Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Friday, 24 January 2014

Hard Days

From posts in recent weeks & months its not difficult to work out that a lot of difficult stuff has been going on of late on the work front. This has been compounded by injuries, occurring, in the outdoors, to close friends and colleagues. Firstly, Ferg took a fall while bouldering back in August & broke both ankles. He needed surgery and is still some way away from full recovery. I wasn't around for Ferg's injury so cannot comment in detail. Yesterday, Graham took a lead fall whilst climbing at Headend Quarry, North Cumbria. I was belaying him at the time but he hit he ground and sustained nasty fractures to his lower right leg that will require surgery today. Thankfully, both have survived what could have been much worse injury - I'm massively grateful for this. However, for the sake of learning I've written an account of Graham's day below:

Graham & I have been climbing in one way or another for many many years, much of this has been on indoor walls & top roped climbs on outdoor crags. Both of us had decided to have a "big push" this winter in order to improve our personal lead climbing skills. Yesterday was our sixth or seventh outdoor outing of the winter, we've had indoor sessions as well. Its been wet in Cumbria and much of our climbing has been dodging showers in cool, chilly conditions.

It had been raining when we arrived at Headend yesterday and the rock was a bit greasy. We did consider whether it was worth a climb but felt that we'd been out on worse rock & maybe one or two easier grades would be fine, the discussion concluded with Graham saying: "Seeing as we're here I'm going to have a climb". He set off on a V Diff that we have both climbed with ease before. Placing a cam as the first piece of protection; a nut as the second and I'm not sure what he placed just a metre from the top. However, after climbing past the top piece of protection, a height of 8m from the ground and complaining of cold, numb hands, he slipped and fell. I recall the system tensioning in my grip as the top piece of protection took Graham's weight & then feeling that split second of horror as it "popped free" from the crag & he came hurtling down. As Graham hit the ground there was the beginning of some more tension coming on to the rope as the second (nut) appeared to come into play but it was too late. Graham was on the ground, writhing in agony, his right leg badly mis-shaped. I knew instantly it was broken & feared worse in the form of possible back & neck injury.

I told him his leg was broken, checked he otherwise "felt okay" and ran quickly to a slightly higher vantage point where I could still see him and also had a mobile signal for the 999 call.

For all "knockers" of the NHS I can only say that from start to finish the medical evacuation process was superb. Its very special when from an isolated location you can make a phone call, within 15-20 mins have a qualified paramedic take over the care of an injured casualty; make the decision to stand down the heli-med team that has already been despatched; consider the option of a mountain rescue team & within two hours have an A&E consultant presiding over care. North West Ambulance Service; Cumberland Infirmary - first class Thank you!!

Reflecting on all those years of Outdoor First Aid Training ......... Lots of enthusiastic and well intentioned input from trainers has been well appreciated. However, with the potential of spinal injury, in this instance, I will never forget the clearest of instructions from the Ambulance controller: "Is he on his back? (Yes)... Do not touch him, I repeat Do not even touch him unless he begins to vomit or lose consciousness. Do not attempt to splint. Just observe and if anything changes tell me" The reality of the First Aid message in real life (which to be fair has come much more to the fore in recent years) is get professional help as quickly & efficiently as possible. I guess this is what really makes a difference, there wasn't really an awful lot I could do for him in this situation.

Anyway, two days on Graham has just been discharged from hospital after orthopaedic surgery (pin & plate) he's doing well and although likely to be off his feet for 6-8 weeks is expected to make a good recovery.

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