Cliff Jumping & Spanish Hospitals

I once read a blog post about how most people don’t want to read about your personal stories, and that a story probably isn’t worth telling unless it involves a near-death experience, naked people, or winning a million dollars (source).

Near Death Experience covers my story, so I figured it might be worth telling.

On my “Tales from Abroad” page I talk about two Eurotrips – one that was smooth sailing and one that went horribly wrong – this was that horribly wrong one, as I’m sure you could’ve guessed. There were a million and one things about this trip that weren’t going our way, but I’ll fast forward to the really juicy stuff, since ya know, personal stories are boring.

It all started in San Sebastián, a little coastal town in Northern Spain. It was my brother, his friend, my roommate, and I just having a lovely little evening eating pinchos, drinking beer, and watching the soccer game at a local bar. After the game we decided to check out another bar, where we each took a shot of tequila. Just one. None of us were drunk. I think that’s probably the saddest part of this particular story – that this all went down under primarily sober conditions. Anyways, we were all ready to head back to the hostel after the bar – it was a weekday, and not much was happening in the Basque town. We started walking back, and our hostel was just a 10-minute walk away. A lot can happen in 10 minutes.

Remember, San Sebastián is a coastal town, and the main beach is La Concha. There’s a big boardwalk around the beach – see the picture to get a better idea.

san sebastian

In addition to the boardwalk, there are two big ramps that lead down to the beach. The rest of the boardwalk has a railing and is about 15-20 feet higher than the beach. See where I’m going with this?

Back to the story. We were walking on the boardwalk to the street where our hostel was located, and we joked about going to the beach. (It was a lot colder than we imagined it would be, so we all packed swimsuits when we really needed snowsuits.) Anyways, all of us kept walking while my roommate started running toward the beach. We yelled for her to come back (we were just kidding after all), and when we looked back she was climbing through the railing. {The railings on the ramps were different; the top and bottom of the railing was solid but the middle part consisted of bungee-like cords.} She was technically on the ramp, but apparently she wanted to do some cliff jumping from the tallest part of it rather than walk down it. I remember us all shouting “Let’s go,” “C’mon,” and the next time we looked she was gone. My brother’s friend immediately started running, while my brother and I stood there for a second in shock. When we got to the railing we looked over, and none of us said it, but I’m pretty sure we were all convinced she was dead. It was a pretty high fall, and where she went through was boulders and rocks at the bottom, not sand.

I was terrified. Something finally kicked into gear for me, and I started running down the ramp toward her. My brother followed right after. There we were, about midnight, just the four of us on the beach with nobody else around. My head was spinning. She was groaning a little by the time I got to her. My brother’s friend was saying her name and trying to get her to talk to him, so luckily, she was conscious.

Then, out of nowhere, 2 people leaned over and asked if we needed help. Literally no idea where they came from. I’m assuming I yelled emergencia or ambulancia, although that part is still a little blurry. They came down to help, and an ambulance got there pretty quickly, bringing a stretcher and about 5 other people with them.

This is where it gets weird. You still with me?

So my roommate is laying on the rocks complaining about her arm, butt, and the shoulder of her shirt was torn where she had a pretty good cut. She had a decent bump on her head, too. Meanwhile, the doctors were talking amongst themselves. My brother and his friend keep asking what’s going on (I’m the only one that speaks Spanish), and the doctors were talking about the tide and how the water was coming in. And not in the way that they were concerned about my roommate, but moreso that they didn’t want to get in the water to move her. They sat there debating what to do for probably 5 minutes.

Finally they got her on a stretcher and up the ramp. I was the lucky chosen one to ride in the ambulance, while my brother and his friend hailed a taxi to the hospital.

Let me tell you, I could’ve driven faster in reverse on the opposite side of the road than the ambulance driver went forward. My brother beat us to the hospital by about 10 minutes. They never turned on the lights or sirens, and I’m no doctor, but she just fell from a high place and had a good bump on her head…so call me crazy but it felt wrong. Not to mention the driver was just asking me about my life and how I liked the radio. The song was “Never Ever” by the All Saints was playing, and he kept going on about how much he loved the song. Maybe he was just trying to keep me calm, but I was pretty collected to begin with.

Finallllyyyy we got to the hospital where my brother and his friend had been waiting, and for the next I’d say 45 minutes she just laid on a stretcher in a random room, while nobody did anything. It wasn’t busy; it was the middle of the night. I sat there talking to my roommate who was now in good spirits, considering. She was bleeding pretty good from her shoulder, with a nice bump on her head, and the doctors had still done nothing. After a bit, all of us started joking that we should’ve just taken her to the hostel where we could’ve done a better job.

Fast forward another hour and they had finally done some x-rays on her arm, which was broken. They then debated whether they should do surgery or just cast it because apparently it was a weird break. I’m still confused by the situation. It was decided they would cast it – we were nervous about surgery in a Spanish hospital anyways.

A couple more hours passed, and they finally got her in a hospital gown and casted – if you can call it that. Her cast resembled a paper maché project I did in elementary school. The “doctors” decided to keep her overnight, which seemed like the logical thing, although I don’t think they ever really did anything about her head. They told us to come back in the morning, so we left around 3 or 4am and attempted to get some sleep. Thankfully, she survived the night and the rest of the trip…

When she got back to America she went straight to the doctor who told her her arm hadn’t healed at all in the cast and that there was fungus growing in it. She ended up having to have a new cast and then a surgery. So 8 months, some cuts, giant bruises, and an American cast later, she’s good as new. And now we all have a great story to tell.

What did we learn? Don’t cliff jump onto rocks. Avoid Spanish hospitals.

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