Dartmoor the hike, day 3 (post 6)

•March 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I could hear the other two shuffling about on the Tor as night set in on the 2nd evening, they were hoping for a glimpse of the night sky but like the night before, it was overcast and so nothing could be seen. I was still not very happy that we had set up camp on this Tor and was still working out a new southerly route when the storm broke. The rain was horrendous the noise was deafening and I new our tents were about to be tested to the extreme. As the wind speed increased and so its strength increased the exposed side of my tent was literally pushing me off my bed roll. The pegs were holding. I could not hear the other two over the noise of the storm and just hoped, assumed they were in their tents. Moving my bed roll into the centre of the tent and placing all my gear around the walls I buried my self into my sleeping bag the ear plugs keeping out the storm’s noise I fell asleep.

It was just before dawn I sat up and could hear still hear the storm raging. Light on and a quick tent check. This little tent had survived and was still surviving the worst Dartmoor could throw at it. No leaks nothing flapping and still here, amazing. I lit up the cooker which soon warmed up the tents interior. I had to get out and check on the others I knew their tents were not so strong and I thought I would find them washed or blown away. I was dressed in my wind / waterproof top layer and just needed my now dry boots that are in the porch section of the tent. I unzipped the inner shell and the wind and rain hit me, my porch area was open to the elements and the rain was beating in hard yes my boots were soaking, again, as I emptied the water out of my boots I saw the hand cleaner by my door and guessed that Stu had indeed but it back in the porch but also forgot to zip the door up. On goes my soaking wet boots and out I go, the weather was mad it was still blowing a gale and raining heavy The two other tents were still standing and both lads were awake. They both reported they were well but wet as the tents leaked still breakfast was mustered and hot drinks consumed.

We were all out of the tents now and the rain was incessant the mood of Jay was getting worse he was  dropping his tent but not to well resulting in all his kit getting a good soaking. I knew that carrying on was total out of the question and while Stu’s kit ended up in the same condition as Jays, basically a big pile of wet shit Stu called time on the expo much to the immediate relief of Jay.

We had decided as a group that should one of us find it impossible to carry on that person could call the trip to an end and we would all agree. I was actually loving the weather it reminded me of being back at sea in a storm but as team leader I concurred and called the trip to a close. All we had to do now was get back to the car about 3 –4 miles as the crow fly’s.

It was indigestion……… wasn’t it? (post 3)

•December 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

“Your not dying…. not tonight”. The last words I heard my nurse say to me. She was holding my hand even as the ambulance crew pulled me away and her grip was lost and she was gone. These nurses truly are angles on our shoulders, the front line in the never ending battle between life and death. I doubt  I will ever meet that nurse again I don’t even know her name, but for every second that I now live on, I will never forget her, or the debt that I owe to her for winning that particular battle for me on my behalf. Thank you.

The second ambulance crew were fast, everything was a blur rushing past me overhead and I could her my wife tap tap tapping in quick time alone the corridors trying to keep up. Wish I had my camera with me, strange all I could think of. Must have missed some great shots. The morphine had kicked in big style, wow. I could hear a female voice telling me not to worry everything was under control sorry I did not care, I was somewhere else. I was being strapped into the ambulance the male crew member was strapping himself in to his seat next to me, OK he shouted and the sirens started I remember the feeling of great speed and rushing headlong to whatever destiny was waiting for me that night. 

More bumping feeling the rush of cold air and even more tap tap tapping, “straight to surgery” I heard some one say “the surgeon is waiting”. There was a strange woman running along side me thrusting a piece of paper and a pen at me. “you must sign the consent form, your surgery can have complications are you aware” I just scribbled on the paper and she was gone. “hello Keith, that’s his name yes? Keith can you hear me”? Again I am aware of a number of people around me I am being transferred to a high table and bright lights are shining above me. A bank of TV screens are set up on my right hand side and a surgeon is cleaning my left arm with some sweet smelling liquid, a large upright screen is placed over my chest which blocks my view of everything. “Are you alright Keith”? “yes” I replied “what is the screen for”? I am now fully aware of my surroundings the morphine was wearing off but there was still no pain just a calm sort of safe feeling all over my body. The room was bleak painted white and blue with a large protective area at the entrance end. The type you get in an x-ray room. “Hi Keith I’m your surgeon. The screen is to prevent you from seeing what will happen during surgery. I will be preforming an angioplasty”. A nurse is now a my right side she tells me that she will show me the balloon that they will be using after the operation. “Sharp scratch” the surgeon shouted from beneath his protective clear plastic tent. I felt the needle enter my arm and a very strange sensation moving up my arm. “Ok Keith I’ve injected some dye into your blood stream, it will be visible on the x-ray” a few seconds passed and he told me that he had found the problem. “You had a tear in your artery and there is some furring in the artery at this site, the artery is very narrow”. He could see that I was straining to see the screens, “I can remove the blind if you want to see” “yes please” I replied and the protective screens were removed.

I could see everything now. On the TV panels was my heart, beating expanding and contracting and with every beat the dye showed the blood flow through the heart. A quick click with a mouse and an area was enlarged on the screen it showed the dye unable to get through the artery, it was backing up at the blockage but some was getting through this was thanks to the clot busting drugs i had received earlier. “You may feel a little discomfort across your chest but don’t worry and try not to move as we have some equipment inside your chest now”. With this the surgeon pushed something into my arm and I could feel a scratching sensation across the top of my chest it was the catheter working its way to the damaged artery. As I watched the tube reached the blockage and then expand, it was the balloon on the end of the catheter that was now opening my vain and as it opened the blood started to flow through fast and strong. The surgeon then left what he call a stent at the problem site, he deflated the balloon and removed the catheter.  

“That’s it all done” The surgeon told me as he was removing his protective tent “I may have use a bigger stent than necessary but nothing to worry about we will soon have you up and about”. I shook his hand and the nurse as promised showed me the catheter with balloon and stent attached it was amazing to see what these guys had done and in probably no more than half an hour. A few more injections and I was wheeled into the cardiac intensive care ward.

Outlook

The outlook for people who have had a heart attack can be highly variable depending on:

  • their age – the older you are the more likely you are to experience serious complications
  • the severity of the heart attack – specifically how much of the muscle of the heart has been damaged during the attack
  • how long it took before a person received treatment – the longer the delay the worse the outlook tends to be

In general around one third of people who have a heart attack die as a result. These deaths often occur before a person reaches hospital, or alternatively, within the first 28 days after the heart attack.

If a person survives for 28 days after having a heart attack, their outlook improves dramatically and most people will go on to live for many years.

It was indigestion……… wasn’t it (post 2)

•December 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’m beginning to feel a bit of a fraud, there is nothing wrong with me now at this moment. Lying on a stretcher bed with two ambulance men  in attendance I am waiting in the emergency queue, and it is a queue and it is a Saturday evening at the A&E Good Hope. A great place to be on a Saturday night. My symptoms have all but passed just like before although this episode had lasted for around twenty minutes,  ten more than previously. I was actually feeling very well and good. The paramedic put this down to the drugs he had administered during the journey to the hospital.

Thirty minutes or more passed and I was deposited into a curtained cubical the ambulance crew wished me luck and were on their way. The curtain was drawn back and I could see all the cubicles were full, this was triage. A nurse poked her head into my cubical and announced that someone would be with me shortly “we are running behind by about an hour you know”, no I did not know but there is not much that can be done except wait.

The biggest worry I had now was they would assume nothing was wrong and send me on my way. My wife, who had now joined me having driven to the hospital and following behind the ambulance, told me that there are certain tests they would carry out which will be able to detect a previous heart attack, I was not convinced I had a vision of being sent home to go through this all again.

I started to suddenly feel nausea. It came over me fast and with it the chest tightness, the pain was unreal, different from the last time, a hard no quarter pain. I heard my wife shout to a passing nurse who ran to my side and started to do thing to me. I was in a sort of semi trance I could see and hear, but could not make out what was going on around me. Two things that stand out in my mind’s eye from this moment in the incident was, hearing the nurse shout for a crash team and looking directly into my wife’s eyes. I was saying goodbye, I was saying sorry. The rest, well It was a blur I sensed hundreds of people around me, I was being striped shaved and injected, I saw my wife being led away and I was aware of the bed trolley moving fast with people everywhere pushing shoving poking.  The pain now was unbearable in all my life I have never known such pain, a pain that can not be explained a pain that was killing my very soul.

Then it was gone, no pain just a great warm fuzzy feeling. A male face was above me he seamed to be shouting at me but it did not make any sense.  A female to my right, she too was shouting at me. Just a fuzzy face.

I was back I could hear and see and the faces were becoming focused. The male nurse was telling me he had injected a clot busting drug, had given me morphine for the pain and something else to protect my heart.  The female nurse had injected something into my other arm and she was telling me that I was going to be ok, “you don’t think I’m going to lose you on my shift do you”? I was in tears, tears of joy and relief there was no pain no nothing. I could see my wife at the bottom of the bed and we were suddenly off, moving, fast.

It was indigestion……… wasn’t it? (post 1)

•November 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Thursday November the 8th at around 08.15, I was suddenly aware that something was very wrong. The pain shot up from my lower ribs to my top chest, it was very painful. I stopped and jumped of my bicycle and sat down on the ground. The pain was now climbing up my lower jaw and I was in a very cold sweat. My breathing had become shallow and rapid and I was very dizzy.

This lasted around ten minutes and then the pain with the sweats and  dizziness had subsided. I stood but felt like I had been kicked hard. The cycle path was deserted and I do not recall anyone being around at any time during this incident. I got back on my bike and proceeded to work, which was only some 8 to 10 minutes away.

The previous evening my wife had phoned me to say that she would be late and unless I wanted to start on the evening meal, perhaps I should consider a take away. I decided that in the interest of keeping the kitchen strictly my wife’s domain, I opted for a take away. Some fifteen minutes later we were tucking into a Macy D’s. I had mentioned that I did not enjoy the burger and did not think it was super fresh.

After washing my face and making a cup of coffee I proceeded to my workbench, the first thing I did was text my wife telling her that I thought I had food poisoning, and briefly outlined what had happened on the way to work a few minutes earlier. I told her that never again would I purchase a burger from that particular outlet. I made a mental note to myself that next time I would prepare the evening meal. She replied that she had no such problems and thought perhaps I might be over doing it, what ever that is supposed to mean.

The rest of the day passed without incident and I deliberately took it easy on the cycle home. Friday came and again passed without any issues.

I had booked the following week off from work in order to decorate our lounge. In fact all my holidays for this year were earmarked as decorating holidays (if there is such a thing). Our house is in need of updating and so by the end of this year, all that would be left to do would be the kitchen. If all went to plan that is.

So here I was with all three upstairs bedrooms done, the upstairs bathroom done, the hall stairs and landing done, the downstairs bedroom done, and about to get stuck into the lounge. As this operation was to start on Monday, it gave me the weekend free, well almost as some of Sunday was designated as the procurement of said decorating materials.

Saturday the 10th November I set of to take a little country walk. Not too far, about six miles in total starting and finishing at a place called Badersley Clinton in Warwickshire. The walk should take no more than 2.5 to 3hrs at a nice pace and I would finish the walk with some late lunch cooked up on my camping stove, and eaten at the picnic site in the woods. (This walk along with others will be documented when I have finished with the Dartmoor chronicles).  I was about half way round when it happened again. This time the pain rose rapidly into my jaw and I immediately went into a cold sweat and became very dizzy. I did not stop this time but pressed on  across the field, and again this thing passed after around ten minutes. I did not want to be out in the wild when it was getting dark and so chose to press on and ignored the pain. I checked the map and could see a short cut back to my car, this short cut would take about 1.5 miles off the total distance and so set off on the new course. On returning to my car I was again feeling well, so I set up my stove and proceeded with my lunch and afterwards went home.

Monday morning we began stripping out the lounge and by Monday evening I had the ceiling painted and the first coat on the accent wall. Tuesday morning I was exhausted. I could not get out of bed, of course this led to the wife moaning about my lack of interest in the decorating. In reality this feeling of exhaustion had been with me for a few weeks now, I had even taken to having a power nap during my lunch break at work. I got up and started work on the lounge. Normally I would breeze through the planned jobs in hand for that day but everything was an effort.  By the evening of Tuesday, I had completed all the stages I had set for that day but at an unbelievable slow pace and finished later than expected. I was also getting extremely irritable with everyone and  the slightest thing would set me off in a rage.  Wednesday morning again a no-show for me. I could not get up, I slept in until midday much to the annoyance of the wife.

My health was getting progressively worse, by Thursday I was about hang wallpaper on the opposite feature wall when I had another incident. This time my wife witnessed it and she realised something was amiss. Skip to Friday evening around 11.30pm when yet again I had the same problem. This time it was the most painful of all incidents so far, my wife had woken and was a little frantic, she ran off and came back a short while later yelling that I was having a heart attack. Bullshit I replied as the pain was once again retreating. She showed me the NHS website and all the symptoms were indeed pointing to heart attack. But I still decided that the problem was either a bug or a side effect to the nicotine replacement treatment that I was using, this also stated that some of the effects I was feeling were due to the product.  Saturday Afternoon, Stu (the lad from Dartmoor) came round to help me lift our  flat screen on to the wall. He told me that I looked like death warmed up and while lifting the TV I had another incident. Stu was worried and thought that I should see a doctor. I promised to see one and he left. I then went to my daughters for my granddaughters first birthday, I took some photos and left feeling unwell. My wife stayed but wanted me to phone her should I get any worse, I arrived home, made myself a cup of tea and then it happened. The pain was immense hard and the like of which I had never known before. This one put me on to my knees and was not going away. I was still aware of my surroundings and pulled my phone called the wife, she answer immediately and knew what was happening I heard her shout to my daughter to call an ambulance and she was gone. The next thing I was aware of was my wife and two ambulance men standing over me. I was hooked up to an ECG machine and being given some foul tasting spray under my tongue. The pain was still there but was getting easier and so with oxygen mask on I was put into the ambulance and sent off to hospital at normal speed. The ambulance guy was constantly checking all my vital signs.

Dartmoor the hike, day 2 continued (post 5)

•November 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

I sat on the west side of Oak Tor sheltered from the gale force winds blowing just above my head. Looking across the moor, I could see the wind was blowing the fog away with visibility now some kilometres.  I could make out some western Tors, East Mill and Yes Tor and see south down the path that leads to Hangingstone Hill. I now had a chance to study the map and realised we had gone back on ourselves and headed North, the bog was in fact Taw Mash. We had to re cross the river but this time attempted to jump across, unfortunately my right foot did not make it to the other side and I was left half on the bank with my right leg up to its knee in the river and the weight of my backpack pulling me into the river. Thanks Stu for the pull up.

So sitting on the west side of Oak, my mood began to lighten as the fog was drifting away. I had dried my feet and changed my socks, although my boots were soaking wet inside I placed plastic bags over my feet to prevent my dry socks from absorbing the wet of my boots. The lads were it seemed in a good mood and were laughing at something, this was a good sign. I commenced to brew a hot drink and knew we could make some decent mileage down south if we pressed on and hiked for another three or four hours before setting up camp for the second night.

Snapshot 1 (05-05-2012 04-40) Snapshot 3 (05-05-2012 04-39)

The fog clearing, view from Oak Tor towards East Mill and Yes Tors.

As I was taking the above shots I saw the lads starting to set up camp. I just could not believe what I was seeing. Not only was it too early, but the weather was clearing and we were nowhere near our second nights objective. “what are you doing?” was my question. “We can’t carry on now we are wet and tired and thought this was the plan” was their reply. I knew then that the mission had failed before it had really started and with only one day left completing 35 miles and ten Tors was a no no.

Snapshot 2 (05-05-2012 04-39) Snapshot 2 (05-05-2012 04-41)

Snapshot 1 (05-05-2012 04-39)

Failing at the first set back and setting up tents on Oak Tor

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. To say I was angry would be an even bigger understatement. Eight months I had been planning this trip and to fail due to some fog and a couple of faint hearts was, unbelievable. “maybe we can carry on tomorrow and use our spare day?” Stuart was suggesting “its a possibility” I replied “I will have a look at the map and work out a different route later”. 

As both my anger and disappointment abated I knew I had no other choice but to pitch my own tent and call it a day. It would give me a chance to dry my boots and have an hot meal and maybe yes we could salvage something tomorrow and Monday.

I had been in my tent for around an hour, my boots were dry thanks to my cooker. I had eaten and was about to update the video log when Jay called to me stating that both he and Stu were out of fresh water. It turned out that they had both used their water to wash themselves and to wash their cooking utensils and now had none left. I had around 1.5 lts in my pack bladder and a litre in a bottle attached to the outside of my pack. I shared the water with them and as I was carrying water purification tablets, they both set off to a brook about 1/2 km away to refill all our containers. On their return we purified the water and had a drink. The water was ice cold, wonderful to drink with a slight peat taste.

It was starting to get dark so I put my now dry boots into the porch area of my tent, Stu asked if I had any hand cleaner as he needed yet another dump. I told him that I would put that in the porch area and for him to replace it in there when he was finished. Wising them both a good night I settled in for my second night on the moor.

Dartmoor the hike, day 2 continued (post 4)

•November 8, 2012 • 1 Comment

Once the river had been crossed we continued towards the settlement and so to Hound Tor. Unfortunately the fog came down and once again we found ourselves unable to see more than a few feet in front of us, navigation by compass alone was resumed.  Eventually we started to climb and shortly arrived at the settlement. So far so good. Checking the map, we needed to make a slight alteration to our course the fog still made visual navigation impossible. Stu, bless him wanted to try out his compass skills, and so we headed of with Stu in the lead.

It must be stressed, Stu until this moment had never used a compass in anger before, I had given him some navigation instruction using both map and compass but unfortunately he had taken on the mind set that Dartmoor would not presents any problems to him, and the whole trip would be like a walk in Sutton Park. It was at this point i also started to notice a decline in Jays general well being but put this down to his low fitness levels and a problem with his left knee. he was shivering again.

It was now gone 13.00 hrs, and we should by now be a lot further south. Great Miss Tor was now out of the question for a night camp.

Snapshot 3 (05-05-2012 04-23)  navigation by compass only

Will Stu ahead we climbed on. Stu was checking his compass and indicated a change in course, to his left and more east than I had thought was required. Still we followed, head down and pushing against a very strong wind. 30 minutes later i thought we should be at Hound Tor but Stu called for another course change again to his left and again we followed. This was repeated two more times it was then I knew we had missed Hound Tor. Visibility was now zero and the temperature was below freezing.  It was now around 14.30 hrs.

I caught up with Stu and pulled the map. We crossed referenced his bearing with the map, it was correct.  It should have been a straight line of navigation so why had we made so many left turns? The answer was on Stu. He had a monocular strapped to his pack strap, next to his compass. The magnetic needle was following the direction of his monocular and pulling us round in circles.  We could only guess as to our actual location but dialled into my compass the exact opposite bearing and hopefully this would take us back to Oak Tor. I knew we had to get back to a known position and abandon Hound Tor. retracing our steps, we actually found Hound Tor but were far to tired to climb it, so it was visually claimed and we carried on Back to Oak Tor.

Higher tor Claimed

We started to descend and I expected to be back k at the settlement, but no, we were in the middle of a bog and sinking fast. Down here the fog was dense but we could make out a large Tor i the distance but were only able to see the summit and we could make out some tiny figures moving along its ridge. It took another hour to reach the base of this Tor. We had sunk to well above our knees so our boots and socks were now water logged. We climbed the steep side of the Tor and finally reached the top. It was blowing a gale, the wind was that strong you could not stand up or walk into it. We worked our way round the summit and found the tin observation post. This was Oak Tor. The west side was calm with the wind dropped to almost a breeze, but go to the east side and you would be blown away.

We were all worn out and wet. my outdoor kit  clothing was holding up so my body temp was ok. Jay was shaking with cold. I had hoped we would regroup have a brew and some food and head of down south a bit deeper, unfortunately this was not to happen.

Dartmoor the hike, day 2 Oak Tor to Hound Tor & into the storm (post 3)

•October 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

The compass bearing direct from Oak Tor (our estimated position on Oak) to Hound Tor was to take us through some settlement remains. The remains, I would use as a navigation aid when and indeed if we reached them. According to the map they were a couple of kilometres away. I had actually step paced our original route and so knowing approximately how many steps to a kilometre, we set off in the direction of the settlement.

The map also indicated a river crossing, I had in my preparation for this trip given such crossings a lot of thought. I did not wont anyone to be jumping across water with a full pack on their backs. We could jump across without pack weight and we could even wade across, but the kit needed to stay dry. I was actually sitting in my back garden watching my two grandchildren playing with a skipping rope when one of them threw their end of the rope towards the other. The end reached but the curve part of the rope stayed with the child who threw it. I knew I had found the answer.

As we dropped down from Oak, the fog had begun to lift slightly. We could now see a few yards in front of us but any real visual points were still covered in the fog.

Snapshot 1 (05-05-2012 04-36) the fog was beginning to clear.

Eventually, and inevitably we came to our first river crossing. I say river crossing, it was marked on the map as the East Oakment River. The point we were about to cross was quite narrow and could be jumped at a stretch without to much trouble. The water was fast flowing and very deep having been swelled by the mass of rain fall that we had been having lately.

Jay & Stu jumped over to the opposite bank as previously planned and left all there kit with me. I then threw the one end of the rope to which they pulled the rope over to themselves until i was left just holding the other end. This end i stood on an Jay held the rope taught on his side while Stu threw the other end of the rope back to me.  This then left me with both ends of the rope on my side of the river with the loop of the rope on their side. I then attached one end of the rope to the backpack and passed the other end through the loop at the top of the bag, this i held on to and lifted the bag clear of the ground. Jay held up the loop of the rope and Stu pulled the tied end towards himself. The bag was pulled across the river guided by the the rope through its own loop. Sound complicated but it was really simple and worked exceptionally well. we were able to get all three heavy packs across the river safely and dry.

 

crossing the East Oakment Snapshot 2 (05-05-2012 04-37)

Snapshot 1 (05-05-2012 04-37)two bags safely accross

Snapshot 3 (05-05-2012 04-38)East Oakment

River