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Losing our heads supporting Headway

On Friday 28th September, Suzanne Trask, Heather Petrie, Tanith Jones and I embarked on the exhilarating (or simply mad) challenge of abseiling down the Orbit in the Olympic Park, Stratford.  This is the UK’s tallest sculpture and the highest free falling abseil in the UK standing at 262 feet.  You can only imagine the views that span 20 miles across London, breathtaking… Or perhaps vomit inducing (when you are stood at the top waiting to jump).

Why did we do this you ask?  For Headway.

Headway is a wonderful charity supporting those who have acquired brain injuries and who need help and support.  Their goal is to help improve life after brain injury and to promote understanding of what it is to have a brain injury.  They support by providing a safe space for those who have suffered a brain injury, their families and carers.  They also encourage and facilitate rehabilitation and community reintegration.

For me, this was an incredibly challenging activity – the orbit structure is such that there is nowhere to put your feet, making this a free fall abseil – as a strong believer that two feet should stay firm on the ground at all times, the thought of lowering myself off a small platform into mid air was simply terrifying.

But… I was taught to face my fears and the chance to raise money to help those who had suffered a brain injury with the specialist Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp was the perfect opportunity…

So we took the step to sign up and it wasn’t long until the day was upon us.

We arrived at the Orbit at 1pm on Friday afternoon and met with Anna from Headway.  We were collected by our cheery guide and taken through the safety induction.  Nerves were rising and excitement falling, but our team spirit continued as we squeezed into the harnesses.

As we got into the lift that took us to the top, we realised just how high this sculpture was… Believe me, 262 feet seems a lot higher when you are at the top.

Helmets on, it was Tanith and I that volunteered to go first/get the pain over with ASAP.

Not knowing what to expect we stepped up to our instructors and quickly realised we would need to put all of our trust in these strangers.  The instructors hooked us to the ropes.  One to guide us down, an emergency one (!) in case we started falling too quickly (!!) and one that was connected to the floor.

The first shaky step was onto a tiny (A4 sized) platform and lean back as far as we could… people on the ground looked like ants… just don’t look down!  The instructors stood in front of us giving a supportive pep talk whilst Suzanne and Heather happily cheered from the side and Anna started snapping pictures.

The second step was probably the most challenging of all.  We had to take our feet off the platform whilst leaning back in order to dangle ourselves from the Orbit, it was time to start the descent… Time to put our trust in these 3 ropes…. Just don’t look down… 1, 2… no I can’t… yes.. I can… 3!  We were off.  Dangling. mid-air, 262 feet above London.  All for Headway.

That was it, Tanith was off.  Her tactic was to get down as quickly as possible.  Mine was to go slowly and controlled, running the rope through my hands.  We soon got into our own rhythms and realised, this isn’t so bad!  The views were simply stunning, our focus turned to The Gherkin, St Paul’s, Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium as we sailed through the air gracefully (I like to think) to the bottom.

After what felt like a lifetime my feet hit the ground (I was shocked when the instructor told me it was, in fact, only 7 minutes).

The rest of the team set off and before long we were all safely on the ground (phew!).  We celebrated at the bottom as we looked up at what we had just conquered.  Smiles beaming with pride and relief.

What a way to face my fear of heights… What next, handling tarantulas in the Australian outback?

We would like to thank you for all of your support in this challenge, your kindness will go a long way in helping those who have suffered a brain injury.

Evangeline Ashby is a paralegal in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or you are concerned about treatment received, contact Evangeline free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4850 or at EvangelineAshby@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Medical Negligence team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.

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