I do have many Christmas memories, most of which are very happy and fun (and I will tell you all about them in another post), but today I am going to tell you about a Christmas that I won’t ever forget. It happened 4 years ago today.
On December 5, 2005, I was in a car accident that left me with a fractured arm (in 5 places), a gash on my right cheek, a sprained ankle, and on crutches for the whole season. There were 7 of us in the car but only 2 got hurt, and I was least hurt. The boy in the seat in front of me was knocked unconscious, had severe head injuries, and to this day has no recollection of the accident. The others made it out without injury.
We were returning to Bangalore after a trip to Goa. Part of the road in Goa winds through the mountains and you can’t see around the curves. We were in a brand new Toyota Innova and got hit on the drivers’ side (that is the right here in India). What happened was, a truck, one of those huge shipping trucks that are common here, was parked on the road. There was no side to the road so the driver had left it parked on the road where the oncoming traffic was. Things like this are common, so no one would think much of it.
Another similar truck was coming from the other direction and we couldn’t see it. Our driver swerved in time to avoid a head-on collision, but the truck ripped through the car from the passenger door behind the driver all the way out the back. The boy who got hurt was sitting in front of me and had fallen asleep with his head on the window. That is why he got hit so hard. He was also not wearing a seat belt, so was thrown to the side when we got hit. I was awake and wearing a seat belt, but somehow the force of the impact caused me to get hurt.
As soon as the truck hit us, our car spun around 360 degrees for a whole spin (maybe two). The roof rack with all our luggage was ripped off and bags went everywhere. Windows were blown out. My glasses went flying. A necklace I was wearing broke off and I never found it again. Next to the boy who got hurt were two younger children. Of course seeing him get knocked out and his head bleeding freaked them out and they were both screaming.
Once the car stopped, the driver got out to assess the damage. The children’s mother got them out and brushed shards of glass off of them, while the girl who had been lying down and sleeping next to me (and didn’t get hurt at all) climbed over the seat to check on the boy. After rounding up the luggage and finding out where the local hospital was, we slowly drove off.
I picked up my glasses, but since the glass was out of them, they were useless to me. I left them on the seat as we arrived at the tiny local clinic. People surrounded the car right away, mostly of curiosity, as is so common during an accident here. Then the doctor arrived along with a few other people. The right side of the car was so dented that the roof was pushed onto the seat and the door could not open, so they pulled the boy out from the other side and onto a stretcher.
Then it was my turn. The only way out of the back was to climb over the seat in front. At that time, I knew I was injured but I didn’t know how badly. Moving was painful, but I had to get myself out. I slowly stepped out, and someone, trying to help me into the wheelchair, put their hand on my right shoulder and I screamed from the pain. I was wheeled into a small room to await treatment.
While the others took care of the many details that come with an accident and injuries, I was in a small room with several doctors and assistants. I should mention that this hospital was so “local” that everyone was barefooted and the floor was cement. Once person washed the glass from my eyes and face, and stitched up the gash in my cheek. Then came the x-rays. They tried to get me to stand up for a full-body x-ray, but I couldn’t stand without feeling faint, so they got as many as they could while I was lying down. I told them where I was hurting and they x-rayed that part. But I had to stand for them to x-ray my shoulder and I nearly did faint. Once that was done, I was moved to another room.
Meanwhile they were trying to figure out how to help the unconscious boy. This clinic was so small that they didn’t have any of what he desperately needed, and it was so out of the way that they had to send back to Goa for an ambulance, which only arrived a few hours later. After a while, the boy was moved into the room I was in, followed by a senior doctor and a group of nursing students. They stood around while the doctor shaved the boy’s head and stitched the large gash that he had. They also cut his clothes off so they could check the rest of his body for injuries.
After he was cared for, I got a plaster cast put on my arm and it helped me feel better. I remember needing to use the toilet by this time, and struggling with my jeans, having only one good hand to use.
Once the ambulance arrived, we were moved into it, and everyone else got in too. We were heading back to Goa, to take the boy to a better-equipped hospital. His parents were called and they were able to meet us there. I stayed in Goa for about a week, slowly recovering at the home of some people I didn’t know, while the boy was in critical condition in the hospital. Soon I was able to get a flight back to Bangalore and rest at home, but I spent the whole Christmas season hobbling on a crutch. My left foot was sprained, as was my right shoulder, and my right arm and hand were in a cast. At least I was still able to get around. But it was a rather painful Christmas.
Here I am all bashed up. My fingers and foot turned all shades of purple before they healed. The little girl is Sakshi. I was her nanny for 3 years. This was taken after I got home, not more than 2 weeks after the accident.
After a short time, I found that my arm was swelling under the cast, so I went to a doctor and he cut the cast, then later had me come for a new one. The new one was one of those molded ones that is soft when they wrap it but then hardens. I had to wear the cast for 9 weeks because some of the smallest bones in my hand were fractured. They take longer to heal because there is less blood flow to them than to other bones.
Because of this, I learned to do many things with my left hand that I wasn’t able to do before, such as writing and putting on makeup. I can’t do those things now as I stopped practicing once the cast came off, but I got pretty good at it out of necessity.
It took me years to get over the fear of traveling on the highway here. Even now I am uncomfortable on the highway. I never ride in the front seat while on the highway, only the back.
And in case you are wondering, this boy, who was 15 at the time, made a full recovery. Only a few months after he was released from the hospital in Bangalore (where he was moved to since that was where his parents were living), he went back to the hospital in Goa, where the doctors had been convinced he wasn’t going to make it, and sang for them. (He is a singer and musician.) The nurses cried, so happy to see someone they had fought for make it.
While that wasn’t one of my happier Christmases it sure is memorable.