Last photo from Thursday, August 12 -- probably taken at just about the instant of the "thud" of the title.
I ran as quickly as I could from the clifftop back to the stile (slipping only once in a pile of sheep poop, Brian -- and I still have the stain on my MBTs as a souvenir). Diane, sitting on the ground between the two Germans, wasn't in tears but looked like she could bite through a shillelagh, so irritated with herself she was for falling. The German fellow and I lifted her so her arms supported her on our shoulders, and we hopped along after the German woman. She had found an old gate about 20 yards along the road from the stile, which we all managed to force open. After we got Diane in the back seat of the car, they took their leave.
We were only a few kilometers from our Bed and Breakfast, so we hurried back there so I could ask our hostess, Mabel Dunlop, where the nearest emergency clinic was. She directed us to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, about ten miles away.
We arrived at the "A&E" (for "accident and emergency" department) at around 4pm on a pretty, sunny afternoon. We left nine hours later, in the dark and the rain and a gloom punctuated only by the occasional weird feminine voice on our Garmin GPS device. The time in between isn't one I'd wish on anybody, especially not on the two of us by describing it in any great detail, so here it is in telegraphic fashion:
The emergency department was grossly understaffed and appallingly overloaded with clients. There was evidently just one physician on duty for the entire night, and, just before we arrived, several victims of a bad auto accident had been brought in. We sat in the waiting room with an increasingly large crowd of others seeking care for about six hours, but at no time saw or heard the kind of agitation one might expect. That resigned calm might have been due to the many large signs warning of "zero tolerance" for "harassment of staff" and the frequent appearance of PSNI walking swiftly through the place, belts a-bristle with all manner of police equipment. Shortly after we were called in to the rooms of the treatment area, we heard the triage nurse announce to the waiting room that anyone who could go home probably should do that and come back the next day -- and, again, we heard no grumbling, just the shuffling of feet as many left.
Once inside the A&E, Diane explained to the physician -- a very young, apparently calm fellow -- that in addition to extreme pain, she was concerned that she might have damaged her prosthetic knee joint in that leg as well. He immediately ordered x-rays of knee and ankle. Upon studying those about an hour later, he said that he saw no immediately obvious evidence of damage to the knee, but did see a number of bone chips in the ankle. Since he was not an orthopedist, he did the prudent thing: ordered a plaster cast on the leg from foot to just below the knee, and told us to consult an orthopedist as soon as we returned to the Republic.
While the cast was being put on, the head nurse gave us more bad news: if the cast stayed on, we might not be able to fly home. (It turns out that she may have been wrong about that, but it certainly would have made things a lot more complicated, and not just in the air.) She told us that we would have to find a "fracture clinic" near where we were staying in the Republic, and they would make decisions about when the cast could come off and arrange things with our airline. While we weren't due to fly back for almost another month, she thought the cast might still be necessary then and perhaps another couple of weeks beyond that.
Meanwhile, poor Diane had been in a lot of pain for hours. While we were in the waiting room, not only could she not be given any medication, but they weren't even allowed to give us any ice to apply to the ankle. At one point, I drove into Coleraine and bought a sack of ice in a Tesco grocery store. Back in the emergency waiting room, after having rigged an ice pack for Diane, we passed the rest of the bag around.
At about 1am, she outfitted Diane with a pair of light metal crutches, helped us to our car, and sent us on our way into the night with the admonition that the cast shouldn't even touch a hard floor for 36 hours, until it was completely set.
Not only did the rest of the trip seem in wreckage, but we might not even be able to go home in time for school to start -- and to relieve Adam of an already too-long stewardship of Ft. Harrington.
And we hadn't a clue about what to do when we finally would be able to drive the four or five hours back to Birr. After an uncomfortable wee hours back at the Bed and Breakfast, we did two things. We arranged with Mabel to take a spare room in her house (our reservation was only through the night of the accident, and the three en-suite rooms of the B&B were already spoken for on the next night).
And we called Lady Rosse.
(To be continued.)