Stairway to Heaven: Part 2

In Part One, I described how I fell while rock climbing. The back story is well-worth the read, but here’s the summary:

I free fell for 5-7 feet, then pendulum swung for another 10-15. By the time I made it to the impact zone, my back was against the wall. Essentially I belly flopped, but with my back instead. I bounced once, then came back for a second impact. Both times, I hit my lower back, left shoulder and my head.

As soon as my body stopped swinging, my interpreter on the ground (Night in Shining Armor #1) called and asked if I was ok. I vaguely remember giving a thumbs up or something similar to let him know I wasn’t unconscious. Then I told him I needed to come down, to which he yelled for Pedro to lower me to the anchor for the first pitch. That’s where I was before, when I was belaying P-Diddy; where I took this photo:

As soon as I got back there, Night in Shining Armor #2 had come on to the scene. NISA#1 had been belaying him for a climb that was right next to mine. By the grace of God, he finished his climb just as I fell and was mere feet from the anchor I was being lowered to. He met me at that anchor and tied himself and I into it. Then he untied my rope, so Pedro could rappel down and tied me into his.

During this whole process, I was trying to help. I’m a sufficient climber; I know what a sling is and how to tie knots and how to loosen knots that have been fallen on. I didn’t want to feel helpless, but I was really just getting in the way. I couldn’t do anything except focus on how tired I felt and how much I didn’t want to throw up on NISA#2.

At one point in time, I even said, “I might throw up on you.” He graciously replied that that would be ok. He later confessed that me vomiting on him 60 feet in the air would have really sucked.

After he tied me into his rope, NISA#1 lowered me down and helped get me stable. NISA#2 came shortly after and we all introduced ourselves as we waited on Pablo to rap down.

When he arrived on the ground, I immediately had him feel the knot on my head, which was HUGE. Then, he made an observation that made me immediately thankful for multiple things. He said, “you got that knot through your helmet.” This is what it looked like after I ran it into a mountain twice:

I was, and still very much am, thankful for this helmet. Without the foresight of Pedro, without the purchase that at the time seemed frivolous, without this helmet on my head I would have smeared my brains all over the rock. I would have either ended up in a coma in a random, NY hospital or singing praises to Jesus in Heaven. I am thankful for those Nights in Shining Armor willing to help a confused girl down off a cliff. I’m thankful for Peabody’s willingness to lay the rest of his climbing day aside and take care of me.

That was about the time where I decided to send my mom a text message alluding to my fall and letting her know that I was fine. Alive. I suppose I sent the text so she would be forewarned when I told her 4 hours later I was driving home. I threw my phone back into my bag and went to lay in the hammock that was graciously provided for me; Peter Parker had to climb back up and get all the gear I left.

My mom called, left a voicemail and texted me four times.

When I finally called back, she was sufficiently nervous. She works in our local ER and sees all types of crazy stuff; apparently head injuries are a big deal. Over the phone, we discussed how I was getting home, etc. I told her I didn’t feel comfortable driving, but we weren’t scheduled to leave for a few hours. I had hopes that my brain would stop swelling by then. Or something like that.

While I was hanging out, I took a few photos of the carnage. And honestly, these are pretty easy on the eyes compared to how the late-blooming bruises affected my body.

My arm:

Pretend a big, blue and yellow ring lies around my elbow. That’s how it looked a few days later.

And my wrist:

This is grade-A rock rash. It comes standard with most climbing; you mostly see it on knuckles though.

There’s also rock rash on my tailbone and a lovely bruise there too. For the sake of modesty, however, there are no photos.

And for that, you can be thankful.

After the gear was cleaned up and packed away, Pedro and I discussed our afternoon. He, by the grace of God — yet again — had gotten a ride down to The Gunks with some acquaintances. I asked if he wanted to drive me home in my car, and he being the logical one, asked how he would, in turn, get home himself. I didn’t know. And I blamed the silly idea on my concussion.

Seeing that we were done climbing for the day, the only logical thing to do was to move towards the car. As we were hiking out, Pumpernickel mentioned his parent’s house. Knowing his folks well, this was a possibility that ran through my mind too, but it would also involve me staying the night and driving home the next day. And I had plans.

Then he said the golden words, “If we leave now, we can make home in time for dinner.”

Yep. I’m sold.

To read that part of the saga, check out this post.

And to sum up this ridiculously long story, my head is recovering slowly. Two weeks later, the bump and sensitivity is still there, but decreases every day. I felt like I got hit by a Mac truck for a while, but that too is receding slowly. My rock rash is losing the scab, which makes it really itchy. I’m sure people think I have poison oak or something weird.

And the helmet?

Helmets like this (or all helmets, I think) are only graded for one big hit. Mine wasn’t even 24 days old when it was forced to retire. I was planning on polling your input and scheming a way to destroy it, but donated it instead.

An EMS guide wants to use it as an object lesson when he teaches folks how to climb.

Apparently the number one preventable climbing injury is a head injury.

The number two? Rappelling of the end of your rope.

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