It’s never a problem till there’s a problem… maybe most of you don’t know, but over August Long weekend, I suffered a traumatic injury to my hand. I haven’t been able to work for almost two months now. I have constant nerve pain and my fingers are only now just starting to heal and look some what normal again. I learned a lot through this experience and I am so grateful for the amazing friends in my life that have supported me, checked in with me and were there for me through this difficult time. Here is my story.
Every year I plan a multi day adventure with my best friends. We’ve nick named ourselves the Wolf pack because we are all so close, and do these awesome adventures together. We have been there for each other through just about every emotion, from happy to down right ugly. We embrace the ups and down, especially when we get tired out there… but the celebration of completing something awesome and the memories for the adventure always make it so worth it. This adventure was the Della Lake Falls, somewhere pretty remote on Vancouver Island the required a water taxi to access.
This particular adventure started with 8 ladies but because life got in the way for some we ended up with only 3 of us by the time we left for the adventure. Della lake falls is located in Port Alberni, Vancouver Island. The trail head can only be accessed by water taxi, so it is very remote. There is absolutely no cell service, which is obviously enticing for an avid hiker and trail runner. For me it was going to be an awesome chance to have a few days disconnected from the craziness of life, and spend some quality time with 2 of my best friends. However, I think I truly overlooked the remoteness of this hike and was not prepared. I left behind a very important piece of gear that you should have when you are entering a place without service… I should have had a satellite phone. I took for granted that since it was “just an over night hike” and on a relatively easy trail that nothing could go wrong… well let me tell you what happened.
This is my story about how fast everything can change and in a moment things can go very wrong. I hope that by sharing what happened to me, that you can learn and be more mindful and prepared when you got into the back country!
On August 1 myself and two of my best friends, Courtney and Amanda set out to hike to the Della lake falls. Our water taxi left the marina in port Alberni at an 8am departure. The boat ride was 60 minutes to the trail head, and it is only accessibly by water. This means you either have to get yourself there, or rely on the water taxi that only runs twice a day. By the time we arrived on the other side of the lake, it was 9:30am. We made some last minute arrangements to our packs and set off to start the 16km hike to our first camp. The plan was to hike to Della lake falls campground to set camp for 2 nights and spend the second day exploring the lake and hiking up to Love Waterfalls (actual name). We started the hike with high spirits and were already having an amazing time.
At km 13 we had to cross a river by a cable cart. The cart is designed to have 1 or 2 people in it at a time and you sit in the cart and pull yourself across with the ropes. There were also gloves on either side of the cable crossing which would make crossing on the rope easier. I have used cable carts in the past and I am fully aware of how dangerous they can be. I gave the run down to Courtney and Amanda and reminded them that when transferring on the cable car, you always grab the rope, NEVER the cable.
Amanda was first to go across and went alone. Courtney and I helped pull her across with the ropes, team work! Once she was across a couple was waiting to cross back over so they helped pull Courtney and I across. We were so grateful for the help that we decided to help them across in return. As I started to pull, I was not looking at where I was grabbing and accidentally grabbed the cable. It all happened so fast…as soon as my hand touched the cable I knew I was in trouble… suddenly I felt the most incredible pain and I looked to see my hand entering the pulley. I started screaming REVERSE THE CART, REVERSE!!! The couple we were helping across on the cart couldn’t hear me as they were half way across the river and it seemed there was no stopping to cable cart from continuing forward. I had to make a quick decision…I ripped my hand back to get my fingers out from being further crushed by the pulley. It’s truly amazing the power of the mind and apparently when your in shock you can do anything even it it means ripping your finger almost off. I was bleeding pretty bad and in complete shock. Amanda, a level 2 first aid attended and Courtney, a fire fighter… saw right away and tried to take control, but I was completely out of control, in shock and running around screaming and passing in and out. I knew as a first aid attendant myself that I need off this trail but it wasn’t going to be a easy task .
Here was our situation:
We couldn’t call anyone because there was no cell service, and we had no satellite phone.
I was bleeding from my hand and it appeared on of my fingers had been partially severed off.
I was in complete shock. (the medical kind, although emotionally I probably was too!)
I needed to get back across the river that meant back in the cart.
We needed to catch the last boat off the island at 4:30.
Luckily my friends were able to take control of the situation and before I knew it I was back in the cart going across the river, but I was barley able to stay awake passing in and out. Amanda kept telling me it will be okay. I remember focusing on her voice.
As we waited for Courtney to come across Sean, from the couple we had helped, stared to empty my backpack and distributed my stuff in everyone else’s packs. He lefthis partner, Carly, and ran ahead to catch the last water taxi, they were our only hope and being able to catch it by 4:30. Amanda and Carly shared carrying my pack plus their own packs for the whole 13km hike out. Courtney stayed beside me the whole way and held me up when I was weak. She would rub my back as I kept dry heaving from the pain, but also from thinking about what had happened. I was so scared to look at my hand. After hiking 13km, we arrived at the boat taxi. Luckily Sean had caught the water taxi just in the nick of time. We made it across the water in 1 hour, and then drove 30 minutes to the Port Alberni hospital… and I was finally safe.
Once checked into the ER, my injuries were assessed. I ended up with a crushed thumb, 2 broken fingers and a partially amputated tip of my middle finger. It looked horrible and I was in excruciating pain, but I knew it could have been much worse. I called Hailey from the hospital because she is a nurse and she told me to just accept the pain medications they were trying to give me. I felt like I was still in shock.. I was so cold and in so much pain.
Now, 6 weeks later, I replay the situation over and over in my mind. What could I have done differently, how could I have prevented it. It is normal to go through every aspect of something goes wrong, and it always good to try and learn something from a bad situation. I am so grateful for my 2 friends Amanda Courtney, and 2 the two strangers Sean and Carly. Their quick thinking and team work meant the world to me and I won’t forget it. Today I still struggle with nerve pain and my fingers have been almost entirely in splints. They are healing well but I still don’t know how much function I will regain, especially in my middle finger.
My take home message from sharing my story is just always plan for the worse… you just never know when something will go wrong out there and life can change is a second when something does go wrong.
I had an accident also. I fell through my ceiling. It’s been a year and I still play it over and over in my head. Best of luck to you in your recovery! Thank you for sharing. I’m going to pass this on to my kids who frequently enjoy outdoor adventures
Wow. I am so glad you were able to get out of there in time. Such a scary situation. Thank you for sharing it— and I hope you continue to heal.
Thank you for your story,
And the insight, far to often we don’t realize the inherent dangers that are involved in the things we love to challenge ourselves with.