“And you’ve already lost all side mobility in that ankle. That’s gone.”
WELL FUCK. Yeah. The first time I heard those words, I am not ashamed to say I panicked. Some may have called it a panic attack (it was a panic attack). Laying in a hospital bed, high on morphine, I stared and cried at a surgeon who was explaining to me in no uncertain terms that I had FUCKED UP.
A week ago, I fell off a bouldering wall and snapped my ankle bone in half.
Sunday morning, a London wakeup
I am in Chiswick after Georgie’s birthday celebrations. Bethan and I are lazily chatting away and I’m feeling pretty proud that I 1. do not feel that hungover or tired and 2. magically woke up pretty early. After some lazing about, some water, and hugs goodbye, I hop in the car and drive back to Leeds, excited for an afternoon of outside bouldering in the on and off sunshine.
Sunday afternoon, a new Yorkshire bouldering spot
4 hours later, I’m back in Leeds and I swing by Rob’s to pick him up, and off we drive to a new outside climbing place for the both of us: Shipley Glenn. I am now feeling pretty hungover at this point, but I am determined to do something with my day, even if it is some half-assed climbing whilst eating my many snacks in the middle of the countryside. We park up, grab our mats and clamber down to the walls. We’re the only climbers there, and Rob begins climbing immediately.
I, on the other hand, am laying down on a bouldering saying things like “just a minute” and halfheartedly asking if he wants spotting. But nah, Rob’s a pretty exceptional climber and I know he doesn’t need spotting on these routes as they’re pretty easy (well, for him).
My climbing nemesis
Eventually, I feel the climbing itch and I begin feeling pretty guilty for not doing anything. I lace up my shoes and start on the wall Rob began with, which is a fair few meters high, with a sharply steeped slope at the bottom. I start off okay, but get just under half way onto a ledge and get nervous. It’s high, it’s sloped, I’m tired as hell and I don’t feel safe. After some faffing around I down-climb and, as I’m wandering to find an easier climb, I point back to the wall – “I’ll come back to you”.
I try another route. I’m pretty shaky. And VERY ungraceful. I manage it one time only with Rob pulling me up at the top. I end up getting so frustrated at my shit climbing, I shake myself and do it again, no help this time. I can do this. I should just stop being hungover. These routes would be fine for regular, hydrated, full-of-energy Rachel.
So. I go back to wall number one. Look up. This is fine. I start to climb. I get past the ledge and past half way and I’m several meters up. Rob is now below me, ready for a slip. I feel uncertain. “Okay. I can down-climb from here, but if I go any further I’m going to have to continue, there’s no footholds anymore.” I think about it for a second. And then, fuck it. I can do this. I reach up, and smear the wall with both feet. I reach up again and realise that I’m holding on to pretty much nothing with my fingers, my feet are on nothing. Oh, fuck. It’s okay. My hands start reaching for more, but I can’t get a grip on anything. I begin to think I’m stuck. But not stuck in a secure way. Stuck in a oh-shit-my-hands-are-slipping way. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. I yell down to Rob that I can’t find a way. That I think I’m going to fall. I try to keep my voice calm but there’s an edge. I know if I fall I’m going to hurt myself. I know I should just try and reach higher up to just go for it but I’m scared of fucking up and having an uncontrolled fall. In hindsight, I should have just tried. Because I might have done it. I don’t know. It doesn’t look like a particularly difficult route. Instead, I stayed where I was for about a minute, trying to find a secure handhold that wasn’t there. Eventually, my fingers lost grip, and I fell.
Landing on my feet I bounced hard, left knee hitting me in the face and the right leg taking the brunt of the impact. And off I flew down the hill, screaming all the way. I scream for about ten seconds before going silent and taking deep breaths. I’m fine, I’m alive. I’m fine. MY ANKLES. One is vibrating, the other is… something else entirely.
“This is fine”
I breathe deep. I don’t cry. I don’t anything. I look at Rob. “It hurts, it really fucking hurts.” He maneuvers me to sit on a bouldering mat, with my feet resting on the other mat, and gently checks my kind-of-okay ankle, before moving on to the other and very carefully taking off my shoe. Ok. My ankle is preeeeeeeeeeeettty huge. We look at it for some time before both agreeing that it’s probably not broken, because despite the fact it’s growing at a rapid rate, if it was broken I’d be way more hysterical. I have never been more grateful to be around somebody so calm. Anybody else would have probably lost it after that fall, and after looking at that ankle. But Rob just hands me a cigarette to distract me, and we start planning our escape.
Well, walking is out of the question. And so, with many protests from me, Rob just throws me over his shoulder and carry-climbs me out of the Glenn and to the car. And then just drives me home.
“I don’t need to go to the hospital”
Well. Okay I know now it seems ridiculous that we didn’t call an air ambulance and get me to a hospital. But I didn’t want a fuss. I didn’t want the day to be ruined. I also had an intense fear of going into hospital after my nightmare in Oxford a&e last year. A lot stopped us from being rational and going to a hospital. Instead, we got home. I called my mum to let her know I’d had a little fall, and we settled down with the leaked Game of Thrones and a takeout. Meanwhile, I put my foot up with some frozen chips and consulted the uni group chat, and the climbing group chat for some advice. Sending them this gem of a photo:
Their reactions? To paraphrase a ton of people: “RACHEL. HOSPITAL. NOW.”
After watching Jaime Lannister sink into the depths, I turn to Rob. “I think we’re going to have to go to hospital.”
My next post will be all about the incredible treatment I received at Leeds General Infirmary, and finding out how monumentally I’d fucked up my ankle.