I was on holiday with my family, Martin (husband) and Russell (son) in the French Alps, an area I had long wanted to visit during the summer, having only ever been in the winter before. We were all keen to try a bit of downhill mountain biking and had done a couple of half days getting to grips with the green and blue (easy) slopes.
We set out on a damp drizzly afternoon to have another go and, for me, everything was really coming together and I was really enjoying it. We were forced to stop at a downward sloping ramp as there was a woman walking down in front of us. We gave her time to get clear and then Martin and Russell, in turn, set off. I had done this ramp before so wasn’t feeling at all apprehensive about it. Afterwards, the only thing I remember is a like a single still image of my view, cycling off the side of the ramp and heading towards a tree. Having fallen, the only thing I then remember is being on the ground below the ramp, knowing that both Russell and Martin were in front of me. I tore my helmet off and hollered! I must have tried to get up, I don’t remember. Russell was first back. He gave me a kiss and set off to fetch his Dad. That was the start of a one and half hour effort by the local fire brigade to get me out of the situation and into the ambulance. Some movements were extremely painful (and I think, through my screams, they got the picture) but I was always able to draw my knees upwards and in fact, that was more comfortable than being laid flat. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t walk again.
A long transfer via two ambulances got me to Grenoble Hospital. X-rays and scans later I was told I had severely compressed one vertebra, L1, and that I would need a laminectomy to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord and titanium rods and screws to stabilise my spine. The operation was to be first thing, the following morning.
I spent six days in the hospital in Grenoble and I cannot fault how well they looked after me. My french is very bad and some of the staff didn’t speak English but we managed to communicate, sometimes just by holding and gripping hands. Human beings can be incredible creatures towards each other and I’ll always be mindful of that.