And this is the end... This blog has followed my travels for the past 10 year but its time to move on. I am writing this post as I plan to turn this blog into a book for my coffee table. So the adventure continues but the story for now finishes here. Thanks for following! Cheers Josh
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
After a big Spring in Canada and a good week at Voss Extreme Sports week I was feeling as good as it gets in my boat. We had left Voss after Veko and headed north to find some good rivers. It started with just the 5 of us in Sam's van but after a few days we met up with the Pyranha team van and the rivers continued to impress. A stand out area was in Hellesylt. We started with the upper section of the Hellesylt then in town headed up the Bugdelva to find some more classic whitewater. The next day we headed to run the drop in town before heading further North. My time on tour for Norway was running out fast and I would soon be back behind my camera and out of my kayak. We had made it to the Rauma but it was too high for my liking and opted out of that one. The decision was made to do a quick run on the upper Jori then head to Matze's Drop on the Ula. I had seen this drop a few times before on photos and video and it looked awesome. For the first time in weeks we were soaked from rain but we chucked on some jackets and scouted this impressive drop. The consensus from the crew was its good to go so we headed back to gear up. While getting ready the rain cleared and we made our way back to the top. With a big crew we all separated to different spots to get footage, photos and further scout the drop. Anton lead the way followed by Sam, Jamie, Jared and Barney. I was up next and I checked my line one last time and got in my boat. When I got the high sign I pulled into the flow and started toward the lip. Everything seemed to be going well as I rolled off the lip. When I reconnected out of the top drop it was soft and seemed good until I noticed my nose was lifting pretty high. I got forward as far as possible to get it down but it was not going to happen in time. I braced for impact but nothing was going to prepare for the pain I was about to feel. The realisation was instant that I had in fact broken my back but before my lungs released the first screams I wiggled my toes and that was quite a relief. A split second later I was floating out of the pool releasing the air from my lungs with quite loud noises of pain. Jamie and Anton were right there to grab me and start the process of piecing the puzzle together. I was in huge pain but needed to be out of my kayak. Once a few others were there using my drysuit as enough of a splint my kayak was pulled from under me and I was lifted to a nice small grass ledge. By now I am realising the severity of the situation but stoked to have the crew I had there. It pays to choose your crew well so situations like this can be dealt with well. After a few moments to make me comfortable with blankets, jackets and a kayak to block the waterfall spray there was word the helicopter was on its way and would be 25 minutes. This was quite a relief as I knew that would be the time till I got some morphine. During this time the guys made sure I was warm and Ben sat and confirmed some of the things I was going through as he to had broken his back in the past. The muscles in my lower back were now feeling like an electrical storm erupting but took comfort from Ben saying this was all to be expected. Finding it hard to breath we tried to hold my neck gasket open before realising the paramedics were just going to cut it off anyway so the guys started the process. In true Norwegian efficiency the helicopter came into view and circled the waterfall I was lying below. We were all thinking they would land above the canyon and carry me out but we were wrong. With absolute precision the pilot dropped down and landed less than 10m from where I lay. The first paramedic approached, said hi and then explained that when he did the first descent of this river they had walked around this one. I knew I was in good hands! The guys loaded me into a inflatable stretcher and into the back of the helicopter. There was a lot going on so for a few minutes I forgot that I was still in pain and it wasn't till the paramedic asked that I realised the first lot of morphine had not done anything. He fixed that and the rest is a little bit of a blur. I was taken to Lillihammer Hospital for scans and after an afternoon of different X-rays, CT scans and other things I found out the damage. The outcome to that moment on the Ula was a burst fracture to my L1 vertebrae and the need for surgery to stabilise it. By now the boys had arrived and were sharing their stories of injuries and letting me know id be back in the boat in no time. From here I was transferred to Elverum Hospital for surgery. I have been traveling for 8 years now and had a range of different insurance policies. Every year I make sure I choose one that covers me for Class 5 kayaking for the chance something like this happened. I called my insurance from my hospital bed and they were amazing! The asked a few questions, double checked things from their end and minutes later I was told I was all covered. They sent my dad over to help me get home and have done everything to make the journey as good as possible. Next time you travel give World Nomads a look and make sure you are covered! A month and a half on and I am up and about. I walk about 500-700m per day and a few other exercises. I know ill get back in my kayak as soon as I can but that date is still a while off. Thanks to everyone who is helping me along this journey! Massive thanks to the boys for sorting me out on the day and making sure I was looked after well.