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lhwang


Jun 1, 2009, 2:52 PM
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Coping post accident
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Okay, so let's talk about what most climbers prefer to ignore. People get hurt. So if you were part of an accident, how did you feel afterward? How did you deal? And I'm more interested in experiences from people who were not the ones who got hurt.

My climbing partner broke his leg yesterday bouldering. He had an open fracture that fortunately didn't get dirty at all and I ended up reducing it on the scene. Actually the prognosis is not bad but I've been going around all day shivering with my shoulders hunched up by my ears. I feel weird and very disturbed.


Partner happiegrrrl


Jun 1, 2009, 6:49 PM
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Re: [lhwang] Coping post accident [In reply to]
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I'm sorry for your friend's injury and hope the healing will go well. Glad it isn't worse than what it is.



I've never been part of a team where one of the partners was injured, but have seen 3 that affected me in various ways. Not as seriously as you, probably because I didn't know the people injured.

One fell while bouldering, 10 feet off the deck. Her spotters weren't paying attention, didn't even notice her fall, and she ended up clipping her foot on the edge of a thick pad. her foot was separated from her leg, except for a flap of skin(and I suppose some tendons or whatever connects the two).

I still can hear the sounds she was making, her horrified cries of "Oh God!" as she went into shock, looking at her injury. It does send shivers.

Another was a guy who decked, landed flat on his back onto a (luckily) flat rock, from about 2o feet up. Someone assisting took his helmet and rinsed away the blood that was on it. Seeing the red water flow, I felt nausea and faint. Hearing the guy repeat phrases over and over, as he was being helped, also freaked me out. It made me think of a record that keeps skipping, and thinking that the person's brain was disoriented enough to do this really seemed like a jolt - a reminder that it can happen to anyone, including me.

The third was a broken leg from a fall from about 15 feet, onto a ledge. By the time the person was brought to the ground, her injury was bandaged, I believe by her partners, who were nurses. This was really very fortunate, as the injured person was up on the ledge easily an hour before able to be brought down.

But when I saw that bandaged leg, I again felt the nausea and faintness. Her lower half of the leg was set at a right angle to the upper. Even fully swathed in gauze, the image just wigged me out.

Immediately after, my feelings have been a very low-key sense of awareness as to how fragile things can be. A need to be quiet, and have time to let the experience wash over me. I didn't want to be around people, talking about the accident in any way that was superfluous or making jokes.

I think it is completely expected you'd have the feelings you describe. Hopefully, talking/writing about your feelings will help you process the thing.

And maybe go visit your friend as soon as possible, to help get new imagery of them, instead of the last memory being them in pain and shock from the accident. That might loosen up some of the feelings of trauma for you. Even talking on the phone to them might help in that respect.


kiwiprincess


Jun 1, 2009, 7:06 PM
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Earlier this year my husband was belaying a friend who fell 12m to the ground. Chopper evac etc. (He's fine)
Talking about it getting together was their way of coping.
The guy who fell did have some post traumatic flash backs for a while.
The guys who watched were really rattled for a while. Irrationally scared worried people would fall, gear would rip, people would make stupid mistakes etc
Climbing was a high strung activity for a while and their lead level dropped back a couple of grades.
I think going back and checking the reason the gear ripped helped rationalise it.
Start back slow. It' is OK and Normal for things like this to affect you emotionally.
Time heals


gblauer
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Jun 1, 2009, 7:21 PM
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Ask Granite Girl...Rebecca.

As for me, I was dropped (belayer error) 30 feet to the deck and broke my back. How did I deal?

1) Got back to climbing ASAP. My back fracture was stable and I had permission to climb as soon as my pain level allowed. I was back in the gym 7 days after getting out of the hospital.
2) Got back to leading ASAP. I actually lead a climb the day I started climbing again

Interestingly, my head was much worse outside (the accident was indoors) . My accident got filed in my brain under "bad things can happen". I push myself constantly and I train hard so that the phsyical part of climbing is never an issue. I am forever changed by my accident.


gwyn


Jun 1, 2009, 8:02 PM
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In reply to:
...but I've been going around all day shivering with my shoulders hunched up by my ears. I feel weird and very disturbed.

Yes.

Horrible. Numb. Guilt. Around and around it went. Oh, the if-onlys. If only we hadn't gone there to climb. If only I had pointed out the obvious. If only I had remembered thinking earlier that I wasn't sure if the rope was long enough. Things become so clear in hindsight. I knew (know?) that it wasn't my fault that she fell but it's small comfort. Sigh.

Waiting for the ambulance was horrible. I felt so small and ineffective. Made me realize how little first aid training prepares you.

It's hard to believe that's it's been three years now. I'm not sure that I've fully dealt with it all. Too much was going on then.

Take some time for yourself. Talk to people. Tell a good friend about the accident (the whole thing) and what you were thinking/feeling during it all and what you are feeling/thinking now. Get it out in the open so you can look at it from outside your head.

Take care of yourself.


granite_grrl


Jun 2, 2009, 4:36 AM
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I think the most important thing is to take things slowly when you get out climbing again. Accidents affect people in different ways. For some it's the realization that climbing really is dangerous (you may have "known" it before, but now you really know it). For others it the guilt route. Others may cope with it beautifully.

Obviously I had to take things really slow when I got back to climbing. But I had been off for almost 6 months and it still hurt to sit in a harness. At first I had a hard time even watching people leading (note: I started back during ice season, which I'm sure made things worse), but I was back to sport leading that summer, and did some of my hardest trad leads at the time that fall. Even started leading ice that next winter.

At first my husband tried to "help" me too much, he pushed me way too hard. Every one has their own pace, which won't match anyone else. But be careful about going at your own pace and keep moving forward. It is way too easy to get to a point where you think you're still moving ahead slowly, but in truth you're actually standing still.

I remember when my husband came home from a weekend away climbing with a mutual friend. He had come home, and told me how he decked that weekend. Thankfully but he had managed to walk away (well, maybe limped away, but other than the scars on his ass he doesn't seen to have lasting damage). I was upset that night, but that was the worst of it. I guess, after my accident, I know that both me and my husband fully understand the dangers of climbing and we keep walking this path with our eyes fully open.


clausti


Jun 2, 2009, 5:16 AM
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Re: [granite_grrl] Coping post accident [In reply to]
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gblauer wrote:
My accident got filed in my brain under "bad things can happen".

This. My lead head was fucked for a long time, even though I fell bouldering.


granite_grrl wrote:
I think the most important thing is to take things slowly when you get out climbing again.

and this.


gblauer
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Jun 2, 2009, 5:18 AM
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granite_grrl wrote:
I guess, after my accident, I know that both me and my husband fully understand the dangers of climbing and we keep walking this path with our eyes fully open.

I coudn't have said it better. Intellectually, I knew that climbing is dangerous, but, I had a "it won't happen to me" point of view. I now know accidents happen to anyone.

I double/triple check everything and climb with purpose/focus. If I am mentally tired, I quit for the day.


lhwang


Jun 2, 2009, 8:15 AM
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Horrible is a good word for it. Actually I'm reminded of Joseph Conrad's "The horror!" It felt like I was waiting for the ambulance for 20 minutes but really I know it was probably only 5-10.

I feel better today, having actually gotten some good sleep and having read these posts. Thanks for the support.

I should clarify that my climbing partner was my husband. For whatever reason when I posted, I didn't want to mention that. But there is something really disturbing about open fractures. I think it's because of the disruption of bodily integrity. Looking at the X-rays was actually cathartic for me because it helped depersonalize the injury a bit.

I know people will say this is probably selective memory, but I swear I had the strangest feeling that something was not quite right before it happened.


gwyn


Jun 2, 2009, 9:25 AM
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In reply to:
I feel better today, having actually gotten some good sleep and having read these posts. Thanks for the support.

Good to hear! Sleep is great. So is the passage of time. Some good advice given here about dealing with it and climbing. I know that for a while I was all snarly when people were being complacent about safety ("oh, that anchor's good enough"). Wasn't in the frame of mind to hear that. I asked for patience and if they could just humour me (well, after the snarkiness passed and a long conversation followed). On the bright side, a partner of mine did take the accident as a wake up call and paid more attention to safety.

In reply to:
It felt like I was waiting for the ambulance for 20 minutes but really I know it was probably only 5-10.

Funny that but I know what you mean.

Take care.


kimmyt


Jun 2, 2009, 10:53 AM
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I think it having been your husband makes it all the more real and frightening and harder to get over too. The accident I witnessed/narrowly avoided happened to a guy I'd met a handful of times, shared some beer with. He was a nice guy, a guy I respected but he was just a passing acquaintance. The way that accident and resultant rescue afffected me, still affects me, is indescribable. If it had been someone really close to me that it happened to, I couldn't imagine. I still think of him to this day and I barely know the guy, in fact haven't even seen him since about a year after the accident. He probably wouldn't know me to see me on the street, but I held his hand while he screamed and that is just something the mind can hardly comprehend.

Three years after the incident I'm still knocking on rocks at every turn and not trusting them not to blow. A hollow-sounding but bomber flakes makes me go shaky. I get nervy and skittish on remotely poor rock. Maybe even what others would deem good rock, but I just don't trust it.

Like others have said, it takes time to recover mentally and emotionally from these things, the mind is a complex thing you know? Sometimes I think the scariest thing of all is realizing how it can maybe happen at any point in time when you least expect it, or maybe just knowing that sometimes there's no way of preventing it from happening.


Partner happiegrrrl


Jun 2, 2009, 11:17 AM
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lhwang wrote:
I know people will say this is probably selective memory, but I swear I had the strangest feeling that something was not quite right before it happened.

I know what you mean, and have had more than one instance of similar things happening. Once I was watching a person bicycle along the street in front of me. They had a plastic bag with shirt boxes from the laundry in in one hand, dangling from the handle bar.

I thought to myself "That bag is really close to the wheel. What if it got caught" I was thinking "Should I say something?"

Moments after I the thought, I watched exactly that happen. The bag got caught in the spokes and the rider flew head first over the bike, slamming her head into the pavement. How awful.... The good news was that there was a police cruiser right at the corner, and the cops saw this accident occur. So, help was immediate.

No way was this my memory playing tricks on me. I was still deciding as to how to call the problem out in the moment available, when the thing occurred.

I think our minds/connectedness to the universe are much more powerful than we sometimes fathom.


aerili


Jun 2, 2009, 10:29 PM
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lhwang wrote:
So if you were part of an accident, how did you feel afterward? How did you deal?

A man fell in an area where I was climbing and eventually he died right under my hands. He was a stranger to me, but he had no head injuries so I actually did get to know him to some degree during the 3 hours before he died.

For many, many months afterward, it was difficult to drive past the turn-off to the area without getting shaky, tears coming to my eyes, and feeling overwhelmed.

Also, I had some form of PTSD while climbing with others for a long time. When I would watch a partner negotiate a 5th class approach move or do something otherwise semi-sketch, I would internally start panicking, my mind would suddenly go into overdrive and I would start racing through all the steps I would need to take in the next instant if something happened to them. I would literally start planning exactly what I would need to do, especially when we were alone and in a remote area and I would be on my own to deal. Images of these people passing away under my hands would play over and over. A couple times I had a total breakdown due to these things (when it was with someone I was dating and once with my brother).

Sometimes these things still affect me. Time has helped smooth the rough edges of my fears, but I don't think I'll ever totally leave it behind.

In general, I try to take the attitude of living my life prepared but without fear of the past completely shackling me down.


clee03m


Jun 3, 2009, 7:10 AM
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One of the guys I was climbing with decked and broke his ankle once. Not as traumatic in many ways since it was not an open fracture, he was not my husband, this was the first time we were climbing together, and I was not his belayer. For a while, I would repeatly get a flash back of seeing him fall and land on some logs. Definately affected my lead head for a while. I was probably more timid on lead, but I just kept going. At the time, climbing was the only thing keeping me sane, so I felt like I couldn't let this stop me. It has been so long since I had that flash back, that I had even forgotten about that incident. My first response to reading your post was that this had never happened to me. Hope you feel better. I would think that if my milder degree of psychological trauma can be completely forgotten, your experience will in time heal.


acacongua


Jun 8, 2009, 8:49 AM
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Kudos on your ability to handle the accident and help this person. That's something you should be proud of.

First, realize that it takes time. Your initial reactions are typically emotional and you'll run through "should have's". Eventually, the emotions will calm and you can filter the situation into a learning experience. Don't worry about how this will affect your climbing at this point.

If after a week, all this is affecting daily functioning, especially sleep, it may be worthwhile to see a doctor.


desertwanderer81


Jun 8, 2009, 2:50 PM
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gblauer wrote:
Ask Granite Girl...Rebecca.

As for me, I was dropped (belayer error) 30 feet to the deck and broke my back. How did I deal?

1) Got back to climbing ASAP. My back fracture was stable and I had permission to climb as soon as my pain level allowed. I was back in the gym 7 days after getting out of the hospital.
2) Got back to leading ASAP. I actually lead a climb the day I started climbing again

Interestingly, my head was much worse outside (the accident was indoors) . My accident got filed in my brain under "bad things can happen". I push myself constantly and I train hard so that the phsyical part of climbing is never an issue. I am forever changed by my accident.

I'll second you with that. My head game can get messed up pretty hard core. Heck, even a big jug breaking off on a popular route gets me gittery! Anyhow, I agree with the getting back into it notion. The only way to go is to do it.


fresh


Jun 9, 2009, 9:51 AM
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once I was ice climbing with two friends when the leader was hit by icefall (climbers above). he was concious and aware, though mostly immobile. with a lot of help we lowered him and carried him out of the area. it ended up being soft tissue damage that took a month or so to heal, so we were lucky.

since him getting hit was 100% a consequence of our choice to climb underneath others, I felt a lot of responsibility for that choice. my other friend and I had encouraged him to take the lead, since we were pretty sure we were out of icefall range. we were wrong. what's worse is that when all three of us were on a route a few months prior, we'd witnessed icefall hit a climber next to us. apparently we weren't disciplined enough to learn the lesson then.

although I'm young and have only had to deal with that one accident and a few minor epics, I think there are two things I have to satisfy before I feel like I can move on.

the first is sort of intellectually/rationally based. I have to know what I did wrong, what led me to make bad choices, and what I can do in the future to recognize when I'm making bad choices. it generally comes down to either laziness (lack of motivation to do something that needs to be done) or ambition (motivation to do something that I can easily choose to do another time). if I'm imbalanced by either of those things in the future, I know I'm going to get myself in trouble.

secondly, I have to deal with the emotional aspect of fucking up, or of seeing someone else hurt. for me, that just takes venting. generally I despise complaining/whining/etc., because a lot of times it breeds helplessness. but in these situations I think it's necessary in order to move past something.

if I can satisfy both of those things, I can usually move on from feeling pissed at myself or from being upset. it takes time, it can't be rushed. hope your husband recovers, and that you're back at it soon!


marj


Jun 9, 2009, 11:44 PM
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I think you have a great point - although I've done many longer, comprehensive, wilderness first aid courses, they never talk about how YOU might feel after an accident and I think they should.

I lost a friend on a river while paddling and it's taken me a long time to get my nerve back. Time helps, as does writing and talking about it and taking your own time to get through and figuring out what you've learnt from it.

It's a horrible experience witnessing/being part of an accident, you shouldn't ignore those feelings or you'll just make it worse and it will take even longer to get back on the cliff (no one wants that!).


wiki


Jun 12, 2009, 2:39 AM
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marj wrote:
I think you have a great point - although I've done many longer, comprehensive, wilderness first aid courses, they never talk about how YOU might feel after an accident and I think they should.

I lost a friend on a river while paddling and it's taken me a long time to get my nerve back. Time helps, as does writing and talking about it and taking your own time to get through and figuring out what you've learnt from it.

It's a horrible experience witnessing/being part of an accident, you shouldn't ignore those feelings or you'll just make it worse and it will take even longer to get back on the cliff (no one wants that!).

Strange...
every first aid/outdoor first aid, that I have done has had a big focus on dealing with how you feel after the accident... They always seem to teach how to debrief bystanders/group members also...


lhwang


Jun 12, 2009, 11:54 AM
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I don't think there's always an intellectual lesson to be learned. He was on a highball. We all knew if he fell, it might be ugly. He knew that and accepted the risk. We did everything we could to decrease that risk... extra crash pads, good spotter, he even rehearsed it on top rope before.

Anyway, as an update, my husband is out of the hospital. His post-op X-rays were good and there haven't been any issues with recovery. The fractures were mostly transverse, so he's already partially weightbearing. I went bouldering a few times at the gym last week and I guess the real test will be next week when I go to Squamish.


reno


Jun 12, 2009, 1:50 PM
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Wishing your husband a speedy recovery.


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