Accomplished local climber, John Jones from Dore, Sheffield had no idea that he would end the day being airlifted to hospital, fighting for his life, as he set out on a local climb with friends
Father, grandfather and retired university lecturer, 70 year-old John Jones has been an avid climber since the age of 16, and his love of heights and the sheer adrenalin of the sport has taken him all over the world.
That was until a warm summer’s day at the end of June 2014, as he ventured out to Stanage Edge in the Peak District, a favourite spot for local climbers with stunning views of the moorlands and the Hope Valley.
John takes up the story:
“I went out with some friends to go climbing for the day as there was a competition which had been arranged by the British Mountaineering Council to celebrate their 70th year since they were set up.
“It was a team competition and your team had to have a theme. It was quite jolly and a lot of fun.
“We were in a team of four with a theme of the ‘Grumpy Old Men’ which is the name of the group of climbers that I regularly climb with. We were going to do a route beginning with G, then one beginning with R, then U and so on.
“We got as far as “P” to a route called “Pure Gossip” which I was climbing with my friend Linda. I don’t think I have climbed this route before. I stepped off quite a high boulder leaning against the bottom of the crag to set off on the route, I put two pieces of gear in and that’s the last thing I remember.
“The next thing I remember is lying at the bottom of the crag in severe pain. I don’t really know what happened. I was towards the top of the route and everything seemed fine according to Linda. She said suddenly I was flying through the air. I landed on the boulder on my ribs on the left hand side. The hospital later said I gave myself severe, multiple internal injuries.
“Another friend appeared just after I fell and looked after me by talking to me and telling me everything was going to be ok. That was a real help.
“Linda had called the mountain rescue and they appeared really quickly. When they arrived, the doctor was very efficient and quickly gave me some pain relief. I felt very safe in his hands. They strapped me onto a stretcher and quickly took me down to the waiting helicopter.
“I can remember being put in the helicopter and being flown to the Northern General. I don’t remember a great deal after that until I was in the hospital with a lot of doctors around me looking worried and saying it was very serious.
“I was losing a lot of blood and so they had to try to block the blood supply to my spleen which was bleeding very heavily. They managed to do this successfully. If this hadn’t worked they would have had to take out my spleen which could have been very serious for me in the condition I was already in.
“My injuries consisted of a bashed up spleen, three broken ribs, a punctured lung, various minor cracked bones and massive severe bruising across the bottom of my back.
“I spent four days in intensive care and then I was transferred to the high dependency unit for the rest of that week. I then spent another week in an ordinary ward before being allowed home.
“I feel fantastically grateful to everybody involved, the mountain rescue, the air ambulance, everyone at the Northern General and the NHS in general. They couldn’t have been any better. It was so quick, they took it so seriously. They looked after me so well. If I hadn’t got that rapid rescue, it’s quite likely I would have bled to death.
“54 years of climbing all over the world and I fall off an easy route on my doorstep.”
John’s wife Elaine Weatherley-Jones said: “John’s friend’s came straight to our house as soon as they had seen him off in the air ambulance to let me know what had happened.
“I packed a few things that I thought John might need then they drove me straight over to the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) at the Northern General, which I now know is a Major Trauma Centre (MTC). On the way I phoned one of my daughters who lives in Sheffield and one of John’s sons in London. We didn’t know the extent of accident or John’s injuries at this point.
“When we arrived at the hospital we were quickly met by one of the consultants who explained John’s situation. He then took us through to where John was being treated so I could see him.
“They still had to treat John for his various injuries so they showed us to a family room to wait. This was nice as I wouldn’t have wanted to wait out in the A&E waiting area on a Saturday evening.
“It was brilliant to have John transported and treated so quickly. Apparently once the mountain rescue team were called out, the air ambulance was contacted immediately. They’d assessed John’s injuries and were on the scene within 20 minutes of the accident. John was taken rapidly to the Northern General which probably saved his life – he had a serious life-threatening bleed from an injured spleen and getting treatment quickly was essential.
“I was very relieved that John was taken to the Northern General as if it wasn’t a MTC he could have ended up anywhere in the country and it would have made visiting very difficult.
“All the wards and staff were excellent and I cannot thank them enough.”