I had gone with my boyfriend and my paragliding instructor, as well as a few other pilot friends, to Mexico for a week of flying and relaxing.
On the morning of February 27, 2006 my instructor and I were the first ones to set up to launch. We were going tandem so I could see the pattern for landing in this Landing Zone, as I was preparing to take my first high solo later that afternoon. We set up for a forward launch, no wind. (I was hesitant to do this type of launch, as I'd attempted it the previous afternoon by myself but landed in the bushes, getting pretty scratched up.) He said "run", so I ran, but there wasn't enough room to fully inflate the wing, and we dropped over the edge.
The next thing I know, I am screaming. I don't remember the impact, the only part about that I remember is feeling my leg break, and hearing it. I sat up and looked at my leg, and it was flopped over sideways just over the top of my hiking boot. I thought at the time that I could see my bone, but it was just my flesh colored sock that I saw. If the bone had poked through, there would have been a lot of blood. It seems that the rest of the group was there instantly, and Pamela was by my foot. They helped me out of my harness, and before they carried me up the mountain, Pamela splinted my leg with sticks and strips of t-shirt. Then they did a fireman's carry back up to the launch run, set me down, and readied the truck. Once the truck was ready, they carried me the rest of the way, under some barbed wire, and put me in the back. Pamela sat with my foot and kept it steady, my instructor sat next to me, and the other pilots rode in the front with the driver. The driver's girlfriend rode standing on the rear bumper of the truck. She had her radio on, and was able to set up a panga boat to ferry me to the mainland. Pamela used her radio to contact the doctor in Yelapa, who prepared a stretcher and some morphine to meet me at the bottom of the mountain road. We also tried to radio my boyfriend, but didn't get ahold of him until we were almost down to the bottom of the road.
On the way down, the driver did a great job of avoiding bumps, which is amazing considering how rough that road is. My instructor held my hand and pulled my hair for a distraction all the way down the mountain, and everyone took turns yelling expletives with me. I remember repeating the phrase "I'm so scared, I'm so scared" and really wanting my boyfriend to be there. That portion of the trip took almost two hours.
Once we got to the bottom of the road, the doctor arrived and so did my boyfriend. The doctor brought a stretcher and blankets, and his kit with morphine in it. BF had run from the beach all the way up to the Casa where we were staying, usually a half hour walk, in what seemed like a few minutes. He had packed a bag of our essentials for going to the hospital. The injection of morphine was wonderful; while it didn't eliminate or even diminish the pain, it made me care about it a lot less. The doctor also fashioned a boot out of cardboard and duct tape to keep my leg even more stable. The guys found a couple of construction workers that were working on a house to help carry my stretcher across town. Yelapa has no cars, and therefore no roads...there are just cobblestone paths and dry river ravines to serve as walkways. At one point they stopped for a rest and to switch sides, and somehow the stretcher got dropped on my hands. I would have felt a lot of pain from that on your average day, but it was just a drop in the bucket at that point. I was still moaning and scared, and was glad when we finally reached the beach.
I remember a crowd of children standing around me; they had probably never seen a screaming blond woman being carried through town before.
The guys loaded me into a speedboat. My BF and Pamela came too. The boat had to go relatively slow to avoid banging my leg around any more than necessary, but even at slow speeds my leg was always bouncing somewhat. It took an hour in the boat to get to Boca, which is where the paved road starts. I remember that Pamela was eating some cookies on the way over, I could smell them. She wouldn't let me have any, as I would most likely be needing anaesthetic soon and needed an empty stomach for that. After an hour or so we landed at Boca and Pamela found a number of men to lift me out of the boat and carry me up to the road. The ambulance wasn't yet there, so I lay there for a while, attracting another (smaller) crowd of children. I noticed that Pamela was eating something else...a popsicle. That sounded like the best thing in the world, and my BF bought one for me...it was lime, tapering to grape towards the stick...and it was heavenly. It took my mind off the pain for a minute or two (am I three years old, or what?). Soon after, the ambulance arrived. They transferred me from the Yelapa stretcher onto a fluorescent green backboard, and then onto the rolling guerney. They put me into the ambulance, put an IV into my hand, and we got going. The trip to Puerto Vallarta took maybe half an hour, the road was bumpy and uncomfortable. Pretty soon I was rolled into the beautiful coolness of the hospital.
It's now about 6 o'clock pm. It's been seven hours of constant bouncing movement since I broke my leg.
They took me into the xray room, where I met Dra. Lisbet. She was the anaesthetist who would be giving me an epidural so they could take off my boot to xray the bones. She rolled me over onto my left side, put the needle in my spine, and promised a painless existence in ten minutes. Only thing is, she didn't give me enough. I had to throw a class-A fit in order to get a SECOND epidural, after which the pain finally went away. Boot off, xray taken...and they finally figured out why I was being so vocal about my pain. My tibia is shattered, and the fibula is snapped. Dr. Luis appeared at this point, telling me that I need surgery. I said OK. They cut my clothes off and sent me in to surgery.
I got one kiss from my BF, I was transferred to a pleasantly cold metal table, they changed my IV...and then I woke up four hours later with 14 screws and 2 metal plates in my leg, all bandaged up with a pair of drain tubes emerging from the bandage.