TRAVEL

How I Sustained A Spinal Cord Injury in the Himalayas

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Sebastian Westin

The Footstep That Changed Everything

In early 2015, I quit my job, terminated my apartment lease and pushed through all the fear to live like a true backpacker. The first days after arriving in India were fearful, it was dark and we were in the wrong hoods. We overpaid a taxi to take us to our destination, a monastery in the far north. That's where we spent the upcoming two months, until one night. We slept in monasteries and hammocks because this was a hammock night. We walked on a narrow path towards a waterfall, our sleep-crib for the night. I slipped and fell seven meters before landing on a rock. I was unconscious for a few seconds while rolling downwards. I woke up a few meters from another 10m fall, my backpack was stuck in the ground which stopped my speeding downhill.

Rescued in the Himalayas

When I woke up my legs were feeling numb, I directed my focus on the beautiful night sky I had above me. At around 3,000 meters of altitude the sky is amazing. It's a living art with shining stars and planets. I felt peaceful with this focus. I had two friends with me who did everything they could to get help for me, there, far from everything on a cliff in the Himalayas. They found a group of Indians and an ambulance which came to my rescue. All the paramedics could do was bring a stretcher to the path, but not down to the rock where I was. "We have to take a leap of faith" I said. A big Indian guy carried me on his back, with four people holding me so I wouldn't lose my grip when we climbed upwards. Next up, the six amigos carried me on the stretcher. "Duuuuudes, I'm falling!" Those exact words came out of my mouth a few times. It was not an easy path back to the village where an old van with a red cross painted on the side waited for us.

First we arrived to a small cement garage, it was like entering the devil's little cellar. There was a family, screaming in torture because a family member had just passed away. The nurse came with a big needle, my friend asked what it was. "Don't you trust us?" she replied, with an evil grin. Nope. We had to x-ray my back, so we bounced into another van painted with a red cross. This time, the van couldn't be ignited by key so they rolled it backwards down a steep. Our heads banged into the backdoor of the van while they tried to get the engine started, they succeeded the second try and we were on our way to a public hospital. Two x-rays and 40 hours later without a clue of what was going to happen a doctor came. "Hey dude, I could do this surgery for you, but I recommend you to go somewhere else," said the doctor. We took his advice, and my friend was on the phone for hours. After almost not getting a flight to Delhi where the good hospital was placed, we finally boarded a plane to pick us up. I underwent surgery in Delhi and laid there for a week, a fun week, because me and my friends kept high spirits (the Tibetan monks taught us A LOT about the mind & truth). Our flight home was on a regular Finnish passenger plane. I was happy I spoke Finnish because we almost were denied seats back home.

Back in Sweden the rehab began. Life is full of surprises, I think we can overcome and grow from everything as long as we have faith. I hope you enjoyed reading a short version of how I became paralyzed, written in my third language. I am still a complete TH-12 paraplegic with a spinal cord injury. I use a wheelchair to move myself around.  Bless all you warriors!  <3 Sebastian "Loopwhoop" Westin

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