Sunday, April 11, 2010

Motorcycle Accident

The day after we got back from Japan, I had to be at the university bright and early to teach my 8:00 class. Of course, I woke up a little late, and I asked Yuni if he could drive me over. He was still half-asleep and wanting to roll over and go back to sleep, so he just chided me for being too cheap to pay a substitute and take the day off. But I was paying 2/3 of all the expenses for a household of 13, and I couldn’t afford to do that. Since his discharge from the army, 20 months prior to this, Yuni had been tired and surly. His dad had tried to get him to shoulder a married man’s responsibility in the household, but he claimed he was not yet ready. So I had continued doing what I had done while he was in the army and was contributing for both of us.




I hurried downstairs and got out my motorcycle. It was surprisingly light. I shook it. There was the sound of liquid sloshing, which did not bode well for me. I opened the gas tank. There was about 1/8th of an inch of gasoline covering the deep sides of the bottom. The raised center was bone dry. There was just enough for me to get to class but not back. Or I could rush to the gas station and be a few minutes late to class. Since I was not looking forward to pushing the motorcycle all the way to the gas station after class, I hopped on and zoomed off. I filled up and went speeding along the road through the rice paddies to get to the university. The rice was just about ready for harvesting, and there were huge clumps of pampas grass at the corner of each paddy. The roads criss-crossed between the paddies, and there was no visibility at any of the corners. I made a left turn onto a narrow road just as a car coming from the other direction made a left turn onto that same road from the next street parallel to the one I had turned off of. Neither of us could see the other because of the clusters of tall grass surrounding each intersection. There was a little old man on a decrepit moped chugging along down the opposite side of the road from me. The car saw him and turned directly into my lane to pass him. The car was moving very quickly. I had a split second to decide if I was going to become a pancake or hit the sweet old man. I quickly swerved out of my lane, squeezed my brakes so hard both cables broke and aimed for the old man’s back tire so I wouldn’t injure him. My motorcycle and I bounced back from hitting the old man, slammed against the rear passenger door of the speeding car and then fell to the ground. As I was trying to jump clear of my bike so I didn’t bash my helmetless head, my knee got caught up in the motorcycle and smashed against the pavement. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t put any weight on my leg. So I sat there in the middle of the road with my motorcycle pressing on my leg.



A number of people were at the Earth God’s Temple a block up the road. They came out when they heard me slam against the car door, but when they saw I was white, they were afraid to come over. When I didn’t get up, two men came over and pulled my motorcycle off me. Then they waited for me to get up as they scolded me for sitting in the puddle of leaked gasoline. I told them that my leg would not work. When they heard that I spoke Chinese, they were relieved. They called to one of the women to run home and get a little washing stool for me. The two men half-dragged me to the side of the road and set me on the stool beside my motorcycle. I gave them our home phone number, and asked them to call to have someone come get me. I also asked them to have my husband call the university and tell them I would not be coming to class that day.

And then I settled down to wait. I was less than ten minutes from home, but an hour later, when the last worshipper was ready to leave the Earth God’s temple, I was still sitting beside the road. He went to his house and came back with a car. We left the motorcycle at the Earth God’s temple so it would not get stolen, and my Good Samaritan drove me home. I got home just as Yuni was pulling in. He had been searching for me at all the Earth God’s temples on the other side of the university. The man told him that he had clearly stated the street name. Yuni just looked miserable and said that he had been too nervous to hear clearly. Pa and the man bundled me from the man’s car to the back of the van, and Yuni rushed me off to the closest hospital.



I arrived at the same time as two ambulances. One held a dying woman and the other held a man whose hand had been almost completely severed in a factory machine. Based on triage, I came last. Two and a half hours later, two interns came over and told me that they were going to put a cast on my leg because all the doctors were working on the man with the severed hand. They said the x-ray showed a slight fracture just below the knee. Then they wrapped the cast from the knee down my leg and sent me home. They worked quickly because the emergency room had to clear cases within three hours according to that hospital’s policy. They gave me a follow up visit the next day in the hospital’s orthopedic out-patient clinic.



Yuni bought some crutches at the hospital supply store next door to the hospital, and I went home. Whenever I put my foot down, my toes turned black, and the cast was very tight. I went to the clinic the next day, and the doctor gave me diuretics. The following day was Wednesday, and I had three classes at the Gloria English School. I went to teach them, and my toes got really swollen and black. One of my American colleagues had a sports med-tech degree. He asked a lot of questions and then told me that the cast had been wrapped backwards and was cutting off circulation. He told the school’s owners that if I didn’t get the cast cut off, I could lose my leg. The owners found a substitute, and I had Pa and Yuni come pick me up. They took me home and cut off the cast with a tile saw.



That evening Pa made several phone calls. He found the best Chinese medicine martial arts specialist in Chungli and pleaded until he got me an emergency appointment that night. The doctor felt my leg and manipulated it. I told him that the x-ray had shown just a slight fracture. He said that in his opinion the entire joint was damaged on the inside. He gave us two names of the top knee surgeons in Taiwan. One was at the same hospital where I had had my children. Despite the problems giving birth to Peace, I thought that they did have my records, and if the surgery was planned liked the twins’ birth had been, I would do all right there. First thing the next morning we made an appointment with the hospital. That surgeon was booked for the next month, but the department told us to come and get the MRI and other tests ordered. If the test results were severe enough, the surgeon would make room for me. So I took the first appointment available, which was the following week. Then I settled down to embrace the pain of an unsupported broken leg and knee.

11 comments:

Cloudia said...

Wow, I didn't know you were a fellow biker. You are brave!

BTW, have you seen "Formosa Betrayed"?

Love to hear your take on it.

Aloha from Waikiki


Comfort Spiral

Teresa said...

Hi Cloudia,

I'm not sure I'd classify myself as a "biker." It was just easier to get around on my little 50cc motorcycle. It wasn't exactly a scooter like a Vespa or Piaggio, nor was it a full-grown bike like a Hogg or a Yamaha. But it got me to and from work and to the market, and I enjoyed it.

Not sure I was brave, either. I had three babies waiting at home, and I was not ready to become a pancake. That instant stretched out into eternity from the time I opted to crash into the old man on the moped until my knee slammed down on the ground. But I'm sure it was less than 30 seconds. But I was crystal clear about each thing I had to do to survive. It was very interesting. The nightmares didn't start until much, much later.

Teresa said...

PS to Cloudia,

I have not seen "Formosa Betrayed." It sounds like another film to add to the Netflix queue. I just finished watching "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Chocolate". Both were quite interesting. "Chocolate" is a Thai film about an autistic daughter of a Thai gangster moll and a Japanese Yakusa boss. Very interesting, but the violence is quite real. The outtakes at the end are painful to watch.

murat11 said...

This felt very painful: not just the excruciating physical pain: it feels like the heart is sore, too.

murat11 said...
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murat11 said...

Hey, Teresa: No mystery on my deletion on the second comment: my first comment was simply printed twice. Mea culpa.

Teresa said...

Hi Murat,

You are astute. I think this accident ended my wild and carefree youth.

Joshua said...
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Joshua said...
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Teresa said...

You didn't give me nightmares or end my carefree youth. You just chose to sleep in.

The person who gave me nightmares was the driver of the car, who drove so recklessly, he or she didn't even realize there had been an accident.

That person and the incompetent doctors in the emergency room ended my carefree youth.

Joshua said...
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