Emma Collins

For the first time in my 44 years on this earth I needed to call 999 for myself in 2021.

It was the beginning of May and a beautiful, warm, spring day. I’d had a good night’s sleep and felt full of energy so I knew where I wanted to take the dogs for a walk. One of the dogs is mine and the other is a permanent foster dog with my best friend, who I care for. Both dogs are spaniels and are rescues and I walk one on a long line or lead.

The walk I had chosen was one of my favourites. It has a wood that at this time of year was full of bluebells and wild garlic, it has a stream running through it which the dogs love and some beautiful views of the Sussex countryside. I love walking; it’s easy for me to do, it boosts my mental health, and since 2020 it’s helped me lose over two stone in weight.

I walked through the fields following a public footpath and down into the woods. There was a steep path at the beginning so I made the dog on the lead walk behind me as I didn’t want him to pull me over. As I got deeper into the woods I took time to stop and enjoy the heady smell of the bluebells and the rich scent of the wild garlic – there’s nothing quite like both those smells in late springtime.

We came to a path that led down to the stream, my dog ran on ahead and to the opposite bank where he knew I’d throw the ball for him. The other dog was on a harnessed flexi-lead which was unlocked to allow him to run on ahead a bit too. I was keeping a close eye on him as if he became wrapped around a tree, I knew he would panic and manage to slip out of his harness.

It hadn’t been raining but the ground was moist from the morning dew. There was a slim, long branch that had fallen and had partially sunk into the ground. As I was watching the leaded dog I wasn’t paying attention to where I was stepping; as I thought I was stepping over the branch, I stepped on it, and being damp my foot, slipped off and into a hole that was the exact size of my foot.

I heard the crack of my bones breaking

I think I dropped the flexi-lead at this point as I saw the foster dog run with the lead bumping behind him. I looked down and saw my right foot was at a complete right angle to my body, thinking “that’s not good!”

I knew I had to get a hold of that lead as if the dog crossed to the other side of the stream he would be lost forever. Now, I have no medical training other than basic first aid, but I knew that a dislocated ankle isn’t a good thing. I knew that if it was left for too long there was a real risk that I could lose the foot, so I grabbed my trainer and pulled it back into position. I collapsed with the pain, I think, as I found myself on the ground.

I then bum-shuffled over to the handle of the flexi-lead and grabbed hold of it for dear life. I knew I was in an area with no phone signal, I also knew it was quite remote so finding me was going to be difficult. So I started shouting for help as loud as I possibly could.

By luck there was a lovely family walking nearby and their eldest son came skidding to a halt by me, I handed him the lead and told him to hold onto it and to not let go!

I got out my phone to see that I could make emergency calls only – which was good enough for me! I called the emergency services and started crying my eyes out, which I think was down to shock. The operator asked for my location and I used what3words to pinpoint exactly where we were. The words were tilt, tiredness, emulating. I didn’t think it would’ve worked without having phone signal but it did!

Within 15-20 minutes we heard the helicopter from KSS above us

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a helicopter in my life! The team from KSS were so lovely and listened to me as I explained what had happened and what medication I was on.  The family that first found me said they’d take the dogs back to my best friend who lived in the nearest village (though my dog didn’t want to leave me!) A few minutes later two paramedic teams from SECAmb arrived to help as well. I was quite far down near the stream and they needed to get me up a hill, along a narrow, root-riddled path (about 500 yards) and on to an ambulance.

There were six emergency service workers, including the doctor and paramedic from KSS

They worked together to lift me in a hammock and then wheel me to the ambulance. It was decided that I didn’t need to go in the helicopter as fortunately my injuries weren’t life-threatening. I wasn’t in serious danger so a helicopter ride wasn’t on the cards for me much to my disappointment. Using a hammock, the six emergency services staff carried me up to a waiting stretcher and then wheeled me and carried me over trunks and roots to the ambulance.

I was taken to Pembury Hospital by SECAmb, where I had emergency surgery to fix my ankle with four screws. They rebuilt me a new tendon too.

I was discharged two days later back to my best friend as her home is fully adapted for a disabled person and I was on strict bed rest for three weeks.

I never thought I’d have to use 999 or what3words, but I was so glad that I had it installed on my phone as it meant that KSS and the ambulances knew my exact location. I now tell everyone I meet to download it as you never know what you might need it for!


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