Karen Darke’s book, ‘If You Fall… It’s a new Beginning’ is the true story of her fight back to health after an horrific climbing accident. The description of her recovery is graphic but heart-rending. She deals with the difficult physical journey back to health, albeit paralysed from the chest down, with stoicism and determination.
However this is only part of what Karen’s story is about. She describes how she needed to push herself hard, needed to take risks as a way of feeling alive; it was however, this need that caused the climbing accident which resulted in her catastrophic loss of mobility. However this need did not stop when she lost the use of her legs, she found other ways to push herself to her physical limits. One adventure was to cycle, with three friends, in a specially modified bike, across the Karakoram mountains, at the western end of the Himalaya. This involved cycling through part of China and then into Pakistan, wild-camping and eating basic food. Despite setbacks the four achieved their aim.
Karen continued to push herself physically and made progress in her career as a geologist in the oil industry. However, there still seemed to be something missing; no matter how she pushed herself she still felt dissatisfied with the result.
Over a period of time, she began to understand that she had never come to terms with her disability and by being so stoical just after the accident and during the fight back to health, she had never allowed others to understand what had gone on in her internal. She desperately missed as a result of her disability, climbing mountains and being part of nature and found it difficult to come to terms with this in particular.
This realisation took Karen on a new, completely different journey, to come to terms with the person she was. She wanted to walk again and tried alternatives to western medicine, to do this. While this did not make any real difference to her condition, it did help her to find some peace.
In the end, Karen decided to give up the lucrative job she had and do something closer to her heart which allowed her to help others and to be involved in outdoor pursuits.
This is a book which makes you wonder how you would cope if you were in the same situation. Karen’s rehabilitation was painful and long and I can’t help wondering whether in the end that the mental re-adjustment she had to go through was more difficult. I cannot imagine this was an easy book to write, but then again one thing Karen Darke is not not lacking is courage.
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