"Teresa, how about going to Sesimbra for a Caipirinha and a toast? And we can wait for the boys there (our husbands, Paulo Roxo and João Gaspar)! The day is awesome, so sunny!!!!”
It was the last Sunday before Christmas and it was a beautiful winter day, with a bright blue sky that can hardly be found even in summer days. That morning, the sun warmed me for two pleasurable hours that I used to run, in the company of a great friend. The workout of that morning came out better than I imagined, I was happy and full of energy, even after putting more than 20km in my legs.
With my left thumb still recovering from surgery, my climbs were postponed for many days, so Paulo decided to enjoy the company of João Gaspar and Fernando Pereira, and together they headed to a small cliff near Sesimbra, with a lot of lines waiting to be first climbed.[caption id="attachment_20448" align="aligncenter" width="1299"]João Gaspar in an awesome crack a few minutes before the accident[/caption]
Teresa said “yes”, so I rushed to her house, hoping to enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon.
My phone rings in the moment I park the car at her door, and the display shows the name of João Gaspar. I immediately thought that the boys could be free from climbing and in my mind the 4 of us would enjoy the Caipirinhas together.
When I heard João’s voice I immediately understood by the sound of it that something was wrong, something truly bad had happened. "Daniela, you'll have to stay very calm", "Are you sitting down?" I do not remember all of his exact words, but some will remain forever in my mind: "Paulo fell to the ground" I remember the fear that the tone of his voice instilled me. "Paulo will talk to you now." Instantly, I could feel his suffering, pain, the fear, and his desire to reassure me, something that inevitably was no longer possible.
Teresa showed up on that moment, she was still talking with the ambulance services, a rescue team was on the way to the cliff at the same time as us. Tears were already thumbing down my face. I was scared, very scared of what I would find. I realized that it could be possible that Paulo could have a permanent damage in this back, I was scared, so very scared. In a blink of an eye, that perfect sunny day, all the happiness I was feeling, turned into something that even today I cannot describe with precision. My feelings were mixed between the fear of what I would find, the fear of the future, the future of Paulo, my own future. I had a deep sadness inside and a giant love that nothing could destroy. All of this made me drive at high speed and highly focused to get as fast as possible to where he was.
When we arrived at the spot where the path that accesses the cliff begins, we met Fernando and the supposed rescue team (3 firemen!!!), that arrived about the same time as we did.
I run as fast as I could to the place where Paulo and João were, about 300m away from the place where I parked the car. “Joããããoooo! Scream so I can find you!”.
When I saw them at the base of the wall, Paulo laying on that irregular stone slope, my heart sunk, it just became a tiny fragile crystal, broken into a thousand pieces. I bit my lips in pain when I got near them, trying to control my emotions not to worsen a situation that I immediately realized was very serious. Paulo was there, lying on his side, semi-shrunken legs, tremulous and moaning with pain. João was without his shirt, hugging him with a tremendous affection, friendship, care ... enormous emotion. He covered Paulo with all the available clothing, even his own shirt on that winter day. Again I don’t remember the exact words, only the emotions. I approach them; and carefully kissed Paulo, trying to give him the strength that I myself had not. João tried to calm me…they both tried, but the view of that whole situation just arouse my deepest fears. Still, I tried to keep calm, I tried not to cry. Paulo was trembling more and more, feeling colder every second that got by. I undressed my jacket and sweeter and placed them over his legs and feet. The rescue team was taking a lot of time to get to the place, and if by my irrational side I did not understand why (because the path was really easy), their extra pounds brought me to reality.
"How the hell will we get him out of here?" They asked when they saw him. I was not surprised with the question, but it truly frustrated me, it hurt me inside... dilacerated me…tore me apart. He was just laying there, listening to every word, "How the hell will we get him out of here?". We were in a place really easy to access regarding most of the climbing sites. A simple path of 300m led to the road.
They asked for reinforcements to another rescue team "they have over 30 years of experience!" I confess, the first thought that came to my mind was, "Shit, they are calling the retired guys? We're totally fucked! ". Time passed as I imagine it ever does on these situations, slow, very slow, with minutes eager to last more than 60 seconds.
The “old” rescue team arrives, the pounds these guys had less were transformed into many more years of life. My concern, my anxiety did not diminish. It was obvious that taking Paulo out of that place would still take a lot of time. I called a doctor that is a friend of Paulo; she works at the Hospital of Setúbal. I supposed that when we would get out of there, he would be taken there. "Tell them that the “TAC” machine is broken! Tell them to go straight to the Hospital of Almada!". After the confirmation of “this incident” by the rescue team, the plan changed, he would be transported directly to the Hospital of Almada, a bit more far…but first, they had to get him out of there.
After routine procedures in these cases ("Do you feel any tingling ...", "where does it hurt…", “do you feel your legs…”), Paulo was transferred to the rigid stretcher and immobilized. Each scream, each cry of pain froze me inside and transferred all my thoughts to a dark future. I had left somewhere in time all my ability to be positive. Inside I was fulfilled by negativity, outside I could not show it to Paulo. All I was in that precise moment was a big fragile thin balloon filled up with fear. It was all real, and if in horror movies terror comes with darkness and bad weather, in real life it comes in a perfect day, with a blooming sun and an ideal blue sky.
Two hours later I was driving from Sesimbra to the Hospital of Almada. Teresa was beside me, trying to give me strength, comfort, warmth. She could hear me saying over and over again "... I'm so scared ... I’m so scared…". I cannot imagine this nightmare without hers and João’s support, to call them friends, it now sounds to me very little.[caption id="attachment_20449" align="aligncenter" width="1311"] Our friends João Gaspar and Teresa Leal, always by our side.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_20450" align="aligncenter" width="1380"] This is how our new year’s eve went by[/caption]
Oblivious to the suffering of all others, I remember him there, in the hospital, laying on a stretcher in a fully crowded hallway. Paulo was the center of my universe. I knew I could not do a single thing to relief him from all the pain his body was experiencing, I could see it in his eyes…so much pain…. For some seconds, I could not handle my emotions and I almost fainted. I felt my body abandoning me, I was forced to move away to avoid falling on the cold floor of that crowded hospital hallway. I looked for something with sugar to feed my powerless body, I placed a couple of coins in a machine and then swallowed a juice. So that Paulo would not realize it, I took him a bottle of water. Although I could not give him anything to drink, I could wet his very dry lips and give him a compress soaked in water for him to suck a little.
Anxiety was fulfilling every cell of my body, it was breaking me. That waiting period for the results of the TAC, the X-ray, was endless. The first news made me cry inside, they tore me. I could not show Paulo my tears "... two fractured lumbar vertebrae, a fissure in the hip, broken metatarsal of the small finger of the left foot ...", and the only thing that stood in my mind was "two lumbar vertebrae fractured ". My whole world collapsed. The anxiety that I thought it was at its maximum increased even more. I was coming in and out of the hallway to give the news to Teresa, João and my parents, who in the meantime had arrived. I was also using this moments to let my tears slip before returning to Paulo, my rope mate, my love, that was now so far away from our dreams.
Only hours later came the words that we all wanted to hear "there is no damage to the level of the spinal cord, the fractures are stable." I felt such a relief, I knew that from that exact moment our journey would be long, hard, but with time, a lot of time, everything would return to that so desired routine, everything would go back to normal. We were now facing the highest mountain of all. We would climb it together. This was a mountain that above all would require a lot of patience, a lot of union, a lot of love.
The day, at that moment already covered by night, was not finished. Among confusion we had at this time two perspectives, either we would choose the hospital where we were to monitor Paulo’s state (a solution that did not please me because the doctors who attended him seemed inexperienced), or he could be transferred to another hospital nearby. Following the advice of a medical friend, who ensured that the orthopedic service was better at the Hospital of Barreiro, we waited until 23:00 for Paulo to be transferred to this hospital.
In the Hospital of Barreiro all went well, the service was quick and the 2 orthopedists who were in the Urgencies that night looked like excellent doctors.[caption id="attachment_20451" align="aligncenter" width="1299"] Waiting to be seen by the neurosurgeon in Hospital Garcia da Horta... still in the first phase of the long recovery (29/12/2014)[/caption]
The verdict for Paulo at the end of the evening was the following, 3 weeks in bed (forbidden to get up for anything!) followed by 3 months with a strengthening vest for the back, passing by wheelchair, and after a pair of crutches (because of the fractures in the metatarsal of the little finger of the left foot!). The verdict for me was at least three weeks as a nurse to take care of him!
"And he’s going home today, as the doctors of the other hospital told us?" I asked. "No way! Hopefully, if he’s lucky, he can go after 2 days and still be able to eat the Christmas sweets."... given the state he was, it seemed like a coherent response!
About two o’clock in the morning I headed home. The bed that night seemed too big…too empty. I could have gone home alone, but Teresa didn’t let it, she came with me, she wanted to be there for me, she wanted to take care of me, comfort me, she made me feel the warmth of the most beautiful friendship ... friendship is a word that now sounds too modest to me, compared to this huge feeling inside I have for Teresa Leal and João Gaspar.
From these acres days, I also retain tender memories, those linked with these two friends of immense heart, and those linked with my dear parents, who so much supported us and still do. Maybe there are situations that arise in life, to strengthen unions, friendships…love.
From a painful climbing day, from this sad sad day, I just keep with me the most beautiful things life has to offer, the most beautiful feelings to be lived, love and friendship.[caption id="attachment_20452" align="aligncenter" width="1430"] My rope mate in the second phase of his recovery – wheel chair. And long live the friends that we have, always available to help. Our climbing friend Joana, doing household chores.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_20453" align="aligncenter" width="1299"] Our first great adventure post-accident - the first time out of my parents house on a beautiful sunny day !!!! Wheelchair in our country's streets is an adventure ... and as we like to do…always discovering (24/01/2015)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_20447" align="aligncenter" width="618"] Start of the third recovery phase - the transition from wheelchair to the crunches. The first steps (24/01/2015)[/caption]
And from here on…it’s will be always forward!!!!!! !!!...YEAHHHH!!!![vimeo