I slipped and dislocated my knee cap in the New Forest on Monday. I thought I’d write a blog to say thanks to all those involved in my rescue and also to remind fellow walkers of sensible precautions to take.
It’ll never happen to me…
I’ve been in to walking since I joined an outdoor pursuits club decades ago. I actually did a weekend course on map reading and being safe in the outdoors. We used to go on group walks to Wales and sleep on concrete floors in ‘camping barns’ I’ve done a lot of hill walking in the Lakes more recently and have climbed nearly every Wainwright now I think.
I’ve got quite a bit less fit in recent times but I still do a lot of walking in the New Forest. Well this is where I was on Monday when I slipped over in mud and dislocated my knee cap. I do believe I may have been distracted by my phone but all I really remember is the extreme pain and shock of seeing my foot slide away from under me as I tumbled to the ground. I realised instantly that this was no ordinary embarrassing slip up. My knee felt like it was locked solid and I could see that it was horribly distorted. So far as I was concerned I was not going any where ! Just the thought of moving that knee was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I knew instantly that I needed help.
For a moment I thought I would not be able to get a phone signal since I knew that the area where I’d fallen is one of the few places where there is no service. Magically on the second attempt at dialing 999 the cell system must have detected an emergency call and boosted the power or something since I managed to get through.
I explained what had happened and managed to put the operator lady on speaker phone and start up my ViewRanger app. It came up with a reference for the last know position which I read out. She queried if I was on a road… After a few minutes I got the correct fix and read out the numbers quickly so they would be recorded. Not bad really, a 10 figure grid reference and stated GPS accuracy of 26m. I also described where I was in relation to features on the 50K Landranger map that I have installed under Viewranger. Phew !
Not long after I’d called 999 a lady and her husband came by. It turns out that she is a nurse and I am very thankful to them for staying with me and directing the paramedics. It was a bit of a surreal conversation but very, very pleased to have been found. It was by no means certain that any one would have come across me, there are not that many people about this time of year and I just happened to be on a path at the time. ( The New Forest is generally completely open access and you do not always have to stick to paths when walking )
So there I am, lying in agony in a muddy puddle in about 5C temperature. I was acutely aware of the dangers, the thoughts that rush through your mind in such situations. What if I can’t get through to 999 ? What if no one finds me ? I did have a good warm coat on and a fleece hat and it was sunny. I had some water and coffee and food. What I never realised is how easy it is to go into shock in a situation like this. I guess I was waiting there for less than an hour but I’d already started to get quite cold, despite having had an extra coat put over me and being propped up with logs to keep me out of the mud ! What a sad sight I must have been.
Essential safety Items
It’s amazing the total feeling of helplessness and despair you feel when you realise what just happened. I knew something was seriously wrong and I had no doubt that I had to get help.
- Good clothes, layers of wicking fabric ( not cotton since it holds on to water, which in turn destroys insulation) hat, waterproofs and extras( Check the weather forecast!)
- Phone, with charged battery. Make that two phones from now on.
- Map ( hardly any one I meet asking for directions seems to have a proper map and no one has a compass)
- GPS device/ or Smartphone app and knowledge of how to use it !
- Torch, (head torch) good for signalling to be found and navigation
- Whistle ( you can shout all you like but a whistle is 100X better for summoning attention.)
- Pain Killers. If I had not been able to get assistance I might have had to straighten my leg my self or some how crawl to find help.
- Shoes, I must admit my trail running shoes maybe fall down a bit ( no pun intended) They do have reasonably chunky soles, but are generally in a bit of a sorry state. Most people you see in the New Forest seem to manage pretty well with Wellies for shorter dog walking trips. I think I might go back to ‘proper’ boots !
- Extra food/ water/flask. In summer you can pinch extra water from the camp sites 🙂 When I go cycling I take a JetBoil with me.
- I usually have a small foam sit mat, with me. That would have been great insulation in this case, since you loose by far the most heat into wet mud !
- A pen to write down coordinates, it would have been a good idea to get the grid refs. before calling 999 perhaps. Luckily I had quite a bit of battery left. My Moto G is still serving me well!
I’ve got a waterproof stuff sack to keep electronic stuff in, it needn’t be very big or heavy really. In fact I’m really a bit of a fair weather walker these days any way 🙂
I know the area quite well and I guess I would have been able to describe how to find my location, in relation to a nearby car park if necessary.
Here is a link with a picture or the 6 wheel drive buggy that came to my ultimate rescue:
— SCAS HART (@SCAS_HART) March 10, 2016
I was actually lifted out of the muddy puddle in which I had landed by the Southern Ambulance Services HART team. They arrived with pain killers, a self heating blanket and a 6 wheel drive buggy Ambulance. I think they were surprised to find me first of all since they were still debating whether to cut the chain on the gate for some reason!
Unfortunately for me and despite multiple attempts, the paramedics could not get a canular in to give IV morphine, but they did provide ‘ gas and air’ and other pain killers. The next thing I knew really I was laying in a nice warm ambulance waiting to get going to Hospital.
The ambulance had me in A&E in no time, where it took three people including an extremely busy doctor to straighten my leg out. Despite more Morphine ( this time up the nose !) the procedure was agony and I was screaming, much to the politly supressed amusement of the staff. Maybe I deserved that !
Surprisingly once my knee was back in place the pain went away and I was even able to walk later! I was in fact X-rayed and sorted out with plaster cast and crutches and shoved out the door pretty promptly. Actually I was on the gas and air so maybe I lost track of time a bit, that stuff doesn’t really do much for knee pain though, if I’m honest. One bizarre coincidence was that my Mum and Step Father were actually already at the hospital for another reason, and I had a visit in A&E !
Putting the heating on
So as I sit here and ponder events, with the heating cranked up and a nice cup of tea I hope my story helps others to remember to be safe out there!
I’d really like to thank all those involved in our wonderful NHS and my family for picking me up and sorting out my car etc. I’ve managed to have my Tesco shopping delivered for £1 yesterday, it’s amazing how grateful you are for a service like this when you suddenly become immobile.
I hope to have the plaster off next week and am already walking around the block a bit faster every day. See you out there.