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When things dont quite go to plan….South Africa

Date added: Monday 17th March 2014

Georgia Guerin

Written by Georgia Guerin on 6th March 2014. Georgia is currently Leaping in South Africa

We got slightly more adventure than we bargained for this weekend whilst in Sabie. All started well, soon after arriving (and settling in to our triple storey bunk beds) we set off to do the bridge swing (think along the lines of bungee attached to a bridge with swinging instead of bounce). At first about three quarters of us planned to take part and it looked like there was no way we would ever get the likes of Georgia and Tilly even up on the bridge. However through a lot of encouragement, hand holding and motivational talks it looked like we were going to get the whole team down. For some the adrenaline rush got the better of them and Deven landed herself in shall we say a ‘spot of bother' when she literally took ‘The Leap' off a cliff into the waterfall just below the bridge swing. As soon as Deven surfaced, she and the rest of us realised we had a serious situation on our hands. Helped to shallower waters by fellow jumpers Jason and Will, a massive amount of teamwork then took place to get Deven to the edge of the water whilst keeping her back stable (luckily there were a few trained lifeguards among us), and keeping her awake with spirits up (this involved much discussion about beer). When the (utterly useless) paramedic arrived the enormity ofThe bridge swing our task suddenly dawned, we had to carry Deven on a spinal board (with no straps, might as well have been a large tea tray) back up the very rocky cliff path to the road. Along with holding Deven in the water it was this climb that really exhibited some of the best teamwork I have ever seen, particularly as we were still so new to each other as a group.


Deven was taken in the ambulance to hospital with a small entourage in tow (luckily we had Alice from The Leap visiting us and she was able to help with insurance stuff and managed to persuade the hospital into letting her stay overnight) and everyone else returned to where we were staying. The wait for news was the worst so when we were told it was just muscle damage and a few of us could go and see her the relief was amazing (I arrived at the hospital in my pyjamas and Gareth was definitely under the influence of alcohol, it was outside visiting hours and we were over the max number of visitors by three times at least, this was not a standard hospital like anywhere I had been before).

The next morning we all got up to go kloofing (what we thought was going to be a relaxing walk through a river to a waterfall but was actually a 4 hour swim, scramble and climb over rocks, down trees, up and down waterfalls and through water) which turned out to be the most fantastic fun with beautiful scenery, definitely worth doing if you are reading this going on a future SA leap! After the previous days events it was really good to be busy and it was great to see everyone working as a team to make sure everyone made it to the end. Some of the group also went caving by candlelight that evening which I have been told was good fun. At the end they had to navigate their way out without candle light; Hattie and Will were leading and Hattie almost got stuck in a hole she thought was a tunnel. The whole group ended up lost and covered in mud. Lizzie claimed it to be one of "the most TRAUMATIC experiences of [her] life".
When we returned from kloofing we heard Deven was about to be moved to a larger private hospital in Nelspruit because the technology at the Sabie hospital was too basic to be conclusive. She had also been made to sit up and walk whilst under a double dose of pain killers which made her see phoenix' and pink fluffy slippers. A couple of us ran to the hospital (luckily just around the corner), this time we had to sneak past security all still soaking wet A visit to see our good friend Devenand covered in mud from the river, we were successful and there just in time to see Deven off.

That night the staff at the hostel helped us with dinner and entertained us with fire dancing. At some point in the early evening we were gathered together and were given the news that Deven had had another x-ray and had actually fractured a vertebrae (in an very undesirable place, if there is such a thing as a desirable fracture); she would definitely need time to recover with a back brace and possibly but not likely an operation. Dev would like to add here "soft tissue damage my arse!" This came as a horrible shock to all and we all sat in silence for a few minutes, no one knew quite what to say. The only comfort was, although having known Deven for only 10 days, I knew that if there was someone who was going to take this is their stride and not let it stop them doing anything, this was the girl.

The next morning was our final morning in Sabie and myself and George went to do the bridge swing we hadn't done on the Friday (I would like to thank Hattie very much for her ‘mind of matter' speech before I swung) and then Georgia, Lizzie, Hannah, Hattie and I went abseiling off the side of a cliff (not like any abseiling I had ever done at home). Lizzie has declared this also "one of the most TRAUMATIC experiences of [her] life!".

Lumari returned from the hospital just before we all were to go home with news that Deven was having lots of scans and that Will and I could go and visit that afternoon. We arrived with presents of balloons from Wimpy which we like to think were very much appreciated. This hospital in Nelspruit was much nicer (nicer than my local hospital at home even) and Deven although in pain was much happier here.The x-ray

Over the coming week a few of us were able to visit each day (thanks to Lumi driving us over an hour each way, she was amazing). Deven also had the pleasure of two visits from ‘Mark from Sabie', one of the staff who ran our activities and was there during the accident.

Each evening when we returned home from the hospital, Deven rang us after the doctor did his rounds and passed on the news. Unfortunately each day the news got worse and worse. Her stomach had been damaged and stopped working, then that the fracture was not just a fracture but a dislocation as well. The worst day was hearing that she would have to have an operation which would use metal screws to fix the fracture and fuse the vertebrae.

At some point in the week before the operation Deven was given the all clear to start eating again, luckily this was on a day we visited so we were treated to a McDonalds by Will, a perfect first meal in our opinion.

The day of the operation luckily coincided with the group trip to Sudwala caves and shopping in Nelspruit so everyone was able to go and visit Deven and wish her luck.

After the operation Will and I waited with Lumi for Deven to wake up, and when we saw her wheeled out and got the news that it was a success it was such a weight lifted. Deven although groggy and in a lot of pain had not lost her humour or desire for a beer and for the 8 mins or so we were allowed to stay she made us laugh a lot (and continually pressed the morphine button).

Deven happier in the nicer hospitalThe operation was a week to the day after the accident, and 6 days later Deven was discharged from hospital. Her (super lovely) parents had flown out and arrived the morning after the operation so for a few days Deven rested at their hotel. The progress in those 6 days wasamazing, far more than I expected, already walking short distances.

Determined to return to Bush House, Deven arrived on the Saturday afternoon (perfectly timed for party night, she was not going to miss out). We were once again complete as a group and this was fantastic.

Deven's receovery so far has been amazing and she's such an amazing girl....we're all really proud of her here at Leap Towers.

The next week things were taken fairly easy, most days spent chilling out in between plenty of drugs, injections, dressing changes and the occasional glass of wine.

Last week (4 weeks post accident), at a hospital check up Deven was given the all clear to fly, wear her back brace less and go swimming. This was a super speedy recovery and very exciting!
Then being in Mozambique a week later really hit me with the improvement; from thinking before that she might not even be able to go, to coming, joining in the boat trip, swimming and going in the sea; bloody walking miracle (literally) if you ask me.

What happened in Sabie was obviously not what we expected when we left home, and a very unlucky thing to happen. However when I consider each aspect individually I find it becomes a very lucky situation. Deven's injuries although awful could have been far, far worse. Anything could have happened from the moment she entered the water to the moment she arrived at the Nelspruit hospital which could have changed everything. The recovery Deven's recovery has been amazing, she's such an amazing girl - we're really proud of her here at Leap Towers.could have been so much slower, and Deven miss even more activities or even be sent home by the insurance company. We are lucky that everyone was there to help, that we worked so well as a team, and that we had each other for support; Sabie weekend definitely brought us together as a group. Alice visiting at the time also meant an extra helping hand. We had Lumari who was just simply amazing throughout everything, spending days on end at the hospital and ferrying us to and from. I am personally lucky as this situation we have endured has forged a bond for life with an amazing friend who I think everyone can learn so much from.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and although just about every person in our group has managed to get ill or injure themselves in some way, we are being careful we promise !


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