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A cautionary tale for adventurers

I have a cautionary tale for outdoors enthusiasts this week, following a rather dramatic Wednesday evening!

OutDoor with Rosie Mitchell

My long-time friend Jacqueline Collins has recently taken up mountain biking and has rapidly become a keen devotee and is enjoying it very much indeed.

Her husband Paul is one of those veritable “Racing Snakes”, who actually wins mountain bike (MTB) races and regularly enters gruelling competitions such as the Iron Man, the Kiliman Challenge, Zambezi Man Challenge and has competed in the Two Oceans, Comrades and many other marathons and ultra races, so he is rather a tough act to follow, when it comes to fitness, and adventures in the bush!

However, Jacquie has fully embraced the MTB in the last few months and with some other friends, enjoys cycling every week with then informal club they have created called the Cappuccino Girls.

This focuses on MTB exercising — important — followed by — cappuccino and chats in one of Harare many super coffee shops — even more important! Now, I’m very pleased to report that Jacquie and the Cappuccino Girls and “Racing Snake” Paul, and indeed I and all with whom I go mountain bike riding, have taken on board the necessity to wear a bike helmet.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I had a rendezvous scheduled with Jacquie. We were going to experiment with the concept of taking her to discover some scenic new cycling routes to enjoy, using some of my regular running routes. I went to meet her on the edge of the bush near Mandara.

Wear your bike helmet, it can save you!

With dogs in the car, I sat and then, the phone rang. Very calmly, via her cellphone, Jacquie said, “Sorry Rosie. I’ve had an accident”. When I asked how badly she was hurt, her reply, “I don’t know,” was rather alarming!

Two passing motorists had stopped to assist her by the roadside, and they too spoke to me and asked if I could come quickly and assist her.

She had come off her bike on the tar road on a downhill slope just 300 metres from where we had been due to meet, hence to proceed in the wild yonder.

Yes, she was wearing her helmet. Well, thank goodness, is all that can be said! Because Jacquie’s head took such a blow that as I write, she has no memory at all of how the accident happened, or of anything that came immediately before or afterwards. In fact, she had and has no memory even of having made the arrangement two days earlier, to meet me for our bush adventure.

But some hours and a CT scan later, she was declared to be fit and went home for the night. This would not have been the scenario without that helmet. It was a very sobering lesson in the importance if these safety precautions.

When I found her lying on the road side, my heart certainly skipped a beat. Her head was bleeding profusely from a cut that would later be stitched, and she had nasty grazes on her hands and arm. She was wearing cycling gloves and I now see these to be rather a fine idea too, as her hand injuries would have been a good deal worse without them.

She was extremely confused — and remains so as I write this, regarding what actually occurred. I could only deduce that the likely cause of her tumble was one of the horrendous (and ubiquitous) potholes in the road nearby. She was of course clearly in shock.

Bit by bit, we were able to work out that she could move all her limbs, had not broken any of these and was actually able to get up and climb into my car.

Without her helmet, I have no doubt at all that she’d have been unconscious, and have a seriously head injury. The helmet had absorbed much of the impact of her fall — and one can just begin to imagine how hard a fall it was, given her continuing loss of memory and confusion around this event — so imagine if her skull had been unprotected as she hit the tar, full force!

Another lesson demonstrated, was that the practice of always carrying a cellphone, a national identity card document and medical aid card whenever one is off on an adventure — or really, whenever off, anywhere — is an excellent one. Some years ago we trained ourselves never to set off to run or cycle or hike without these cards on our persons.

We made colour copies and had them laminated and they go everywhere we go.

If you are hurt or unconscious on a road side, these cards will make a big difference to what happens next, facilitating much faster identification and admission to hospital without additional stress or the need for piles of cash.

I used to think this a bit overly-paranoid, but as I took Jacquie, first to the nearest medical practice for assessment, then on to the Avenues emergency room with a referral as there was concern about a concussion, I saw how handy her medical aid card would have been.

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