Thursday, 15 October 2009

CHRISTOPHER'S STORY how I broke my back

This is the first time I’ve really opened up about this, so I’m just going to start from the beginning. I have always liked camping but my mum and dad never let me go, so on several occasions I told them I was sleeping at my friends Ben’s. He was always allowed to go so his parents knew where we were going, the other member of the team was Matt, he was new to our regular trips. Matt told his mum we were camping but he added a small detail and said my dad was coming too, his mum has never met my dad so I’m sure she believed that without doubt.

So… we got our things together, I made it look like a normal bag of things I would take to stop at a friends, little did they know it contained beans, hot dogs and all sorts of camping essentials. So I had my beans, tent, water and cigarettes, oh mum and dad didn’t know about that either. We got to the camp site which happened to be a field behind Summerfield garage with a few trees between us and the parkway (dual carriageway) on one side and a land field site on the other, That’s what I call my perfect campsite.

I set up the tent while Ben and Matt started getting firewood, we sat around a heap of wood waiting for it to get dark talking crap carving sticks and smoking cigarettes without being told we shouldn’t be doing it, I wonder why I like camping. It started to get dark so Ben decided to light the fire; he took the lighter and started lighting bits of paper to get it going. He did this until we had no paper left. Matt took up the challenge using the same method as Ben only using our toilet roll and failing. Matt left us without any toilet roll and still no fire, with that I went over to a small dyke that came from the land field site and pulled up some fluffy reed like things. I took them to the fire pit, put them under the some twigs and lit them, the fire started. When it got a bit later and darker the fire got bigger. It was hard to keep it going because as soon as we got wood it went straight on the fire. Ben came over with a branch that was still green; it was some kind of fur tree. Matt told Ben that it wouldn’t burn but he dumped it on anyway, the branch took to the fire and up it went with a mighty raw, it only lasted a few seconds but it got the fire going a treat. The three of us went to get more and more of this fur tree and the fire got bigger and bigger, we started jumping over the flames but the fire got so big we were jumping though the flames rather than over them. We quickly ran out of the fur tree but we had plenty of wood as we had dragged a fallen tree over earlier that night. But that wasn’t good enough for me so I went to find more fur tree.

It was about nine o’clock I went over to the patch of trees where we had gotten the fur tree from, I looked around but couldn’t find any. Then I came across a slim fur tree and I remember thinking that’s skinny enough to snap, so I climbed up the tree thinking it wasn’t that tall little did I know it was about 15 feet tall and I was at the top. I started hanging from the tree, which bent but didn’t break. I pulled harder and it finally snapped and I started to fall, It all went in slow motion it felt like I was going to be falling forever, when I finally hit the ground I knew instantly what had happened. My legs just flopped into a pile, I can’t describe the sensation of not being able to move or even feel your legs. But one thing I can say is it was the most terrifying time of my life. When I realized that feeling wasn’t coming back I started to call for help, shouting Ben and Matt. They didn’t come over so I called again and again still nothing, I was starting to become scared that they couldn’t hear me then I saw them coming over I called them so they could find me. They came over and saw me lying there and said what’s wrong? I told them I cant move my legs I just fell out of that tree, I cant feel my legs call me an ambulance they both just said are you being serious? I shouted yes call me an ambulance. This went on for a while then Matt said before I call this ambulance tell me your not joking so I just screamed at him I cant feel my f*****g legs now call me a f*****g ambulance. Funnily enough he did. When I started to calm down the pain started to kick in, and my god that was the worse pain I had ever felt and have felt since. The ambulance was on the way, Ben went to go and meet it at the garage and Matt stayed with me. This is were the memory gets a bit patchy but about 5 mins went by and matt’s phone started ringing. It was his mum checking that every thing was ok, remember she thinks my dad is there, the truth soon comes out. Matt asks her to ring my mum and tell her what had happened and to meet us at the hospital. More time went past still no ambulance and I started to get tired and quiet so Matt kept me talking. The next thing I remember is the sound of Ben’s voice and a really bright light coming towards us, it was the paramedics, I just remember thinking thank god they’re here. They assessed the situation; this part is very hard to remember. But what I can remember is being strapped on to a spinal board extremely tightly with twigs sticking into my back, the parts I could feel anyway. The buckles on the straps digging into my chest, not the most comfortable thing ever and that big yellow neck support on my head squeezing my face it was horrid. They all carried me across the field to the ambulance and put me in the back. We later discovered that my sister happened to be in the garage getting fuel at the time but didn’t see that it was me the ambulance was there for, which is strange because she is normally the first person to be nosey.

The ambulance ride took so long as they were driving very slowly to make sure they didn’t jolt my back and make it worse. I was thinking the whole trip to the hospital about what my mum was going to say and how scared I was. We finally got there and Ben said Chris your mums here, with that I burst into tears. They pulled me out the back of the ambulance and the first thing I saw was my mum standing there. The first thing I said was I’m sorry mum, I’m so sorry. She just reassured me and said stop it you don’t have anything to be sorry for. They took me into the hospital got me off the spinal board and on to a bed. A nurse said to me we’re just going to give you something for the pain, she asked me on a scale of 1 to 10 how much pain are you in? I told her 10 she injected me with morphine which felt great, she asked me again so I told her 10 she gave me some more. I can’t really remember anything after that, except that the pictures on the ceiling were moving. I went for several CT scans, MRI scans and X Rays and they finally discovered that I had broken my back in three places and that I had compressed my spinal cord. When I got the news the first thing I said was will I ever walk again? They said we can’t really say for sure but it’s very unlikely. I replied with yes I will.

So they shipped me off to Addenbrooke’s hospital Cambridge to have my operation. The next thing I remember was waking up there the next day. I had to wait for a couple of days before my operation, in this time I was starting to get some feeling and movement back around my chest. This was very exciting but I wasn’t allowed out of bed so I got very frustrated, as I was desperate for a shower. I was still picking bit of tree out of my hair for Christ sake; problem was I couldn’t move a thing below my chest. Anyway the day of my operation was here; I got prepped for my operation that would decide my fate. I was lying there with the nurses’ doctors around me they put the anaesthetic in my arm and that was it my spine was in their hands.

Part two to follow. will write it over next few days but it is difficult as it is bringing so many emotions to the surface along with the memories... watch this space.....


  1. Hi Chris,
    A really moving story.Good on you for having the guts to share it with us.

  2. Incredibly moving (I'm in tears) and horrifying. An honest account, thanks for sharing.

    I'm showing this to my 14 & 12 year-old boys.


  3. Gosh Gary. What guts to share it

  4. Wow. As a mum, I find this story particularly moving and indeed terrifying. So glad to know the ultimate outcome was a positive one. Well done on getting the experience into words. It must have been really tough.

  5. Thank you for sharing - I'm in tears after reading this.

    You're so brave to have come through it with such a positive outcome. Although I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you to write this, it will help the healing process.

    Hug, Aegean x

  6. well done for writing this Christopher
    very proud dad. x

  7. We are just so pleased that you are still with us when you so easily might not have been!! It's lovely to hear your version of events, warts and all!! lots of love Marie and Ian x x

  8. Chris, you are an inspiration... when you are ready to write the rest, I am ready to read it. Tamsen x

  9. Thanks for sharing this Chris. Us Mums and Dads know that we never really know what our kids are up to but we know we can't keep you wrapped in cotton wool either.
    Being adventurous is part of growing up and I'm really glad yours had a happy ending. Looking forward to part two of the story.
    Keep an eye on your Dad in Vietnam!

  10. Please keep us posted. I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress.

    John McBride

  11. Two people close to me have previously broken their backs. Their roads to recovery have been very different. You should be proud of how far you have got, thanks for letting us share it with you

  12. Look forward to reading part 2 Chris.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Margaret Croucher19 October 2009 at 23:06

    Chris you are amazing! I've met your Dad but did not know all this about you. I really look forward to reading part 2 and I wish you all the best.

  14. Thank you Chris. Taking risks is part of living and learning, and things sometimes go wrong. Many can learn from your experience and will value the thoughts you share.
    I am looking forward to reading part 2 and then the blog on the trip!

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  16. Christopher Johannes21 October 2009 at 21:07

    I would just like to say thanks to all the people that have commented on my story, i will have part two for you shortly
    thanks again

  17. Just picked your story up from a Twitter comment. Well done for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I cannot wait for part two and would like to know how I can sponsor next year's cycle ride

  18. Christopher I remember this so well. You are very very brave to put your memories into words. This will help you in you're own healing process. You think you have dealt with it but psychologically your recovery is just beginning. I'm really proud of you xx

  19. Hi Gary,
    Sorry I read this yesterday but was too lazy to post a reply. Hearing you this morning made me have another look. Good luck with the cycle ride across Vietnam.
    Gordon Diffey

  20. Hi Chris
    thank you for sharing your story with all of us. You are an amazing person and this shows through your words and your determination. As you write your story, emotions will come up but you stand now on the winning podium of a person who succeeded through the challenging times and this will reassure you, give you additional strenght and will confirm even more that you can succeed in everything you do when you believe in it.
    A big hug.

  21. Christopher you've got guts.

    Many years ago I spent a mere month on traction following a broken neck, Nowhere near as serious as you.

    You have got guts.

  22. Chris

    Thanks for sharing your story. I broke my back canyoning 4 weeks ago - after jumping from a 15ft drop. I smashed L12 and the surrounding discs however It was a stroke of luck that I was able to walk. Two operations etc afterwards and I'm now on the road to recovery. Keep positive and you will get there. Believe me!!
    Looking forward to hearing about part 2.
    Lisa - Austria

  23. Chris,

    I met your father yesterday. He is unbelievably proud of your strength and determination and I must say after reading your blog "well done". You're an example to the many people who give up on a big and scary challenge all too easy.

    Good luck for Vietnam...

    Gavin (

  24. Wow that made me well up, hats off to you Chris stay focussed and anything is possible, will be helping you any way i can looking forward to watching your progress in Nam
    Total respect guys

  25. Well done Chris on being brave enough to share your story and also on doing such an inspirational event! Fantastic.

  26. Christopher is no doubt a very inspirational person. You are so lovely Chris.
    My wishes and prayers for you always.

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