Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Ten Blue Threads

Drypoint Print by Linda Davies
Towards the end of July, and five days away from my flight to NYC, I was visiting South Wales, and on the journey down, asked my partner to wait for me in the car park at the bottom of the route up to Pen y Fan while I did a run up and down the mountain. My mother’s ashes are scattered there as she loved the mountain too, and we had walked it together a few times.

It was a drizzly late afternoon and visibility was poor. As I ascended, I passed a steady stream of walkers on their way down and when I got to the summit I was alone. I only stayed on the top long enough to write a massage to my mother on one of the pieces of slate around the cairn as it was cold and the light was poor.

On the way down, my toe clipped one of the huge, uneven stone slabs, and with the combination of momentum and gradient I went hurtling up into the air. I remember in those seconds before I hit the ground, thinking, This is going to seriously hurt.

Strangely enough I don’t remember feeling any pain on impact. I do remember the immediate need I felt to assess my condition. The most visible injury was a gaping wound just below the knee cap on my left leg. I could see the white of the bone or tendon and watched with some detachment as my blood flowed onto the red earth.

I have a strong memory of lying almost at one with the mountain and thinking that if this is where things ended for me, I could surrender. I also thought that if there was any chance I could get up then I would find a way back down the mountain.

I managed to get up and knew that I had to find a way of staunching the blood. I took off my rain jacket and vest and, pulling the two pieces of flesh tightly together, used the vest as a tourniquet. Then I hobbled the final mile down the mountain.

Later in Accident and Emergency the doctor took two and a half hours to clean the wound and to sew it together with ten stitches. We talked about many things, including mountain running, meditation and travel. I told him about my forthcoming trip to NYC and he looked doubtful.

“We have to check you out for possible infection and the stitches will need to be removed in ten days”, he said.

When he had finished the job he opened a drawer and took out two scalpel blades. “Pack them in your hold luggage”, he told me.

Ten days later and thirty seven floors up in an apartment overlooking the East River and Queensboro Bridge, my partner removed the stitches, placing each blue thread in the palm of my hand.

New York Pavement - photograph

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