So it turns out killing two birds with one stone isn’t always as productive as you might think.
Tuesday the 12th of March 2019 – tea time. Weather presenting as sunny with cloud hanging about, winds, with some ferocious gusts. The temperatures feel in the minus in the gusts but pleasant when the sun makes an appearance. At least twice a week I take my dogs up onto Great Hill for a blast and run whilst they play together. Merlyn Snow has been going up the hill from being a puppy and Buddy is just learning about ‘play time’ on the fells.
We had made our way up from White Coppice Cricket Ground in fairly slow time, the technical climb should not be rushed especially on cold legs. Having made it to the first then second line of fencing it was almost time to flatten out at the Coppice Wall. Tonight we are going to top out at the summit as the light is still good and it hasn’t shown signs of darkness closing in, it’s approximately 6pm. A good half an hour up then down usually gives us enough time to not need a head torch.
So, having made our way up the climb, approaching the wall ready for the first bit of flat, Buddy came crashing at full pelt into the side of me from the left as I passed through the gap, he was on my blind side. Colliding with my left outer knee I knew this collision was significant, seeing stars I think I passed out for a short time. Gathering myself up, having a little chat with myself, I knew I needed to try to get to my feet. Using the wall and after a few failed attempts, I finally made it upright only to collapse back into a crumpled heap on a pile of stones. I’m in trouble.
Now what? Both Buddy and Merlyn Snow giving me dog kisses (after eating copious amounts of ‘sheep treats’) I need a plan. I can’t get to my feet, I need to get down the hill and I have left my phone in the camper (big fail). There’s only one thing to do… I am going to bum shuffle back down to the cricket ground. Now, adrenalin is high, blood is pumping around my body and I’m on high alert. Keeping on the move in the downward direction is all I need to think about. Keep the dogs close and keep off the rocky path, the peat never felt this good (under the circumstances). With about a mile to get to the bottom and the sun beginning to dip I need to move as fast as possible. Getting to the crest of the hill so I can focus on the steep descent – this is my aim as the winds pick up again and the rain clouds start to move in.
Pain is something every runner has experienced at some point in their running journey, going over on an ankle, misplacing your feet on the odd stone, an occasional face plant on the hills, mostly you hope it’s gone unnoticed by others, this pain was a whole new level. Every shuffle meant my left leg was bouncing along meaning movement in the knee and excruciating pain darting right up my thigh and into my hip. This wasn’t going to be as straight forward a bum shuffle as I had hoped for.
Using a dog lead I made a loop to go around my neck and another to hook over my fell shoe. This helped to keep the leg as static as possible as the bounce was controlled through my neck meaning no contact with the ground. The ‘good’ leg had a lot of work to do, as well as shoulders and knuckles on the way down.
Having got as far as the crest with the cricket ground in sight, I had a sense of relief in that the light was almost gone but I could see the bottom. A cyclist stopped and looked up, I shouted for help but the winds had picked up, they didn’t hear me. A head torch appeared, another cyclist stopped didn’t hear me but noticed Merlyn Snow running towards them at the gate and stopped to get hold of him. A dog walker approached with a head torch on and Merlyn Snow got handed over! Through all this, I kept on shouting for help. Merlyn Snow had done his work, he’d found help. Buddy then finished the job by barking back at him. The dog walker started to walk towards Buddy, this is it, I’m going to be ok.
Thinking about how easily you can lose your life really becomes apparent when you are faced with critical decisions. I wanted to stop and take a breather, but knew if I did I may not make it down. At this point my rescuer arrived to ask me some questions and quickly made the decision to wrap me in his jacket, hat and scarf. This is when the uncontrollable shakes kicked in. Andrew tried to pick me up and soon realised I had no mobility in my legs to get down.
A call was made from the nearby cottage as mobile signal was poor, within 15 minutes an ambulance arrived, then later Mountain Rescue. Paramedics inserted drips and administered pain relief effortlessly. Once the core business of medication was on the way to being sorted the Mountain Rescue team deployed their bivvy bag and the temperatures got much more bearable super quick! Now where’s those veins?
It may not seem like a big deal, but, when you’re freezing and have narrow veins trying to find one for intravenous pain relief when you’re hypothermic and need to be stable before getting onto an alpine stretcher, down the rocky part of hill – veins are paramount.
In and out of consciousness I knew there were a lot of head torches around me, 18 Mountain Rescue Volunteers and Paramedics all jumping into action, seamlessly efficient in their roles and functions and, they had a plan. I love a good plan. Dr Hazel and team leader Kevin worked together directing the team.
The 4th attempt to find a vein and hurray finally a cannula was inserted. Intravenous paracetamol and blood pressure/heart rate taken. Both the Bowland and Bolton Mountain Rescue teams were deployed for my rescue. Cross-team training was evident. Both teams complete training exercises on Great Hill, the Police Officer who called the rescue in gave co-ordinates so the teams knew exactly where I was and the need for a helicopter was clearly not necessary, it lay on the border for both teams. I could be lifted – woo hoo! I got given an Actiq – an opiate lolly to rub on my gums and more liquid paracetamol. This was a whole new world of pain. But the Actiq worked super quick, pain relief was finally going to be mine.
We are on our way in no time at all, so it seemed (it was actually 5 hours in total that I was on the fell)!
With a seamless descent down the last part of the Coppice trail path and heading toward the gate, I felt like an Egyptian Mummy. Completely wrapped up and supported I couldn’t even tell I was being moved off the hill. Over two gates and into the back of an ambulance, with 8 of the team carefully and effortlessly shimmying me down to safety. All equipment packed up and a wobbly journey ahead in the ambulance – now was time to let some relaxation techniques take place. With adrenalin pushing me forward down the hill, this had acted as natural pain relief to some degree. Having relaxed when other people came to my rescue the real pain kicks.
Shaking uncontrollably, vomiting and no real sense of where I was anymore or where I was going, the paramedic kept checking in on me and waa also checking my blood pressure and managed to get more bloods from me.
What should have been a fairly straightforward run on the hill with the dogs on a school night before the light went turned into a mountain adventure no one expected or would ever have wanted to happen. Not all is as expected in our journey, but, faced with the fact that I could/would die on the hill in -5 winds, wet with definite broken bones, shuffling a mile to be rescued has left me with a huge sense of gratitude. I have a broken femur behind my knee, torn both my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and my posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and lots of shattered pieces of knee bone floating around, but I am more than grateful to my amazing dogs, Merlyn Snow and Buddy Blue who tag-teamed the human rescuer – Andrew into climbing up the path to work out what was going on in all my noise. With the winds so strong he could hear me calling out but thought it was to keep hold of Merlyn! But, between the dogs, he knew there was a problem on the hill. Buddy stayed by my side and barked non-stop at Merlyn Snow until Andrew came up the hill and found me.
I am just in awe of the Paramedics and Mountain Rescue Team. Both of which have been in touch to check on my progress. Hazel the Doctor in the team even came to find me on the ward to see how I was recovering. Just amazing! I would like to thank the local residents who gave up time and supported the paramedics and Mountain Rescue Teams, but also for their blankets, coats, hat and scarf and putting the boys safely back in the camper. What a great bunch of people – FACT.
I will never take anything for granted, least of all the hard work and diligence of staff within the NHS, volunteers who give up their time and without question. Thank you to all my family, friends, those that have messaged, emailed or just popped in.
Thanks to Mr O, Jake, Naomi and the boys – Merlyn Snow and Buddy Blue, they really did raise the alarm and kicked the rescue mission into first gear. Thank you to the Paramedics and Mountain Rescue for getting me off the hill and to the hospital, just amazing. I await surgery on Monday (hopefully) with rehab and physio looking ahead.
Here’s to a smooth road of recovery and some new ideas to be born out of being bed bound.
Much love and gratitude,