Leyland fell-runner says her dogs saved her life after she fell in remote location and broke her kneecap during Storm Gareth

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A fell runner who suffered serious leg injuries on remote moorland was saved after her two dogs barked for help.

Pita Oates, a fell runner of eight years, took her two Border Collies – eight-month-old pup Buddy and 18-month-old Merlyn – with her for a quick three-mile run from White Coppice cricket ground up Great Hill on Anglezarke Moor.

Pita Oates with Buddy and Merlyn

Pita Oates with Buddy and Merlyn

Pita explained: “I set off from White Coppice cricket ground up towards Great Hill. It’s only a three miler; a quick one and a good one for the dogs to run freely in the countryside.”
But it wasn’t long before disaster struck.

“We were crossing through a wall and being excitable Buddy was chasing Merlyn and it was just a freak accident and impact where I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Pita, 48, explained.

“I just dropped to the ground in agony.”

The incident on Tuesday, March 12 saw Pita break the femur behind her left knee, tear both her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) – and dislocate the knee itself.

Fell runner Pita Oates

Fell runner Pita Oates

She was around one mile up from the cricket ground, so she came up with a plan to shuffle down.

“I started to shuffle down but my knee kept banging into the ground,” she explained.

“So I used the dog lead around my neck and ankle to suspend it in the air so it stayed off the ground.

“For the first time in weeks there was no one in sight.

Buddy and Merlyn

Buddy and Merlyn

“It was at the back end of Storm Gareth so the wind was horrendous.

“I even saw some head torches in the distance as well but they could hear none of my shouts because the wind was too high.”

In one and a half hours she had moved three-quarters of a mile – by which time it was completely dark which it being roughly 7pm.

“I thought I was going to die.

Pita and her husband

Pita and her husband

“I’m not ashamed to say that,” Pita, from Walmer Bridge, near Leyland, explained.

The qualified social worked added: “The one time you want someone to walk by they don’t – and with the wind as bad as it was...I told myself ‘keep moving’ or you aren’t getting down from here until the morning and by that time, it’ll be too late.”

Fear also set in regarding pup Merlyn’s whereabouts, with the canine having ran off and not returned.

“Usually they are really good and always come back but on this particular day I didn’t see Merlyn coming back and I got a little bit anxious.

“I thought I could be lose my dog,” she explained.

During that time, though, Buddy never left Pita’s side.

And then when they were 600 metres from the bottom of the fell, Buddy started barking uncontrollably.

“He just started really loudly and wouldn’t stop,” Pita explained.

It quickly turned out that he was barking to Merlyn, who had found a local dog walker.

“I could just tell [the dog walker] had heard something but wasn’t sure what it was.

“Then it all got into action when I was found.”

After dialling 999 through the Good Samaritan dog walker, a team of 18 paramedics and Bowland and Bolton mountain rescue volunteers were sent to rescue Pita.

It was at this point Pita started slipping in and out of consciousness with hypothermia.

“I was sent straight to resus at RPH [Royal Preston Hospital] because I was quite hypothermic.

“I then had an x-ray and spent a week in orthopedics with plates put in my knee along with 24 staples.”

Pita is now recovering at home after spending eight days at Royal Preston Hospital.

“I am just in awe of the paramedics and the mountain rescue team,” Pita said.

“I would like to thank the local residents who gave up time and supported the paramedics and mountain rescue teams, but also for their blankets, coats, hat and scarf.

“I will never take anything for granted, least of all the hard work and diligence of staff within the NHS, volunteers who give up their time and without question.”

Pita’s problem rose from not taking a mobile phone or a head torch with her on the run, something she says she “never does”.

“I was absolutely stupid,” she said.

“I always take one so I don’t understand why I didn’t.”

She pleaded to make sure others take note of her decision not to take one and to learn from her mistakes.

And to say thank you Pita has now organised the 10km Joe’s Cup Hill Race from Brinscall cricket ground to raise money for the mountain rescue teams that saved her life.

++ For more information or to take part visit the website http://www.fellrunner.org.uk/races.php?id=6258.