‘One hundred and twenty-seven hours of hell’ by Sophie Bootle

I don’t know why I did this. I came the closest to death that’s even possible, and it was all my fault. I was in my early thirties when this tragic day came. I was reckless and carefree. Looking back, I really did live life on the edge. I should have been more careful.

It was a usual Saturday morning. I wanted to feel a simple rush of adrenaline. I wanted to get out to the great outdoors, so I went hiking in the canyons. I set off with little water and barely any food, expecting to be a few hours maximum. Jumping  on my bike, I made my way to the canyons. My first fatal mistake.

I didn’t tell any living soul where I was going. I don’t know why. I liked to do my own thing and be on my own without anyone else worrying. My second mistake.

The morning sky was bright and as blue as the sea. It was still early when I reached the desert. The silky sand was blown into my face and I felt a sense of freedom and a broad smile grew on my face. It felt exciting.

I found some girls in the canyons, they were talking and laughing. Next thing I knew, they come over and I showed them my favourite places in the ravine. I climbed in and out of the ravines and canyons, almost showing off a bit. We laughed a lot and I had surprisingly, had a good time. I took them to an azure lake. It was very warm and refreshing and I had great fun.  They had even invited me to a party. I really wanted to go but I wasn’t aware at the time that I wouldn’t be making it.

Leaving the girls to it,  I adventured down, getting deeper and deeper. Finally, I reached a claustrophobic ravine. It dropped low but looked fine to me. The canyon was a dark shade of brown and it was fairly dark as there wasn’t any sunlight in it.

To others, I wouldn’t be so sure. Attaching  my harness to myself, I slowly lowered myself down. My third mistake.

I got to a ledge which could hold my body weight and stopped there to cool down. I stomped on the ledge to see if it was safe enough to hold me. I thought it was alright and I placed myself on this ‘perfect’ ledge. I was horribly wrong. As soon as I got on it, it fell and took me with it.

I panicked and saw my whole life flash before my eyes. Everything went too quickly and I couldn’t breathe properly. All of a sudden, I was pinned to a wall, unable to move. My arm was stuck between the wall and an 800 lb boulder. I screamed and I shouted; I had never felt as much pain as I was in now. It was excruciating.

As the hours went by, I was in more torment than ever and I was incredibly thirsty. It was getting very cold as the sky became darker. Having no sunlight made it worse than cold. It was freezing. It sounds odd, but I was really bored. I had to occupy myself to distract me from my arm and the dreadfulness. I finished  my last drop of water, wishing I had brought more. It was Sunday now and my whole hand was numb. I was going mad and I had started to hallucinate. Hunger and the need to drink overcame my body. My voice was hurting from the yelping, but deep down, I knew no one would come. This place was vast and lonely; no one would think about coming here. Why didn’t I tell anyone where I was going?!

I had officially been in here for five days. I thought I was going to die. No food; nothing. The thing about being stuck made me think a lot. I had started to hallucinate. I saw my family. I saw me, as a child. I really wanted to get back to them. I couldn’t leave them. I had to get out, I needed my family and they needed me. I saw a raven circling me every morning. It reminded me of death, creeping ever closer. I just had to get out of here. I would do anything it took. That’s what got me out of the cave.

Thinking of a plan was hard. I had already tried to chip at the boulder, to struggle free. I had tried everything I could possibly do, but it was no use. I had even dropped my knife at one point. Everything I had tried just resulted into something worse. I had to the thing I was trying to avoid, but deep down, I knew I had to: the unthinkable. I had to chop off my arm.

I gave a deep breath. I inhaled in. I exhaled. In and out, In and out. I couldn’t just use my knife to cut through the bone as it was too blunt and I knew there was only one way. I broke my arm against the rock; painfully I snapped my bone into two. The pain was honestly the worst thing ever. I screamed and cried out. Carefully, tightly, I wrapped my drinking hose around my arm and started to cut through the cartilage. I can’t describe the pain. It would sound almost unreal. It was genuinely the worst pain and experience in my life. There was nothing else I could do. I just had to do it if I wanted to get back alive.

Despite all the pain, the bit that made me feel sick and faint, was the nerve. The nerve ran all the way down my arm. It was bad enough but because I had such  a blunt blade, it took longer. This made it much worse.

My heart was beating so fast I couldn’t keep up. After violently severing the knife through my arm, I had cut it off. Miraculously, I was free. It sounds strange, but I was the happiest I had ever been before. A big grin kept crept along my face. I had done it. I let out the biggest sigh of relief. I didn’t think I could do it.

Eventually, I was brave enough to wrap the blood covered stump of my arm up and continue my way down. I had to get away. On my way back out of the ravine, I fell and I hurt myself, but I needed to get away. I found sunlight and ran to the end of the ravine. I attached my harness to an abseiling point and got down. My knees were weak and I could barely walk, yet I still got to the ground, thanks to the ropes.

There was a dirty, mud- filled pond. I needed water. To others it would be disgusting, like a pig rolling around in the mud, but to me it was heaven. I was still covered in blood but I continued to walk. Somewhere in the distance, I saw a family out hiking. I was so happy.  I shouted, cried and screamed but words barely came back. They finally realised my plight and very kindly gave me lots to drink. They called an air ambulance and it whisked me off to the hospital. That family had saved my life. I really do owe them a lot.

Despite the most traumatic experience ever, I was actually quite lucky. Having one arm made me more careful.  It didn’t stop me from doing the things I wanted to, but I always told people where I was going.

If I hadn’t have been through that, I would have lived a lonely life but now I have a wife and a son. It is quite incredible. I was convinced that those days in that cave were my last. I don’t what to think about what could have happened. I just want to carry on with life, caring about my family and doing the things I love with the people I love.

Despite having only one arm, I want to do the things I wanted to do. I couldn’t have done this by myself, even though I thought I could. It’s safe to say that I owe a lot of people and I now realise just how precious life is.