Exped 5050 Pt 3
My latest ‘fall’ was rather a personal affair and hopefully epitomises my belief of giving back.
In March, my wife and I had several emergency visits to St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster as she was seven months pregnant with our first child. Our pregnancy had been far from a simple journey, but was helped along by the amazing staff at St Thomas’.
During one of these visits, I spotted a sign for a sponsored abseil off the hospital and, coincidentally, it was taking place the day before our expected due date… what could possibly go wrong?!
After a reluctant green light from my wife, I signed up! I considered all of the possible outcomes if the baby arrived early… from abseiling past the ward window where my wife and child were cheering me on to me running into the delivery theatre, still donning helmet and harness.
The day of the abseil (with no sign of baby), involved a tactical retreat out of work for an extended lunch break. The weather was great and you could spot the abseil platform from Westminster Bridge, as it silhouetted against the clear blue sky.
After receiving my harness and gear, I made my way up to the roof top of the North Wing, 160ft up. The abseil platform had four lines and there was a constant flurry of activity from participants, instructors and photographers. The view was amazing with a panorama that included Thames House, the Houses Of Parliament and the London Eye!
I nervously stepped around the roof, until a line eventually became free and I’m ushered onto the platform and attached to one of the ropes. My guide instructs me to step onto the edge and turn around.
It was a decent height to say the least, the type where it feels high, but also low enough that you can see detail on the ground, so you get the perspective of how high you actually are!
As I leant back over the ledge, I was told to feed the rope through the descender and lower myself onto the vertical wall below. I hadn’t abseiled for at least 10 years before this. It all felt a little alien, but ‘trust the kit’ was being bellowed from the back of my mind.
I gingerly lowered myself to the first wall, and despite trying to ‘pose’ for a good photo shot, the guide had become impatient and demanded I descend. Feeding the rope through my hands, it was no Embassy siege re-enactment. I slowly passed the many wards with patients and doctors banging on the windows to distract(!?)/encourage me on my way down. As I reached about halfway, I’d become more confident with the device and having been passed by a guy who just wanted to it to be over, I upped the tempo, and dropped to the ground at a better rate of knots.
I hit the ground with a gentle break. It was not the furthest I’d fallen, but I was definitely glad to be on solid ground.
On the baby front I’m very proud to announce that our son, Chester was born at St Thomas’ a week later! Both he and my wife showed tremendous bravery throughout a very difficult labour. They are now out of hospital and making a full recovery at home. I’m honoured to have been able to support the hospital that has done so much for my new little family over the last few months.