Fell runner greeted with birthday surprise after returning to the scene of her incident

Nicky Ridley, from Milnthorpe, suffered multiple seizures while fell running near Loadpot Hill in Cumbria. Thankfully her husband was with her at the time, as they were taking part in the Lakes Mountain 42, and three people running nearby also stopped to help.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) flew to the scene and assessed and treated Nicky before airlifting her to hospital – to read the original story about Nicky’s incident click here.

She is still recovering, but last year on the day of her birthday she made her way back to the scene of the incident with her husband, friends, and the people who stopped to help her, where she was greeted with a lovely surprise.

In her own words, this is how she celebrated turning 41.

“It was the three people that stopped to help my husband, Dave, Karen and Sandra with Ian as support. They had arranged a trip back up to Loadpot fell as I was terrified about going back up there.

We had arranged to meet at Pooley Bridge at 5am ready to set off to be at Loadpot at sunrise but little did I know what they had planned…

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I was there with my closest friends Laura, Paula and Patty joining me for support. Dave led the walk and seeing how nervous I was he kept me talking! I wasn’t fully fit so sometimes struggled to keep up but not one person complained, just full of joys being on an adventure. Everyone took it in turns to keep me talking, Karen and Sandra were doing like a relay.

As we came near Loadpot Dave took me under his wing and talked me to the top! I was doing it, I was getting there!

On approaching the top I noticed a light, I asked if there was a race on, they looked at me and said I don’t think so. As we got closer I noticed the lights twinkling and my eyes started filling up then they all started singing Happy Birthday.

When we got to the cairn these amazing people pulled cake and non-alcoholic G&T and champagne! It is a day in my life I will never forget and amazing people with me.

COVID-19: With your help we will fly on

Dave was giving us little stories on the way round making us laugh and Karen and Sandra were helping me fill in little blanks from the day. I was so pleased to have met them that day and my husband and I weren’t alone on that fell.

I then found out that all four of them had gone on to the fell in the early hours to wrap the cairn and then climbed in to bed as we were getting up at 3:30am. They truly are amazing people.”

Planning the surprise

Dave, a fireman, Karen, a sports therapist, and Sandra, owner of a food company, were taking part in the Lakes Mountain 42, when Nicky and her husband Chris passed them.

Unfortunately Nicky then collapsed and had several seizures and the group forfeited the race to help.

They tried to keep Nicky warm and talking while she was going in and out of consciousness, and Chris went to get help.

Dave, who is a former Royal Marines Commando, is well known for wearing pink outfits after he wore one at a Royal Marines Christmas party and a man said “blokes don’t wear pink.” His friend who was with him said: “Dave can wear absolutely anything he likes!” and it’s stuck ever since, so that’s why you can see him in pink leggings and a tutu.

Here’s a short write-up from Dave about the preparations for Nicky’s birthday.

“It’s a shame it was so cold in the morning cause I was just going to wear my pink leotard but it was toooooo cold!

That was such an adventure, loved it. Been planning it for ages, initially trying to get the measurements for the trig so I could make a gold cover but ran out of time, so just ordered loads of gold material that then didn’t turn up as promised so didn’t leave home until late on Friday and then was in traffic for hours, stuck in so many places!

Got to Pooley Bridge at about 22:50 and called Sandra who said they were in the pub and would I like a pint cause it was last orders, told her I need to get up the hill, so they all supped up their ale and came up the hill with me, it was snowing, I didn’t find the path so took them across open fell on a compass bearing, promising them that the path would eventually be found!

I’d been talking with Stu cause I thought the fairy lights would be awesome but then panicked that someone would call mountain rescue if they saw lights up on the hill.

We made little waterproof heated bags for the batteries for the lights using hand warmers to try and keep the batteries charged all night in the cold. Laura gave me all Nicky’s dietary and drinking preferences.

It was freezing up on Loadpot at whatever stupid time it was when I finally got us up there. And then we got back to the vans about 40 minutes before we were supposed to meet everyone in Pooley Bridge.

The morning was perfect (apart from too cold for me to just wear my pinks!)

The final climb up to Loadpot, where I got Nicky to take the lead and walk the whole group up there was just perfect, Nicky’s face was a picture that I will carry around with me forever.

It is one of my best ever days out on the fells, and I’ve had some absolute cracking days out there but I will never ever forget that day.

Seeing the transformation in Nicky from the girl we met down in Pooley Bridge to the girl that confidently strode off the hill made every single bit of effort so worthwhile. It was so perfect, absolutely amazing.”

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