The morning started of great, with my (now ex)girlfriend and I setting off to Wales to join up with some friends. Our plan was to see the New Year in with some healthy exercise in the Welsh hills and a romantic hotel for the evenings.
Everything went well until we arrived in Wales to be greeted with some heavy rain - so after supping a warm cup of coffee in the local ASDA Walmart and the weather brightening up, we decided to take a walk over the local hills of Blaina near Abergavenny.
The first couple of hours were great but the weather soon turned in again - and the best option for us was to take a shortcut down a steep footpath back to the foot of the hills. This is where things took a turn for the worse.
At some point on our descent, I lost my footing a began to tumble (approximately for 50ft), and then unable to stop, fell over the edge of Blaina Quarry and free fell a further 40ft before landing on my back.
I remember the fall clearly. As I lost my footing, I tried to stop myself slipping... I couldn't... I just slid faster and faster... soon the slide became a tumble as I went head over heels further down the hill. I remember suddenly realising that I was floating... however, I had no idea how far I had fallen - things just happened so quickly. I landed with a bit of a thump.
At some point during the fall I managed to cut my head open and, on landing, managed to dislocate and shatter my shoulder.
My friends managed to scramble down to me as I was trying to stand up. As soon as I stood, I felt shooting pains running through my shoulder. I knew that I had dislocated it. At this time, my friends began shouting at me to lay down as my head was pouring with blood.
It was at this point that I discovered that one of my walking poles was sticking out of my leg, next to my groin. Somehow during the fall, the pole had twisted out of my hand, turned around and dug itself into me. By some absolute miracle, the pole had only pierced through my waterproof trousers and jeans.
As I lay on the ground, with my friends taking turns in holding a wooly hat on my head wound, the rescue services were called. As we were able to provide the exact grid reference of my location - the Police, Ambulance Service, Fire brigade and Mountain Rescue team arrived within about 45 minutes. Unfortunately we were still very high up in the hills and the climb down was too challenging for them to put me on a stretcher and carry me down. The only option was for the Mountain Rescue Team to call the RAF and request a helicopter to airlift me to hospital.
The photographs below show some of the activity during the rescue:
The first photos were taken whilst the paramedics and mountain rescue team fitted me up with a neckbrace and prepared me for the lift. As the helicopter arrived in the local area, one of the Mountain Rescue Team let off a flare to highlight were we were.
After several attempts, the helicopter was able to get close enough to winch the lead paramedic, then it was my turn.
I was finally winched to the helicopter and flown to the local hospital.
Three hours after the initial accident, I finally arrived in hospital where I was looked after overnight.
At 3am I was taken down to theatre, so that my shoulder could be moved into its original position. More x-rays were taken (including the one above). I was sent home the following day, so that I could attend my local hospital.
When I arrived home, my local hospital could not establish exactly how much damage had been caused so decided to scan my shoulder. The scan showed that the shoulder had broken into 17 pieces and was clearly beyond repair. Two weeks later, I was admitted, my shoulder was removed and a titanium replacement fitted.
6 months later and after much regular physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, I have now reached my maximum mobility (which is 40% of my original arm movement)and am planning my next trip (maybe I shouldn't use that term - perhaps expedition is more appropriate).
xxx THE END xxx
By Graham Ettridge
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