Thursday, 23 February 2017

A game changer



Some small thing can happen which you hardly notice, but later proves to have a profound effect, and may even be the turning point for some aspect of your behaviour.

On 19th September 2014, walking across Dartmoor and Exmoor, I stopped for a break.There was a large boulder on the roadside carved out like a seat. Well rested I continued on a track into a mature deciduous wood. A couple of hundred yards in I met the nemesis which later changed my approach to walking, I think forever. It was an innocent branch, nay, ’twas really only a large twig, let’s say eighteen inches long with a three quarter inch diameter. It caught between my two ankles causing a wound about an inch long on my shin. I stuck a plaster on and thought no more about it, and that incident, apart from the aforementioned rest, doesn’t even get a mention in my journal.

That wound took six months to heal with endless visits to my GP with specialist dressings, antibiotics, and then a recurrence of an unpleasant skin affliction on my legs, debatably cellulitis, but none of the medics were sure. I ended up at the hospital seeing the vascular consultant and was informed about the “incompetent” non-return valves in my veins necessitating me daubing my legs with an emollient daily and wearing knee high support stockings for the rest of my life.

Since then I have thankfully been able to continue with ambitious walking, but there are changes. I have lost a lot of confidence on rough ground, and balance and coordination on anything bouldery has deteriorated, and I have accepted, after perilous adventures in Torridon last summer, that such terrain is now out of bounds. But, the main point I want to make is that my more benign general walking has changed. Even on twigless Tarmac roads I am ever vigilant and looking down to ensure there is nothing I am going to trip over, and I have taken to crepe bandaging my shins to give some protection in case anything strikes. I am constantly aware that I just cannot afford to get another injury to a shin.

It may be that all this would have happened without the twig incident because of the veinous degeneration and my advancing years, but in my mind that twig was the game-changing culprit and I can’t get away from it.

8 comments:

Alan Sloman said...

That's a bit of a nuisance. I'm sorry to hear you're curtailing your ambitions, Conrad. Your precautions sound sensible to me.

I was thanking my lucky stars that I'm fairly ok, until I remembered my barbed wire debacle and my ripped finger. I now longer vault blithely over barbed wire fences. If I had my way, I would cut them into tiny pieces across Britain. Hateful things.

Sir Hugh said...

Alan S - Well, it's not so bad - I can still backpack 16 miles a day (and 20 at a stretch), it's just that element of extra caution that has been thrown in.

I agree about the barbed wire. I did shop for cutters once which would do the job, but for that purpose they were too heavy to put in the pack for backpacking

Dave said...

It's also possible that the extra vigilance you now practice has kept you out of harm you might otherwise have encountered. No way of proving that, obviously, but it could be a positive consequence of your mishap.

Dave

Roderick Robinson said...

At least you identified the problem and were able to make some kind of fist at responding. The mystery of your ailment might be considered a minor (very minor) compensation. To my mind, the comment of the vascular specialist simply describes the physical conditions which manifest themselves as varicose veins. And since varicose veins, if they take a wrong turn, can result in hideous ulcers, perhaps your subsequent malady is partially explainable.

I had skied since 1978 in some of the great mountain places of Europe (plus one in Canada). About 2008, in Zermatt below the most dramatic of all Euro peaks, age descended like a guillotine and it was all over. Alas ski-ing is inter-related dynamism which involves curbing several natural instincts and something disappeared, perhaps a sense of balance, perhaps courage. To those who've done downhill, cross-country is a pallid alternative. One sad outcome, which I suspect you'll recognise for its importance, is I no longer care to visit snow-covered mountains.

AlanR said...

What about wearing a proper pair of gaiters. Not the ultra lightweight type but the ones that gilly's and hunters wear. Just a thought.

afootinthehills said...

Sir Hugh - nothing wrong with a bit of caution. As my GP tells me from time to time (somewhat irritatingly it has to be said) : "At your age it takes much longer to recover from injury. And really you don't have time to waste 6 months or so"

I also agree with RR on downhill skiing. Cross-country skiing through sheltered woods in powder snow when the tops are being blasted has much to commend it, but it doesn't compare with downhill. I do regret having to stop before visiting Zermatt.



gimmer said...

Your 'seat' is a lot more substantial than that Amazonian butterfly, but, according to the laws of reciprocal effect, appears (so far) to have had, although cataclysmic for you personally, not yet quite the global consequences of those mythical 'wings'.
Doesn't seem to have been much of a constraint as far as I can tell.

Sir Hugh said...

Dave - I am sure you are right.

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RR - Thanks for your qualified acknowledgement of my post's content. Another of my commenters has just posted about skiing and I replied thus: I’ve never skied and to some extent regret it, but then I’ve always thought the odds on breaking a limb are off-putting, but perhaps that’s just sour grapes."

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Alan R - The injury was caused when I was walking in shorts - a mode I prefer and find I am able to continue with wearing knee length stockings to cover the black support monstrosities. I know the gaiters sound like a sensible idea, but I have always found, even the walking type, hateful, and I am prepared to continue taking the risk, and with the precautions i mentioned I have managed more or less unscathed for a couple of years.

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Afoot - RR will be delighted with your concurrence. I could see much enjoyment from alpine cross-country in Scotland which I reckon would involve doses of satisfying downhill anyway?

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I am not sure if the seat played a part - I have always thought that it was the twiggy branch, but of course if I had not dallied on the sea...

I agree with your final paragraph. Whilst my post tended to dramatise things my subsequent activity over the ensuing couple of years has demonstrated that things are not too serious - in fact the condition of my legs seems to have improved considerably over the last few months which is odd because I understood that the "incompetent" veinous valve deterioration was incurable.





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