended up getting one of the best surgeons in the world for this specific injury. He's the surgeon for the US Ski team and had developed a new surgery for this specific injury while he was in the US Air Force after seeing hundreds of these types of injuries caused by IEDs going off underneath vehicles. The new surgery is less invasive and leads to a faster full recovery because it doesn't "kill" as much muscle around the spine as the traditional surgery. Unfortunately, that muscle being alive does make the recovery more painful.
Third, that specific surgeon doesn't normally take "walk-ins" (for lack of a better word). After he got out of the USAF he started working more on patients that have degenerative issues (the old people who you see severely hunched over with a cane) who schedule their surgery months in advance. Luckily, he was writing a text book on this specific surgery and was looking for a trauma case with a person who was younger than 1000 years old to get some pictures of.
And lastly, he wasn't supposed to be working that day but his entire staff had just passed the two weeks from their second Covid shot and were celebrating with a pizza party when my wife was brought in.
The surgery lasted three hours and ended at 6:30PM the evening of Thursday, the 24th. The next morning they had her standing (with a brace and walker) but she could only stand for about 30 seconds before she was too tired (mostly because of all the pain meds she was on). That afternoon, she was shuffling to the bathroom with the help of a walker and someone standing behind her just in case she fell. The morning after (26th) she was able to go to the bathroom on her own and by noon was walking (with a walker) for 20 minutes at a time up and down the hospital hallway.
Incredibly, she was discharged the morning of the 27th. Almost exactly 72 hours after her breaking her back. I stole (with permission) about 20 pillows from both the hospital and the condo we stayed at and made the passenger seat of my Toyota Camry more luxurious than the VIP First Class section of an Al Qatar flight. With her laying in the bed/chair and doped up on every drug you could imagine I white knuckled the 4 hour drive home, trying to avoid every pebble in the road that could remotely cause a bump.
Thankfully, her mom flew in for a few weeks, mostly to help with making sure my kid got fed, got to school, etc... but also to help with my wife. She was an EMT/Paramedic for 20+ years and was a great resource to have around (especially since my wife had daily shots in her stomach). The first days we were back my wife was on 42 different pills a day along with two separate pain pumps (one inserted into each side of her back) with that number rapidly declining as she hated being high and preferred to just deal with the pain. The only things she's still on are 1000MG of Tylenol twice a day and 300mg of Gabapentin before bed to help with nerve pain through the night.
As soon as she was allowed to, she started going to physical therapy and has been crushing it. The PT she does now are legit 1.5 hour workouts (I'm too out of shape to do them myself) and she comes out of them disgustingly sweaty. She's doing every thing from planks, to agility ladders, to that weird balance half-ball, to pushups with her feet suspended a couple feet in the air.
Originally, the doctor told us she would most likely have to have the hardware removed within 12-18 months. Unfortunately, with her going back to work (she's a teacher who works with small groups of kids K-5 so hunched over on those tiny chairs all day) the rods in her back are rubbing the muscle and causing pain. Again, we got lucky in that after taking another MRI/CT scan, her bone is fully healed and the hardware will be coming out on the 21st. She'll have a 4 week recovery from that surgery but it shouldn't be near as bad as the initial one.
It's been a trial to get through this as a family, but I'm continuously amazed by how strong my wife is. Her pain tolerance and physical strength are only trumped by her mental strength. She's an phenomenal human and while we all would have preferred not to have the accident, it's been incredible watching her get through it.
And the best part is, we all have our ski passes for this season! Her doctor, physical therapists, and herself all expect her to be hitting groomers in December and starting to work on moguls again by the end of this season.
Funny side story: You could tell we were in a hospital in a ski town because when we were told she had a broken vertebra the exact words out of the neurosurgeon's mouth were, "You have a burst fracture in your L1 vertebra, but don't worry, you'll be skiing again this time next year".
TL;DR - Wife broke her back jumping off a cornice in February. Emergency surgery and 7 months of pain and hard work later she's looking at one last surgery to have the hardware taken out later this month. She's incredible, and is recovered enough to ski this season (although not as hard as she normally would).