March’s inspirational woman of the month is the perfect wrap to our blog series for International Women’s Day. Very close to our hearts and was an integral part of the Consensio team for several years. Clare Meaney smile fills a room and her sharp sense of her humour, as you will read, will always make you laugh. In 2015 Clare experienced the most unfortunate series of events that tipped her life upside down. A beautiful writer, I will let tell her story….


 

A Series of Unfortunate Events. 

It was the most glorious day in Val d’Isere. The sun was shining brightly, the sky was incredibly blue and the snow was glittering below us. It was a picture-perfect day. I was skiing with Chemmy Alcott, a group of journalists and some great friends who I worked with. We stopped at the top of the Grand Prix to admire the view and to take a few team photos, without a care in the world.

We gently cruised down the wide open blue run know as the Diebold and I distinctly remember feeling so privileged to be in such a beautiful place, enjoying such a fabulous sport. I never quite made it to the lift we were heading for.

An out of control young man skied into the back of me at high speed. I didn’t hear him, nor did I see him. I yelped like an animal as I somersaulted through the air, in what seemed like an eternity. When I came to rest on the snow, I knew instantly that my leg was broken. Even I could work out that when the bottom section of my leg was not attached to the top of my leg, I was in quite a lot of trouble.

In spite of it all, I did manage to ask myself the two most important questions – have my legs been waxed, and am I wearing very expensive matching underwear. The things that go through a girl’s mind in a crisis…

The man stopped about three metres away from me. I told him it was likely that my leg was broken and he needed to stay with me whilst his friends went to get help. That’s me – ever practical – even in times of crisis. Unfortunately, he skied off – never to be seen again. He left me lying in the snow – completely helpless.

Luckily, a knight in shining armour, (disguised as a ski instructor known as Rupert) came to my rescue. He called the pisteurs and quickly took control of the scene. He was calm, kind and comforting. His distraction techniques were second to none. He had me chatting away in no time.

By the time the pisteurs arrived, I had been in the snow for quite a while and I needed to get off the mountain. When you’re not injured, a ride in blood wagon seems like quite a lot of fun. The reality is that when you are injured you couldn’t feel colder, lonelier, more terrified or more vulnerable if you tried.

Once I’d arrived at the clinic, and I’d been through the trauma of having my boot removed, the doctor informed me that I’d have to be transferred to Bourg St Maurice for surgery. I couldn’t imagine what that was going to be like as even with a cocktail of morphine and gas the pain was excruciating – and I’ve given birth four times.

I opted to have surgery without anaesthetic. I know, what was I thinking? I was heavily sedated and numb from the waist down, so I didn’t feel any pain. I could hear the drilling and hammering. Having your leg reconstructed whilst conscious feels just like “having the builders in.” It doesn’t exactly hurt, but you can’t wait for it to be over.

On returning to the UK, I spent 22 hours in bed, was in constant pain, unable to wear my skinny jeans and unable to go to even ONE cocktail party! I used a combination of crutches, wheelchairs and computer chairs to propel myself around the house. I struggled to cope with various different stages of pre and post-op situations involving leg casts, aircast boots, stitches, staples and slings. Ah yes. I forgot to mention, I had two “skiers’ thumbs” which needed to be operated on. I’d given myself daily injections to prevent DVTs and pulmonary embolisms, and administered a cocktail of painkillers which sometimes had little or no effect.

I was determined however that I would return to skiing, come what may.

Little did I know, that something far worse was waiting just around the corner.

I woke up on Wednesday 21st October feeling bright and breezy. I’d been to a Ski Event the night before, and I was feeling excited that I was getting my old life back.

Suddenly, without warning, I had what can only be described as a “thunderclap” headache. A headache like you can never imagine. I know I can be prone to exaggeration, but I really did think I was going to die. Luckily my daughter was in the house and called an ambulance. At the hospital, they scanned me as soon as possible. They confirmed that I’d had a bleed to the brain – a brain haemorrhage – a subarachnoid haemorrhage – call it what you will – but if I didn’t get the treatment required I was going to die.

50% of patients die within the first few hours.

They rushed me to Queen’s Square hospital in London in an ambulance, where they carried out a lifesaving operation.

I had 2 aneurysms on the brain.

One of them was so large they had open to my skull. It took 7 hours to complete.

My family was devastated.

Two days later they were attempting a second operation because of complications. My heart went into atrial fibrillation and they had to stop.

They told my family to prepare for the worst.

Every day lots of people came to visit me.

Apparently, they went to the wine bar on the Square to drink Prosecco and drown their sorrows, perhaps just to prove that life goes on.

By some miracle, even though I had a 10% chance of survival, 3 strokes and spent 3 months in the hospital, I survived to tell the tale.

Whilst in rehab I don’t remember much. I asked my children if they had enjoyed the Elvis concert?!

That gives an indication of my brain injury. Everything was new. I was a bit like a toddler. I had to learn every single thing again.

I had speech therapy and I learned how to walk and talk again.

I take 8 drugs a day to keep me alive, have a weakness in my left side and epilepsy from the scar tissue, but I can safely say that I’m not too bad.

As you can imagine skiing hasn’t been exactly my main priority (there was one stage when I didn’t even know what it was!).

Last Christmas we were very kindly invited to join some friends at their chalet. I decided that it was only fair for my family to tag along. After all, they had been through some tough times over the last couple of years, to say the least.

Even though I would never ski again, I could look at the beautiful Swiss mountains and feel glad to be alive.

Or that’s what I thought…

I had agreed to try Nordic skiing with my friend, but apart from that I’d be relaxing at the chalet and dipping my feet in the hot tub.

Nordic skiing seemed quite simple at first. You just put one foot in front of the other, right? It was nice and easy and beautifully groomed, like fresh corduroy. We hadn’t been going for very long when it went from completely flat to very steep, within a millisecond. We picked up speed and were completely out of control, without any means of stopping! We decided that this resort wasn’t designed for Nordic skiing and that we ought to go back to the chalet, have a piece of lemon drizzle cake, and be thankful that we got off lightly.

On returning to the hire shop, as if by magic, my friend suggested that we try “normal” skiing again.

“You’re joking, right? NOT IN A MILLION YEARS” came the reply.

I really don’t know what possessed me to try again. But for some reason, I did.

And do you know what? On the nursery slope, it wasn’t so bad! After all, “you only live twice; once when you’re born, and once when you look death in the face.”

Life is a precious thing. Life is for the living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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