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"The Lemming"


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1995 - Jim Sheppard

February 95. Time for a little mid-week tourist trip down Swildon's with two friends from work. One, Richard, experienced. the other, Jeremy a first time trip. No problems, we're not planning anything ambitious - amble down to sump1, optional dive through and then back out. Good run down to Priddy. Conditions seem a bit wet but that will just make it more sporting. Change in the barn and down we go. Hum, don't remember the entrance series being quite like this. Bugger me, that climb down was harder than I remember, oh well on we go. 

All progresses well until we get to Barnes Loop. I am in front, just climbing down into the stream way when I hear a bit of a squawk from behind. I return to find Jeremy sitting in the rift with a pained expression - "I've dislocated my left shoulder". He sort of slipped going through the rift bit, twisted awkwardly and there you are- pop-out time. Oh dear. he's a bit of big bugger -18 stone and 6ft 6in.Well we get him back to the beginning of the loop, but at that point it's pretty obvious that two of us are not going to get him out easily. Decision time. OK Richard, I'll go out and get the rescue. here's my exposure bag , pop Jeremy in it and keep him warm, shouldn't be more than a couple of hours. 

Out I go at speed. no problems at the 20, no problems anywhere until I get to the entrance climb. Hang on this is hard! Oh well better go for it, don't want to keep Jeremy waiting, bit awkward in all this water though, I'll try bridging it this way then - whoops, slip, bang crash - must have fallen all of 7 feet. Shit that's done it. I've really hurt myself. How the hell am I going to get up the climb now. That was pretty silly. 

Time passes (not a lot): lights above. Hi there, bit of a problem I'm afraid, I've buggered myself up on this climb and need a bit of help. Here's a ladder, can you rig the climb as a pitch please and give me a line so I can get up. Easy, though I hadn't realised how strenuous one armed ladder climbing can be. Nice Guys. I explain that there's another injured party below, so one lot go on and one comes out with me.

Off to the phone box in Priddy. Funny walk definitely kicking in, instant self diagnosis- I bet I've got a dislocated left shoulder! get to the box. Oh fun, I can ring the CRO. Never done that before. Actually it appears to be just a policeman in some police station or other - Wells or Bristol I assume. Anyway I describe the situation in great detail and emphasise that they should send a medic on the rescue team, to put the dislocated shoulder back in to make everyone's life easier. OK Sir, says helpful policeman, now when should we send the ambulance; quick calculation - say 5 hours for when Jeremy comes out, but actually you could send one now because I've got a dislocated shoulder and wouldn't mind going off to hospital cos it's beginning to hurt. 

Stunned silence at other end of phone as helpful policeman works out that he has been talking all this time to a "victim" and victims are inherently unreliable, so probably everything I've just told him has been the fabrication of a mind suffering from stress and trauma.. Enter the 7th cavalry in the form of local CRO man from Priddy. Quick discussion to confirm salient points- yes it was Barnes loop and not Tratman's Temple. Yes it's definitely a dislocated left shoulder ( Jeremy's that is as well as mine). 

Walk back to Barn . Nice cup of coffee from helpful caver. Ambulance arrives. Get in, Wave goodbye. Relax. Bloody Hell, big Mistake, Adrenalin surge is now dissipated and the shoulder really begins to hurt. Interesting discussions with ambulance men from Glastonbury. Oh yes, saw you on the 999 programme. Dislocations we have dealt with ranging from screaming teenage girls to bad tempered consultant surgeon mown down by own prize boar and insistent on face down carry on plank. Pain? - let me introduce you to entonox. Hey this stuff is great. If people knew about this, they wouldn't bother with dope. More convenient, no nasty smoke in lungs, no side effects and bloody effective, a laugh a minute!. 

So we arrive at the BRI. Hello Jim, we just need to cut you out of this suit. Oh no you don't, this cost me money. So a little bit of gymnastics with pain to solve that problem Enter registrar putting 3 way tap in back of hand for pethidine etc. So we enter discussions: Do I detect an antipodean twang?; Yes, Tasmania; Oh, do you know a mate of mine who's an anaesthetist in Launceston?; Yes, worked with him for 6 months. Small world eh. Well casualty was a bit busy (even without the TV cameras). so it was quite a while ( like 3 hours) before the casualty consultant came along and gave a nice demo on how to manipulate a shoulder back in - very impressive and a massive relief as unlike breaks, dislocations tend to get progressively worse, the longer they are out, thereby increasing need for more pethidine input! Then we had a little complication requiring another x-ray and a visit from the neurologist.

While all this was going on got the news that Jeremy was out OK. About 10 pm, enter Jeremy and Richard to collect me. I'm all strapped up. First observation - where's your sling Jeremy? Oh I don't need it, doesn't hurt. Bloody Hell, so I went to all this trouble rushing out to get the rescue and I've buggered myself up worse than you. Great !! How did it go then. Oh fine. doctor gave me a pain killer down the cave, put shoulder back in and then we ambled out gently, with Richard having the worst job as he had to carry this big entonox bottle. Good stuff eh!!

So there we have it . a double whammy in traditional style down an old favourite. Dislocations I have known, and next time, I'll avoid that damn climb, if I can find the by-pass! Our favourite commercial caving rag got a bit confused when reporting it all, not surprised really, took me a while to get it all straight (like five years!).