Thursday, December 24, 2009

I don't see this on the itinerary

(Edit: I'll have a new post after the New Year, I am leaving this one as the most recent as I go through contacting everyone that wanted more info on the accident.)

It’s been one week since we left home for Africa and I am feeling surly. I have realized that I am not used to traveling in a group, so I go to the bar to have a beer to get my psyche in a more amiable place. I let the group sort out the transportation options while I throw down some drinks to get over my control issues (i.e. I am used to being the planner/leader of a trip and have trouble acclimating to a scenario where someone else is calling the shots.)

Two beers later, my wife comes in to inform me that, rather than wait for a van that can take all seven of us to the restaurant, three went ahead in a cab that will turn around and come right back and pick up the remaining four.

Shortly after, we are in the cab that will take us the 15 or so blocks to the restaurant. I love talking to cab drivers because they always seem to really have their finger on the pulse of the city. I make small talk asking him how he likes it, what he thinks of the streets, and what his favorite neighborhoods are.

Then, something goes wrong. My brain recognizes that entering the intersection we are about to cross is a car that shouldn’t be there. My mouth makes a sound of confusion along the lines of ‘Ummmmmm….’ and there is a loud crunching sound as the vehicles collide. My muscle memory from years of skateboarding kicks in, my body instinctively thinks “Don’t try and stop yourself, go limp and roll.” My right shoulder hits the dash and I roll upwards until the right side of my head cracks the windshield. My left side from my shoulder down goes instantly numb.

I am lying in the fetal position in my seat assessing the damage. I wiggle my toes, wiggle my fingers, blink my eyes and turn my neck back and forth slightly. I hear my wife yell “Are you ok?! Say something!” and feel pins and needles as feeling comes back into my left arm. I say “I am ok.”, stand up, and get out of the cab. There is a hospital nearby and medics that happened to be exiting the building come sprinting over. They convince me to sit back down, one talks to me while the other holds my neck stationary with her hand. Soon, an ambulance arrives and they say they want to take me to the hospital. After disagreeing and saying I just want to go back to the hotel one of them says, “Look, you might have a compression fracture and, although you feel fine now, in a couple of hours you could just fall over and not be able to walk again. I’d feel a lot better if you would have an x-ray just to be sure.” I think back to the EMT blogs that I read and how he is manipulating me by phrasing it as ‘doing him a favor’ since I am not in the mood to do myself a favor. However, I know he’s right, so I agree.


They lower me to the ground onto a trauma board (a plank, basically.) put me on a gurney, immobilize me and roll me into the ambulance. The medic steps outside to explain to everyone what is going to happen next and I get claustrophobic as I realize I can’t look around or move at all. I breathe deep and think calm thoughts. Soon we are driving to the hospital and I start joking about how I am glad we had the crash since the trip is all about me now. The medic whips out his cell phone and starts taking a video of me talking all about it.

At the hospital, they admit me and give me something for the pain. Things get pretty fuzzy at that point. I remember telling the nurse that being forced to look at the ceiling for hours has caused me to see things in the stains – sort of like watching the clouds and identifying what they look like to you. He acknowledges that the pain medication has obviously kicked in. After being on the trauma board for over two hours I wrote a song about it, the lyrics were:

I just want to get off of this trauma board
I think I’m going to go out of my gourd
All I want is to go home and have a beer


Things sorted out pretty quickly after that. X-ray showed no fractures, they gave me some pills and a neck brace to wear for a day and sent me on my way.

All things considered, I was very fortunate. No seatbelts worked in the cab, so it’s very possible it could have been much worse. People ask if it ruined the rest of my holiday and I really don’t think so. It definitely changed it since I was walking through a haze of codeine and muscle relaxers.

One thing is for sure: My wife now has incontrovertible proof that I am hard-headed.

4 comments:

Leanna said...

Wow I'm so glad you are ok.

I don't know what's up with you and car accidents but whatever it is that you are doing seems to be working *HUGS*

King of New York Hacks said...

Indeed , very glad you are ok , and as a former EMT, and a few time car accident victim, you certainly did the right thing in going to get some beer away from the group. ;-) I also like to be in charge. LOL Have a very Merry Christmas my friend.
-Edward

Rachel Cotterill said...

Wow, that's really not what you want on any holiday! I'm glad you were okay.

Also, I know what you mean about being in control... I've never yet been on a group trip, I enjoy all the planning too much!

Chris @ ATravelAroundTheWorld.com said...

Wow,this is a good story!( Well, it is good just because you are ok).
However I think the best pain killer is a cold beer :-)