“You might be able to take a good man down but you cannot defeat God.” For awhile, Tim has been looking for a hobby that we can all do as a family, to give us quality family time enjoying something together. I have been delighted by his father heart and his desire to do something with the children. He settled on rock climbing. We live in a part of the country that means good climbs are prevalent. He enjoyed rock climbing when at University. I enjoyed the little rock climbing I did in sixth form at school and when the odd opportunity to climb has arisen since.
It made sense. So Tim acquired gear, meticulously learned knots and safety strategies of how to anchor your ropes. He thrived on the strategic thinking needed to work out a climb. The other night Tim took himself off to climb the ruined tower near our house and to abseil down it. All went smoothly, although I think he found it a challenge! Then he set aside some time in the diary on Thursday to go mountaineering in Snowdonia. I’m not too sure where he was planning on going.
I on the other hand have had a real spark to be practising my violin a lot, until the children asked me why I was playing so much. I just feel it’s something I am meant to be doing, that God has given me a gift and that I need to use it as a point of connecting with people for His purposes. I want to do that well in a way that will bring others pleasure. So I have been working on Hungarian fiddle tunes until my strings were starting to wear thin, challenging myself to memorise them. I was on my way to play at the folk bring-your-instrument-and-join-in session in Llanefydd in Wednesday evening when a gentleman in a landrover and myself collided. It was a narrow lane and wet. In normal circumstances I think our brakes would have been sufficient, but my car was the unlucky partner. He had a cracked registration plate and scratches on his bumper. I had no left light or indicator left, the bumper was crooked and it was very obvious to the casual observer that I’d hit something. So after exchanging details with the gentleman, I turned around and went home. This meant that Tim’s climbing expedition the day after wasn’t going to be realised. Nor was my hope to attend the fiddle festival in Llanberis on Saturday.
We were annoyed by the fact that the car insurance was in my name with Tim only as a named driver, which meant that Tim couldn’t borrow a car to drive because he wasn’t insured. He had to get someone else to be his chauffeur to all his meetings on Thursday morning.
Providentially we’d been offered, before she went on holiday, the use of a friend’s car while she was away. This offer had been made and accepted by us the week before! How amazing it now seems!
So, kept confined to home turf instead of mountaineering in Snowdonia on Thursday, I told Tim of the cragside above Abergele hospital and suggested he looked at it. We had a walk and found a short but suitable ridge of rock to climb. We thought it was an ideal spot to use to teach the children. It appeared very safe and sensible. There were a few overhangs that weren’t too taxing and would be a good education. So Tim and his partner in climb, Paul, spent Thursday evening exploring and trying it out.
We planned that, on Saturday, we’d go as a family to the cragside, and Tim would teach the children to climb. He had done some tree climbing and abseiling with them the weekend before, while I was away. Then Josiah was invited by our neighbouring farmers to go with them to the Caerwys show on Saturday. With hindsight, I’m so glad he did go to the show.
On Saturday afternoon, we went to climb.
Simeon was the first to climb, then Ruthie and then myself.
But I only captured Simeon on camera.
Tim’s parents passed by having been up to walk Dave’s horse in the woods and just after they left I climbed the rock face and up over the overhang. This was the last thing that Tim remembers that afternoon. But I came down from the top and heard Tim say “What next?”. I suggested Jemimah had a go, but he undid his belaying rope and went across to the right of where we were to look at how viable the rock face there was for a new climb. I was aware of him examining it and breaking a piece of ivy off that was in the way. I think he tried climbing it a bit, but not very high and he was coming down when something gave way. There was a crack, I think of ivy in his hand but Simeon thinks it was rock that broke away, because he remembers seeing some rock fall with Daddy. There was nothing for Tim to fall back on or regain his balance with. I think his natural response was to jump back slightly but the land sloped down at a sixty degree angle and was full rocks and he just tumbled like a piece of tumble weed. It all happened so fast.
He hit a tree. Both Simeon and I ran. Simeon reached him first. All I could see was his feet and they were still. When I came around the tree he was all crumpled up and completely lifeless. I thought the worst and thought he was dead. As I have been processing what took place, looking back, I realise the massive difference that lies in the way my brain responded and the way my heart responded. I rushed down to him and picked him up with my head telling me I shouldn’t be moving him in case he had broken his neck or back but that if he was dead it didn’t matter. My heart was telling me that this wasn’t right, that it wasn’t part of the God’s plan that he should die now. There was too much for him still to do. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks and I shouted at him “It’s not your time!” and started praying for him.
I was aware of the children, at that point, having taken themselves back to where the climbing gear and bags were. They were screaming and crying hysterically “Daddy, Daddy!” but I couldn’t do anything for them. Then Tim groaned a horrible guttural groan. He had been slumped against me and I felt him hug me. His body was a dead weight against me and as he moved himself we slipped further down the slope and I was able to put his head against my shoulder and his body turned and straightened out. It was then that I seemed to start to think a little more rationally because it was clear to me that he was still alive. But I didn’t know what damage he had done to himself and my panic was that he would expire any moment.
The children tell me now too that they had begun to pray for Daddy and Simeon says he asked God to help and instantly felt stronger and calmer and able to help me. I can remember thinking “What do I do? I can’t carry Tim.” But then remembered my phone was in my body warmer pocket, which I’d taken off before I climbed. Simeon got it for me.
Trying to dial 999 on my phone which has a touch sensitive screen was ridiculous. I was pressing all the wrong things. My hand was shaking. I kept pressing 96 and then would have to start all over again pressing all the wrong buttons only to press 96 again. In reality it was probably only a few seconds of me fumbling but it felt like very precious hours I was wasting.
I was asked which service I wanted. I shouted ambulance and was put through immediately. Straight away I gave the woman on the other end of the line the post code of where we were. I remember it going through my head that I hadn’t got a clue how they were going to find us and get to us but I felt in my heart that I didn’t need to worry about that as the ambulance crew were the ones who could worry about that. They must have been quick thoughts because I remembered too a friend who had had a riding accident on the Moelfre had managed to be found by the ambulance.
The lady on the other end of the line told me to calm down and very systematically and calmly went through with me what had happened, where we were, who was there, how old the children were, and what I needed to do with Tim. One of the children got me his jumper to put on his head to soak up the bleeding and by this time Tim had come round and was asking questions.
“Where am I?” “In the woods.”
“How did I get here?” “You were rock climbing and you fell.”
“What rocks?” “The rocks by Dewi’s farm.”
“Ok…Where am I?”
“How did I get here?”
Over and over again and lots more: “Are the children ok? I can feel pressure on my head.” After I’d told him my hand was on his head (I was holding a jumper to soak up the blood), “Em, is your hand on my head? Where am I? What happened? How did I get here? What was I doing? There’s a dog at my head. Get that dog away from my head.” Maggie had tried to lick his wounds. And the best one: “I feel like I’m making this all up.”
Ruthie remembers the way Daddy was breathing out long breaths to try to cope with the pain and his whole body was shaking. I could see the fear that he wasn’t able to understand what was going on working through his whole body in the effect of shock. I was wildly praying for him, talking to him, talking to the children, talking to the lady on the other end of the phone still. She helped me mobilize the children to go and flag the ambulance down on the lane and bring them across the fields to where we were. I can remember hearing people in the background of the room she was in asking her if she wanted a cup of tea, but whoever she was I am so grateful to her for being a rational voice in an very irrational moment. At one point when I was wildly praying and asking Jesus for strength she very calmly said to me,
“I know what you are doing but you need to talk to him” meaning Tim. I was finding it quite frightening having to answer the same questions over and over again. My head was again telling me that this was permanent, that I was going to be answering the same questions for the rest of his life, but out of my mouth came words of life and hope, speaking life and healing to his body, that he was going to be ok.
I remembered a time when we hadn’t been married long and Tim had been leading worship somewhere. When we were driving home Tim developed a chronic migraine and he has a really high pain threshold, but this was extreme. I didn’t drive at the time so couldn’t take over from him. We got home and he was straight upstairs into our flat being sick from the pain. I had to somehow get his valuable keyboard out of the car in its case and into our property. We lived in a rough area of Colwyn Bay and it wasn’t an option to leave a valuable object in the car. On that occasion, I prayed for supernatural strength because there was no other option. God gave it to me. I carried the keyboard in its case into the house.
I found myself praying for supernatural strength to cope. I kept telling Tim he was going to be ok as much to convince myself as to reassure him. The paramedics seemed to be taking forever, but Simeon tells me that when he and Ruthie ran across the field they could hear the sirens of them coming. I did ask the lady on the other end of the phone if she knew how long they were going to take and where they were. The hardest moment was just before the paramedic arrived with us in the woods. We too had heard the sirens. Even Tim had said, “I can hear it.” But then the time for the paramedic, Paul his name was, to come with Simeon across the field, felt so long.
Tim was really starting to panic. He was scared most by his own confusion. It all felt so wrong to me because this wasn’t the Tim I knew. I had to be strong for him. But I was so scared. My head saw the worst and my heart continued to speak life and hope to him, even when I started hyperventilating. Jemimah was somewhere in the background and I had earlier got her to speak to Tim in the hope that hearing her voice might help him in his confusion.
Then, I heard Simeon’s voice through the trees and called to him so he could locate us. With the relief of knowing help had arrived, I thought I was going to be sick but thankfully wasn’t. The paramedic told me that my other child was waiting to show the ambulance crew the way to come and he got to work with Tim. Tim also told the paramedic that he felt like he was making everything up.
I finished my call with the emergency service lady. My phone records that call as having been 23 minutes long.
Then two others arrived, Lynn and Gary, I think their names were. They had a stretcher and I remember Gary telling Paul that he had morphine if he needed it. They were so calm and decided they couldn’t carry Tim back across the fields on a stretcher but needed the air ambulance. They called and spoke to whoever and calmly described Tim’s bulging eye as a haematoma of the eye. They made it sound like it wasn’t too serious. It wasn’t his brains oozing out. I felt much calmer. Poor Simeon, in filling Josiah in on the accident that night, apparently told Josiah that he thought Daddy was going to be blind.
At some stage Ruthie appeared behind me with Tim’s glasses in her hand. She had managed to find them.
Having called for the helicopter, the paramedics were concerned that the dogs were going to get in the way so I made the children take them home, but Maggie escaped and came back to us, while Quince on returning home apparently howled and howled. The children were met at home by Robin, our lodger. I had no idea whether he was about or not when I sent the kids back.
With the arrival of more paramedics it was like Tim went into councillor mode and kept asking them their names as if he wanted to reach out and shake their hands. But then he’d suddenly panic and on hearing the name Gary mentioned again said, “Who is Gary?” although he had just asked him his name. They were so patient and respectful of him, always directly answering his questions. When he said he felt confused they reassured him that it was ok and he was confused but he wasn’t to worry, his memory would come back. I tell you, I hung onto those words and kept reassuring him the same throughout the rest of the evening.
I helped the paramedics. One inserted a canula into Tim’s arm and fumbled slightly in the process so that suddenly there was blood spurting out. My instinct was “NO! Not more blood loss” and without a word I put my finger over the end.
Tim was complaining of pain in his hip and the top of his left leg so they cut his harness (He can’t believe that now. His new harness!) and then cut his trousers to see if they could see what damage had been done. I couldn’t believe that they checked with me first that it was ok to cut his harness and trousers. As far as I was concerned they were the professionals and could do whatever they needed to do. But they couldn’t see anything and thought he might have done damage to his pelvis or back, or that his harness had caught something on the way down and pulled his leg.
Putting him on the stretcher without, in a sense, moving him was a logistic challenge, but between the four of us we somehow managed. They had already put a collar on his neck. My parts in the manouver were to stop him sliding off the bottom of the stretcher by standing at his feet, because of the slope of the land, and to help lift him further up the stretcher by the waistband of his trousers. I think I also helped support him as they tipped him first one way and then the other to put the stretcher underneath.
Jemimah, Maggie and I were also instructed to find a flat spot in the field below the hill and when we saw the helicopter to wave. Jemimah liked that bit. There were no cows in that field which I find amazing now because there normally are. By the time we got into the field we could see the helicopter in the distance. We stood waving and waving, not sure as the helicopter flew past, that it had seen us, but it circled a couple of times over our house, each time coming lower, and then Lynn called me back into the woods and warned us bits would probably fly into our eyes. It’s been a very, very long time since I have been close enough to a helicopter to feel the rush of wind from the rotary blades.
There were three crew members on the helicopter. One was uniformed differently from the rest and talked to me so normally and personally, while the rest of the team worked out the safest way to manouver Tim on the stretcher down the rest of a very rocky and dusty hill. I assume he was the pilot. It was he who told me that Tim would be at Glan Clwyd in two minutes and that I could go home, sort myself out and then come to the hospital.
At some stage during this time, one of our neighbours appeared too. I don’t know him very well and though I recognised him, I called him Ron instead of Rod. I explained what had happened and he helped by clearing rocks that might cause the stretcher bearers to stumble.
As they took Tim across the field to the helicopter they suddenly put him down and one of them took a bag off their shoulder. The panic rose up in me again thinking that Tim was expiring. But they stopped and got some dressing out to help with the bleeding on his head.
Knowing he was in safe hands my mind turned back to the children. I tried phoning Tim’s parents but the phone rang out with no answer. When I later looked at my call register on my phone I found I’d actually phoned our home instead of Tim’s parents. But thinking that Tim’s parents were unavailable I tried next one of our elders from church, James. I thought I’d try him because he is well known for having his phone to hand! Although, I had a mental list in my head of who I would try next if I didn’t get hold of him. Next it would have been our neighbouring farmers, who Josiah was with.
Fortunately James answered and reassured me they would come up to the house and sort the children out. He must have been able to hear the helicopter in the background.
I had a very surreal moment, stepping back from the helicopter as it was preparing to take off and the ambulance team were taking pictures on their phones. I remembering thinking that it must be a novelty for them. I decided I would take a picture too as it was quite unusual. I’m so glad I did as it is now proof to Tim that he really did go in the helicopter.
Our neighbour, Rod, helped me clear up all the climbing gear once the helicopter had gone. What I find amusing now is that none of us, Rod, Tim’s Dad or I, have been able to undo Tim’s knots in the anchor ropes that he had tied to trees at the top of the climb we’d done with the children.
Once Tim had gone I felt he was in safe hands and I as I walked across the field towards our neighbour’s house he was talking to me about their telephone line, but I was consciously thinking God’s in this and is going to do something amazing with what’s happened. He’s allowed it to happen but He will turn it around for His glory and so much good will come from it. This has been echoed and echoed and echoed by other people since to confirm that He will.