So after work on a Friday afternoon, I called my Dad and asked him if we wanted to go for a swim at the beach. So we headed over to our usual spot in the waters right by Windang Island at Warilla Beach. As I had recently being getting really into rock climbing when we were done I told him I wanted to head to the side of the island to see if I could climb up the cliff. I was sure I would be able to, having climbed up the rock wall at Bombo Beach in High School, which was twice the height and at the time I was way less experienced (though I've always been climbing things my whole life).
As we walked around I looked at a few different points to climb. I soon realised the rock was really awful for climbing as it literally just broke apart in your hands. It was also awkward because as your progressed up the rock face began to poke out further, which required and awkward strategy on how to climb it without using arm strength to simply pull and climb up, but involved more leaning in close to the wall and using your ability to balance while choosing particular footing spots and simply softly using your hands as mere stability to relocate or twist your footing. I eventually chose my location and climbed. It took a while and was very slow paced as I knew any wrong steps could be disastrous. I eventually made it to a flat and safe location where I could progress the rest of the way up with ease. I called down to Dad to meet me around the front of the Island where you walk up.
As I proceeded to the top I walked face first through a spider web, making me very keen to get back down so I could jump back in the water to wash off. As I got across the spiky plants barefoot and made it to the path I jogged down to the front of the Island to beat Dad there.
When I arrived Dad wasn't there so I began walking around to the side. As I looked around he was no where in sight. I was wondering where the hell he was. As I progressed further around I could see his stuff still laying on a rock where I had climbed up, I thought he might have went around to the other side to maybe come up as you can come up the back way. As I came around further, I saw him up on the cliff wall, about 5 metres up. I barely had time to think 'what the hell is he doing', and then so fast, in a blurry haze I saw him fall sideways off the edge of the cliff and smash into the rocks below. The shock hit me like a crazy electrical impact and I screamed "Dad!"
I began running over to him in a crazed panic feeling extreme terror and shock. At a fall like that into rocks below I believed I had just watched him fall to his death.
As I arrived at him there was blood everywhere and he wasn't conscious. I knew absolutely no medically helpful skills and quickly turned and raced toward the beach as fast as I could screaming help, over and over again as loud as I could in an extreme state of panic. There was a man walking right by the island and I ran towards him screaming help again and again as loud as I could.
He stopped and was looking at me very confused.
"Do you have a phone?" I asked, barely breathing in my panic. "My Dad fell off the cliff and I need to call an ambulance."
The man unlocked his phone and headed it to me looking stunned while I called triple 0. I tried to remain calm as I explained what had happened and where I was but I felt like I had taken the fall myself, life I'd taken a very big hit to my brain I felt sick and kept thinking I had seen my Dad die.
I stayed on the phone with the lady who told me to keep on the line until the ambulance arrived. It felt like it was taking a lifetime as she kept asking questions. Eventually I saw an arm go up, over where my Dad was laying.
'He's fucking alive!" I thought and a bit of hope and joy sparked in me. I told the woman on the phone and the man and I went over. By the time we reached my Dad he was standing up.
The lady on the phone told me to keep him seated and apply pressure to a massive cut on the side of his head. My Dad seemed very dazed and kept asking what had happened. I told him I had no idea what he was doing and that he must have tried to climb and fell. He asked me why he was trying to climb it. I told him I had no idea. He kept asking me the same questions over and over and I began to think to myself that he had damaged his brain and I felt sick in my stomach. Eventually the ambulance and police arrived and began asking me questions while the ambulance assessed my Dad. The man who's phone I used decided to leave and I kept thanking him profusely for letting me use his phone. I answered about what had happened to the police and asked if they could contact my Dads wife (my step mum) because it had been hours and she would have no idea what had happened. The police went to the house but unfortunately she was not home. It began getting dark and they said they didn't want to move my Dad in case and he would be getting airlifted in to hospital in Sydney. A man came from the surf-life-saving club with a beach buggy and was going to take one of the ambulance drivers back for supplies, as the ambulance was in the car park a fair way from the island. The man from the surf living club eventually recognised my Dad from his voice, saying that they knew each other as my Dad used to be part of the surf-life-saving club and was the mans Plumber.
I asked if I could go on the buggy with them, as I just lived nearby, and my own wife would be worrying about me. He agreed and I got to the car park and the ambulance driver told me he would drive to mine and wait and told me to also get changed into dry clothes as I must be freezing, although in the fear of it all I hadn't noticed.
As I got in I told my wife, quickly got changed and took my phone (as neither Dad or myself had taken them to the beach).
I called my Step mum and she instantly went into panic mode, crying and being hysterical. She said she was going to drive over right away. The ambulance driver told me to tell her not to come in a panic as he could hear her over the phone, and said my Dad would likely be gone by the time she arrived. I called her back and tried to explain, eventually the ambulance driver got on the phone with her and calmly explained. By the time we got back the buggy had already taken supplies back and was at the island to I had to run along the sand to get to the island while people on the beach looked on. As I arrived I was stopped by one of the police officers. I tried to explain that I was the mans son and he told me he was told to keep everyone back as the helicopter was going to take off soon and he didn't want to violate any order. He also gave me a heads up, nodding to his left and saying that the man to his left who was taking photos was from the Illawarra Mercury. He said that he wasn't legally allowed to talk to him so it was up to me if I did or what I told him. I joked that because I now had to pay to read Illawarra Mercury articles I wouldn't tell him anything because I wouldn't be able to read it anyway.
Eventually the helicopter took off and I began walking back knowing I was going to drive up to St George Hospital in Sydney. As I arrived near the buggy my step mum arrived in a panic driven by her next door neighbour. They began talking and my step mum was in a panic, one of the police officers quipped that my Dad had been watching too much Spiderman, my step mum replied "Oh no he doesn't even really watch sports" We continued walking back to the car park, with my step mum calling her daughter (my step sister) who was out in a party in Sydney drinking. My step mum's neighbour told me not to let her drive to Sydney as she was in a panic and I told him that I would drive her. My step mum insisted she was fine, eventually handing the phone with my step sister on it, her again asking me to make sure her mother didn't drive.
I told her I would drive her up in her car and that my wife would follow behind in mine so that she could stay up in Sydney with her daughter (with a car after she had calmed down) and we would have a way back home.
So she went home with the neighbours and I stopped home for a shower and dinner while I waited for my step mum to be ready. I, stupidly decided to check facebook while I waited to read people posting about it in community pages and that the Illawarra Mercury had already posted about it, albeit with incorrect details. Such as my Dads age, and saying I came around and saw him on the ground. While some people on facebook where caring and just hoped whoever it was (my Dad) was ok, others made jokes with contempt about climbing the island and his age. Someone else posted a fishing photo with everything happening on the island in the distance behind it with uncaring comments simply asking if any fish where biting. It just reminded me of the uncaring asshole nature of some people.
Eventually my step mum rang and we headed to Sydney.
As we arrived the Doctor told us that it was like my Dad had won the lottery and had he fallen any other way he would be dead. They had done brain scans and there had been no brain injuries and at the time the doctors believed he hadn't broken a bone (this turned out to be false as he had broke a bones in his hand and wrist). My Dad was in pretty good spirits (probably the drugs) and made a lot of jokes about the whole thing. With his memory back he told me he had watched me climb, and thought I had done it the hard way and he thought there was an easier way....
Because that worked out well for him. My step mum told him he was banned from adventures with me and that there was "no more going down to Gerringong Falls or anything like that".
I told my Dad he was an idiot and that I was traumatized, he joked that it was character building experience for me (gee thanks Dad).
Because he was joking so much I decided to take photos of his head to show for later.
Later when the Doctor was stitching this up my Dad asked him what he could see. The Doctor replied "Your skull".
He also required stitches in his arm and leg and had a heap of skin torn from all over his body.
My step mum stayed up there, and kept me updated on how my Dad was going sending a photo a few days later showing he was feeling a bit better.
I took one day off from work to get my brain around what had happened, my head still sore from the events that transpired. I continued to have visions of watching my Dad fall from the cliff face for weeks after the event, but I knew I just had to reconcile the image of it with the fact that my Dad was alive and well.
A bit over a week later when he was released from hospital he showed me all the bruising all down and over his body and it was pretty bad. It had now been a month since it occurred, my Dad is still moving slowly and very sore. I ended up getting full time in the position I was working in and am waiting to try to get back into my adventures again. I have struggled thinking about going with Dad, as doing something like 'the Castle' was dodgy even when we did it, but now with something like this I question whether I would feel safe letting Dad do such adventures again or whether I should just go with my friends. I do like spending quality time with my Dad but only time will tell if we can do those sorts of adventures together again.
Yesterday on the 6th of April I did try to do the Mt Kembla walk with my wife. But once she started getting leeches crawling up her legs she got in a complete panic and we came home. But hopefully soon I can get back into what I love most.
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Thanks for reading! - Steven