I was looking forward to a week of sun, sea, and sangria. But my relaxation plans soon came crashing down…
By Cheryl Reynolds, 29, from Edinburgh
Clocking in for my shift at the hospital, I gave my workmate Jennie a wide grin.
“Let’s book it later,” I said.
We both had annual leave coming up, and we’d decided to treat ourselves to a break abroad.
After all, as hardworking nurses we deserved to put our feet up for a while.
Images of the clear blue sea lapping at the shore were all that was keeping me smiling through my long shifts.
I wanted a complete change of scene. I love my home in Edinburgh, but somewhere more exotic would be a very welcome change.
My son Danny, two, would be at his dad’s that week so the timing was ideal. So, later that day we got on the computer to start looking at the deals.
“I just want somewhere hot and sunny,” I said.
“Well there’s a great offer here for Lanzarote,” Jennie replied.
I’d never been before, but it seemed to fit the bill.
“The Canary Islands are great,” Jennie assured me, entering our bank details.
I couldn’t wait. Although our holiday was only weeks away, the days seemed to creep by.
In the meantime I decided to check out our destination online, to see what I had to look forward to.
I clicked through pictures of beautiful long beaches and scrolled through promising weather reports.
But then, I spotted a detail that chilled me. I didn’t know Lanzarote was a volcanic island!
I’ve always had an irrational fear of volcanoes. The thought of waves of molten lava engulfing towns, villages and people made me shudder.
You didn’t tell me we’d be sleeping next to a volcano! I texted Jennie
She told me off for being such a worrier. After all, we were going on holiday to relax.
As our date of departure in March drew closer, I popped in to see my mum to say goodbye.
“Look after yourself,” she made me promise.
I rolled my eyes, and gave her a hug.
She said: “Before I forget, I’ve got something for you.”
Mum waved a sheaf of paperwork in my direction. I was confused.
“I’ve sorted your holiday insurance, love,” she explained.
Getting insurance hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was sure I wouldn’t need it, even with a volcano just up the road. I tucked the papers safely in my bag though.
“Thanks Mum,” I said.
Just days later Jennie and I checked in at the airport. We couldn’t be happier to be jetting off for our sunshine break.
As soon as we stepped off the plane I felt a wave of humid, warm air wash over me.
This is ideal, I thought, the heat already relaxing my tired muscles.
We settled in at the hotel complex with plans to get up bright and early the next day to explore.
So, after a good night’s sleep we headed down to reception to get some tips of where to go.
“There’s a lovely beach just over the road,” the receptionist said.
“Sounds good to me,” I said.
My pale Scottish skin was ready for some sun, so I’d already pulled on some little shorts and a vest top.
We followed her directions and minutes later we stepped out onto the rocky shore.
“Ooh it’s the scary volcanic rock,” Jennie joked.
I said: “Don’t remind me.”
I’m a natural poser so I was soon mucking around on the stones as Jennie snapped away with her camera.
She gasped as I flipped up into a headstand, right by the water’s edge.
“Let’s get a nice picture now,” she said.
I wandered over to a bank of rocks stacked along the rear of the beach. Then I pulled myself up onto a big flat boulder.
I perched in a flirty pose with one hand on the rock beside me, while Jennie stepped back for a good shot.
“That’s a fantastic one,” she said.
“Your turn now,” I said.
I wriggled forward to hop down for my chance behind the camera.
Then, I felt the rock beneath my hand crumble away.
I barely had time to scream as the stone I’d been safely sitting on just moments before rocked forward.
Then the whole bank of rocks tumbled down on top of me.
I’m going to die, I thought.
Seconds later I opened my eyes to clouds of dust. My survival instincts kicked in and I dragged myself through the gap I’d landed in.
I knew there could be a second avalanche, and I didn’t want to be there when that happened. That’s when I collapsed, winded and covered in blood, at Jennie’s feet.
My left foot was turned inwards at a sickening angle, and my shin bone was poking out of my leg. I couldn’t even feel my foot.
Being a nurse, I knew this wasn’t good.
So, in a snap decision, I twisted my foot back into position to make sure the blood was still flowing.
Meanwhile, Jennie was just staring open-mouthed at me in utter shock.
“I think I’ve broken stuff,” I said. Then I started screaming.
A Spanish guy ran over to help. He pulled off his canvas backpack and pushed it down hard on my leg to stem the spurting blood.
Then an English firefighter who was there on holiday dashed across too.
“Just stay still, there’s an ambulance on the way,” he said. A crowd quickly gathered, with everyone trying to help.
There was a young woman pouring cold water over me to stop me going into shock. Others shared encouraging words, telling me to keep calm and reassuring me I’d be alright.
Then my vision went completely black and I battled to stay conscious until the ambulance arrived.
The firefighter helped to carefully shift me onto a spinal board. Then the paramedics injected me with morphine, and I drifted into a haze.
At the hospital doctors and nurses swarmed around me. I groaned in agony as they scrubbed at my wounds to clean the dirty volcanic dust away.
The pain was like nothing I had felt before. It was even worse than childbirth!
After x-rays I was diagnosed with a compound tibia and fibula fracture, and my pelvis was shattered in four places.
At least I’m alive, I told myself. Those rocks could have killed me.
Eventually my leg was splinted with a plaster cast and I was wheeled off to a bed on a ward. Jennie was still by my side, gripping my hand.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get in touch with your family,” she said.
That’s when I remembered the paperwork my mum had given me.
I said: “I’ve got travel insurance too. Can you call them?”
It’s a good job Mum is such a worrier after all, I thought.
For the next three days Jennie spent hours on the phone to the insurance company while I was laid up in bed.
It wasn’t the relaxing break either of us had imagined.
“Make sure you’re still working on your tan,” I said to Jennie.
I didn’t want her holiday to be ruined, just because my sunbathing plans had come crashing down.
She was by my side for visiting hours every single day though. Instead of cocktails and sunloungers, we had hospital drips and my big metal bed.
“At least we got a couple of holiday photos in first,” I said.
Jennie showed me that final picture on her camera.
It was strange seeing myself looking so happy, with no idea what would happen just seconds later.
I’d need surgery for my broken bones, but the waiting list was huge. So, the insurance company arranged for me to be transferred to a private hospital.
That’s where doctors discovered I had an internal bleed. They explained a shard of my pelvis had nicked an artery.
I had four pints of blood pumped into me, before I was rushed off for a lifesaving operation.
The surgeon fixed external frames to support my leg bones and my pelvis too.
Ten days later I was flown back to Scotland in an air ambulance.
My mum was so relieved to see me, and Danny crawled up onto the hospital bed to give me a big hug.
I spent another few weeks in hospital in Edinburgh, where I had another operation to permanently pin my leg into shape.
Within a week I was defying doctors’ expectations, hobbling around with a walking frame. They’d said I would be bed bound for six weeks.
Now, several months later, I’m still relying on crutches while my leg fully heals.
I knew that volcano would get me somehow, but I wasn’t expecting to be struck by an avalanche of rocks.
I’ll never forget my Lanzarote holiday – I’ve got Jennie’s beach photo to remind me!