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

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Wild Places & Betrayal

Ten years ago, about one year into a new chapter of working full time in the outdoors, life involved spending much time paddling canoes and kayaks on the rivers and lakes of the North of England. It was the run in to Christmas and I had recently moved to Blaithwaite House in Cumbria. Early – mid December featured an un-seasonally busy spell of work in kayaks: a day on the River Tees paddling one of the white water sections; the next day at Ellerton Water Park near Catterick coaching flat water skills; another river trip on the Eamont helping on a 3* assessment and finally just before Christmas a day on the Caldew close to “home”.

Christmas approached and a very un-festive headache sent me searching for paracetamol in the middle of the night. The next morning saw no improvement and a general “malaise” had set in featuring the previously mentioned headache now accompanied by general aching joints and lethargy. A couple of days of further demise and a visit to the out of hours Doctor on Christmas Eve resulted in a diagnosis of flu. It certainly didn’t feel like a regular cold virus, so although unwelcome flu felt about right at the time apart from the absence of significant respiratory symptoms. Christmas Day arrived and was duly spent in bed with soaring body temperatures, times spent above 40 degC were particularly uncomfortable. Boxing Day saw further deterioration and this time the out of hours Doctor came to visit. Perplexed, he felt a kidney infection possible due largely to the excruciating back pain that had by now developed. Antibiotics were prescribed but the condition worsened in the next few hours with much time being spent at the previously described body temperature. An ambulance was called but the Paramedics, considering a diagnosis of “flu”, called Cumberland Infirmary and were duly refused permission to transport an infected individual to the hospital as a precaution against introducing the virus to their wards! The next 48 hours saw a further slide into delirium and back pain the like of which I had never known, before a second 999 call produced a crew which opted to turn on the blue lights first and answer questions at the infirmary later. There was a frenzy of activity that night as initial attempts to identify the source of infection produced no leads and efforts to bring down spiralling temperatures continued, I can’t recall all of the details but do remember well being placed on a spinal board and sent for a set of X-rays to rule out a fractured spine such was the back pain. A further 48 hours of i.v. fluids and anti-biotics saw body temperature return to normal and a general return to “wellness”- discharge resulted in being home for New Year with still no indication of the source of infection.

Full recovery took the best part of a further 8-10 weeks and it was only at the very end of this period that the multitude of blood tests finally returned a diagnosis of a rare variation on Weil’s disease, no doubt contracted on one of the above mentioned kayak trips!

I always have, and still do, regard the outdoors as a place where well-being is enhanced. This sobering experience tested my trust in this thinking, the nearest I’ve got to considering the concept of “betrayal” in the outdoors.

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