Update on Simon

From: Jim Keeling [mailto:jk@corbettkeeling.com]
Sent: 10 February 2007 20:06
Subject: Simon

All bros

You have probably now all heard about Simon’s skiing accident.  I was chatting to Paul just now and he came up with the brilliantly modern idea that I should use email to keep you all posted as to what I know.

By way of background, he was on a ski trip with the British Venture Capital Association in St Anton.  As they run two such trips and I went on the one a few weeks earlier, I can picture the resort and know the form quite well as to what would have been going on – good hotel, about 30 people, dividing into groups of 4-8 each day with guides, Simon probably the best skier there.  Simon and his team would have been off piste, whenever the weather permitted.  The trip is organised by a specialist corporate ski business and the girl in charge on site for this trip, Kate, who I have not met, was skiing with Simon when the accident happened.  I have spoken to Kate several times since and also to a couple of doctors at the hospital.

To the accident – as relayed to me by Kate who was at the scene.  Friday about 3.30pm their time, skiing in the trees and then onto a steep bit of open snow above a ravine.  Guide tells them to side step and Simon as, in Kate’s words, “easily the best skier in the group” gets permission from the guide (good boy) to ski, but then crosses his skis, presumably falls and goes over the edge.  Guide and rest of group shout to him but there is no reply as, they assume, he was unconscious.  1.5 hours later a rescue helicopter winches him out of the ravine on a rope and Kate and the rest of the group are relieved to see he is holding his head high – so is conscious etc.  They say he fell “150 metres”.

He was flown to the best hospital in the area for this sort of accident.  Rather comically, a police helicopter turned up after the rescue helcipopter to check I’m not sure what – a sign of the times.

Kate I think went with him on Friday evening and certainly returned to the hospital this morning to deal with the doctors, take him kit etc.  They got hold of Ursula at about 7pm and she passed the message to Mum and Dad and me.  She has also been in touch with various others including Harry, Archie and Sarah.  Ursula did not manage to speak to a doc immediately as they were not available when she called, but by chance I got through to one at the hospital who made it clear that they do not think there is any permanent damage.

I spoke to another doc and Kate, who were together with Simon, this morning and the prognosis is as follows:

- He has a hairline facture in his skull, which is not a problem as it will get better in due course (sounds a bit like Arthur’s a year or so ago).
- He has broken or maybe cracked or maybe very badly bruised three or four ribs, which is also not a problem, though painful
- He had some bleeding in his skull, which I think would have been a problem if it had continued but had stopped and was expected this morning to remain stopped, so should not be a problem.
- He has cracked his “fifth vertebra” (yesterday’s doctor’s description), or his cervical spine (today’s doctor’s description).  This is I think more serious, but he is NOT paralysed in any way.  A more specialist doc will examine him on Monday to decide if he needs an operation, but it sounded to me as though this was more of a precaution than because an op is likely.
- On the basis, I think, that there is not an op, he is likely to be in hospital for a week before being fit to fly back.
- He is not able to sit up at the moment and his face is quite bashed up.  He is lucid at times, but then forgets what he has said.  The doc said he will be much more compos mentis tomorrow.

He is absolutely exhausted, sleeping a lot and, I guess, up to his eyeballs in pain-killers.  Maybe as a result, he said this morning to Ursula that he did not want telephone calls or anyone to go out there to be with him for the moment.  It may be that Ursula decides to over-rule the latter, but I should think it is best not to call him for the moment.

The hospital details are:
Room 216
Landeskrankenhaus
6800 Feldkirch
Caringasse 47
Austria
(You may want to check that if you are sending him anything as things may have been lost in translation - tel:  00 43 55 22303)

Do call if you want any more details.  If I hear of any big change in the prognosis, I will try to do another email.  If any of you think the email addresses I have used for any of the bros are wrong, pls forward this with the right address.

With lots of love
Jim

Posted on Jim's behalf by George
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From: Jim Keeling [mailto:jk@corbettkeeling.com] 
Sent: 15 February 2007 16:01

Subject: RE: Simon - update

Simon called me this morning and we spoke at some length. Key points are:

1. He seems in good spirits and his memory for work pre fall is pretty good. He was full of curiosity as to how things are going here.

2. His main worry, he thinks, is his knee which is making it difficult for him to move around. He cannot come back till Tuesday next week, because they are making a cast for it which he needs to travel. The cast will not be ready till Mon/Tues. Travel back will probably be by land.

3. Urs is back in England today for a few days to look after Eila etc and probably then going back to pick S up.

4. Simon would obviously like to get back sooner, but can’t and in the meantime said he would like calls especially while Urs is away. So DO now call him. The best way to do that is to his mobile 07770 930981 – just dial that number, no extras for getting to Austria. We agreed that, if he is exhausted by too many calls, he will tell me and I can send you all an email to say stop calling! He will switch his mobile off if he is sleepy – but thinks his sleep pattern has in any case returned to normal, ie sleep at night, wake in day.

5. An old friend of his, Chris Baker, who has been in Klosters is going to visit him this afternoon. I’m sure that if anyone else is passing anywhere near in the next few days he would appreciate a visit – the hospital is only an hour from Zurich airport by train.

With lots of love Jim

From: Jim Keeling [mailto:jk@corbettkeeling.com] 
Sent: 13 February 2007 11:36
Subject: RE: Simon - update

All

I have just spoken to Ursula, who asked me to pass the message on to Mum/Dad and all bros that:

1. All is going well, though S continues to be extremely tired. He is a bit more fragile today, but Urs takes this as a good sign that he is more compos mentis. He is not yet eating much and has not yet managed to play patience though he tried once yesterday and then promptly went to sleep!

2. He cannot fly back for two weeks, but could come back by road in an ambulance even as early as today if he and Urs really want. Urs thinks Fri/Sat may be a more sensible time for him to return when he will be a little stronger. She is discussing this with the local doctors and also, via their London GP, working out which hospital he should go to when he gets home. The next consultation with the main doc in FeldKirch is between 8am and 9am tomorrow morning.

3. Feldkirch is quite small – “smaller than Hastings” – and there is not much to do there!

Call if you need more news/explanation.
Lots of love Jim

Lots of love and hugs to Ursula, Harry, Archie and Eila and a big get well soon Simon xxx
Posted by: Ruth | February 13, 2007 at 11:57 PM

Just wanted to say, thanks for keeping us all updated, I think its things like this when the keeling website really proves invaluable. It sounds like Simon had a very lucky escape. If anyone is in touch with Ursula, please let her know we are thinking of her and simon at the moment and we wish him a full recovery
Posted by: Alice | February 13, 2007 at 06:06 PM

From: Jim Keeling [mailto:jk@corbettkeeling.com] 
Sent: 12 February 2007 15:52
Subject: Simon - update
All,
Well, here’s the update. First things first. Trev spoke the doctors in Feldkirch this morning and they all – ie Trev and the locals – believe that Simon will make a full physical and mental recovery.

Trev’s version of the prognosis is similar to what you have already seen and is as follows:

- Fractured skull – not a big issue.
- Bruising of brain. They did a CT scan on this as soon as he went into hospital and again this morning. These indicate that all is OK in his brain and it is very unlikely that there will be any complications. It is also perfectly normal that his memory should still be erratic (which I think it probably is). Within a week or two the memory will be back to normal.
- Fractured neck – but this is a bit of neck that does not matter much. I think what this means is that it is not a bit that is close to nerves etc – I think it may be the nobbly bit at the back of his neck. Given a neck brace this will be stable in three weeks.
- 3 fractured ribs, but importantly no damage to lungs or heart.
- Fractured “orbit”, which is the part of the skull around the eyeball – this will not lead to any complications though it has almost certainly made a bad mess of his face for the moment. Trev thinks the lasting impact on his face should not be more than the scar from that loose ski on the dog lead many years ago – but he may not have been focusing on these surface injuries so perhaps they could be better or worse. What Trev is certain of is that he will look awful at the moment.
- Posterior cruciate ligament injury on one knee – standard and will be treated in standard way. Trev thinks it is remarkable that he has not injured more limbs as normally, in an accident like this, one uses them to break the fall and injures them in the process – old iron legs proves himself again!
- He should be home in England in 4/5 days.

I know from Ursula earlier on this morning that he is already able to move around a bit and, for example, walk to the loo. She has formed the same view as Trev, ie that she will get him home in 4/5 days; hopefully she will be able to accompany him back, perhaps also with a nurse. He is however still exhausted etc and after I, slightly reluctantly, spoke to him briefly about work this morning – when for the duration of the call he sounded compos mentis, though he was interested to know it was Monday – I got a bit of a ticking off for getting over-excited and relating some of the details of the fall (he of course could not remember a thing about it). The moral of that one is it’s probably still better NOT to speak to Simon – except with Urs’s up to the minute permission – and if you speak to him don’t let you or him get over-excited!

I also spoke this morning to one of the other people, Gareth, who was at the scene of the accident. One sort of wants to know what happened and sort of doesn’t. But I felt I wanted to know and perhaps this contains some lessons for those of us who ski off-piste. So, take your pick as to whether you read the next paragraph (1 to 6 below), but either way I think it would be much better NOT to repeat it to Simon until he is a lot better.

1. They were chatting in the morning about the merits of wearing helmets! We all know which camp Simon was in.
2. They had had a fantastic days skiing in powder etc.
3. They were coming out of the pure off-piste into the tree-line to get down into the valley.
4. They had to side-step through some trees, into a small clearing which was a very steep slope, “50 degrees”. It looked as though others had been over the clearing before and/or the snow had slipped off it in quite a few places.
5. S tried to do some “hop” turns in the clearing, fell over (for the first time in two days skiing) onto his front so he was head down and unable to stop himself sliding further. So he slid and what none of them realised was that there was a precipice ahead. S went over it and then there was a “long silence, followed by a very big bang”. They shouted and shouted to him for about 90 minutes but got no reply. They estimated the drop at about 150 metres but, for obvious reasons were cautious about looking over it. One of them, Julian, decided to try to ski “round it” to get to Simon while they were waiting for the helicopter; but he retreated when he found himself slipping. Eventually the helicopter came and they winched him up, much to everyone’s relief/surprise with his neck clearly supporting his head, though covered in blood. The police interview as per my earlier email followed – and they all had to wait for this while, incredibly, it got darker and they still had 90 minutes skiing ahead of them to get home!
6. A few stiff drinks followed.

That’s all and, assuming S continues his recovery as above, maybe will be my last missive. I will though try to email if there is any change on all of that. Do call if you want to know any more.

Latest info on the address, per Brenda, who called again and checked, is that it is:

Room 216
Landeskrankenhaus
6800 Feldkirch
Caringasse 45
Austria
Tel: 00 43 55 22303

This is the same as the last version I gave you except Caringasse 47 has become Caringasse 45 – I’m afraid I really don’t know which is right – but perhaps it does not matter. If you are sending anything to them, you better just take your pick!

With lots of love
Jim

PS By the way, Trev is in Nigeria till 22 Feb, but did say he might be able to access email and, if so, would correct any errors I may have made in passing on his prognosis.


From: Jim Keeling 
Sent: 11 February 2007 20:35
Subject: RE: Simon

Mum and Dad / all bros

Urs is on her way to Zurich and then Feldkirch as I write. She plans to stay there till Thursday. Trev, who I spoke to in Uganda where he is on a mercy mission for the next eight days, is hoping to speak to the docs in Feldkirch tomorrow. Urs will also meet them face to face, including a particular specialist who will be looking at Simon’s neck for the first time. So there should be more news tomorrow. In the meantime, Eila is with us tonight and staying with a school friend from tomorrow (her half term does not start till next weekend). I think I have now got all the right email addresses – thanks George for Rob’s – and Mum confirms that the spelling “Feldkirch” is correct according to the hotel Urs will be staying in.

With LoL Jim xo

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