Tuesday evening was going fine…I got a call from a Cameroonian that he was coming to see me at home, so I left the office and hopped on my bike. The guard opened the gate and I whizzed down the dirt road towards the main road. I jumped a small bump, and pulled left to leap over a larger one…that was a stupid move. After a bit of swerving and sliding to stay on the road, I tumbled off at high speed and barreled towards the fast-approaching gravel.
A moment later, I had pulled my bike off the road and in front of Josué’s little shop. I was hyperventilating, but standing. I sat on one of the empty veggie shelves to catch my stolen breath and take stock of the situation. If I hadn’t stopped the hyperventilating, I probably would have passed out.
By now, there was a small crowd of neighborly onlookers gawking and talking, and up came Francis, whom I had just passed while I was still in a reasonable and appropriate bike-riding posture. OK…first things first…gotta call my wife. [Ring…ring…ring]…hmph. Moving on to the second thing…getting home. Frances offered to get one of the group vehicles to take me home…all three fourths of a mile, and then went up the hill to do just that. Another colleague, Zach, came down the hill, and I asked him to take my bike (which looked no worse for wear) back up to the center and chain it somewhere inside.
Breathing clearly and thinking steadily (or some combination of those things), I started a semi-meticulous self-examination that spanned from delightfully wiggling fingers to surprisingly sturdy legs. My head didn’t hit anything, nothing was broken, and there was no gushing blood, but the gravel had torn me up quite a bit, especially my forearms. As I was communicating with all of the people around me in French, apparently my French bone was intact, too. Francis arrived, and we started my homeward descent, this time with 4 sturdy tires below me and a little less speed. Along the way Teresa called back (I had woken here with the first call) and I related enough of the story to prepare her.
Frances turned me over to my wife’s care, and the next stages began: clean the wounds and decide whether I needed further care.
Still thinking I was gonna pull through without medical attention, I wanted to shower and wash the dirt off and out of the injuries, but Teresa opted for a more targeted approach. Teresa helped me to change clothes, we called a couple of neighbors to bring their first-aid kits, and she stood back as Andreas donned gloves, rinsed the scrapes with filtered water, and soaked me with antibiotic spray (that stuff that stings). Ron stood by just in case I passed out. From Andreas’ surprised exclamation when looking at my elbow, it was pretty clear that I’d be going to the hospital that evening. The knee might heal on its own, but I had two holes from the gravel in my forearm near my elbow. We had access to our vehicle, but needed a driver that knew how to get to the Jordan Clinic, our preferred emergency room. We knew Nathaniel knew the way and Ron called him. Teresa packed a bag with a change of clothes, ID, money, water, ibuprofen and some extra medical supplies. A few minutes later, we were on our way. Traffic was surprisingly light, and we made it to the north side of town in less than half an hour. While Nathaniel tried to find parking (which apparently was a story in itself), Teresa and I went inside. We were now an hour and a half after the accident.
The nurse put a thermometer under my armpit, and insisted on asking Teresa my identity questions and shushing me. While I knew that it was bad protocol to speak with a thermometer in my mouth, the same restriction in this case seemed a bit odd. Frankly, I was proud to show off that I had the presence of mind to respond to such questions. Hmph! From triage, we moved to a small hallway outside of the doctor’s office and I sat beside another gentleman. He asked me how I was doing, and I admitted that this wasn’t the evening I had planned, but it could have been much worse. I’m pretty sure that someone told me later that he was the head of the clinic.
After a few looks at the untreated knee (the elbow was still covered), he found a room with a chair for me, and a nurse arrived to set out the first batch of supplies. I asked her name, and it was Gabrielle. The feminine form of an angelic name…I told her that was an appropriate name for a nurse. She was ready to take off the bandage we’d put on at home, so I took off my shirt to keep it from getting bloody. After she had [very] gently peeled off the bandage, the doctor and his assistant came back for his examination. I would need stitches to close two holes on my left elbow and one scrape on my knee. Gabrielle went off in search of a stretcher/bed, and then I moved to it so I could lie down for the next part. They sent Teresa down the hall to the pharmacy with a list (this is normal procedure here).
As the doctor and assistant scrubbed the wounds I discussed the accident, the jersey the doctor was wearing under his coat, and how, all things considered, I was blessed that things weren’t worse. The nurse from before nudged her way through the curtain, and I heard her exclaim, “Let me through, I’m his angel!” Through this, the pain never did get as bad as the spray had been at the house. When they got ready to stitch, it was time for the anaesthetic, a little late in my opinion, but who’s counting? I decided not to watch the stitching, but either watched their faces or stared at the ceiling. The doc showed his work to his assistant and told him about the expert that had trained him (having now changed the bandages and seen the stitches, I can attest that his pride was well-placed). They covered me up with cotton and a quarter-mile of peach medical tape, and I asked them to send Teresa in.
Now it was time to do the paperwork, and we went back to the pharmacy to settle up on supplies. The money was well and good, but apparently we’d skipped registration. We went to a front desk to register so they would have an account to charge these things to, as well as paying for the doctors and procedure.
Just before going home, the man we’d met outside the doctor’s office slapped me on the [good] knee and asked me how it was. I have to say I was impressed with the level of service and attention.
- Total price for supplies after conversion, including a tetanus shot (which sounds humorously like Titanic in French): $11.35
- Total price for services, surgery, and the room: $16.51
- Gauze, antibiotics, gloves and tape bought the next day: $19.88
I’ve said to several people that it was cheaper to repair my arm than it would have been to replace my phone, laptop, or bike; all of which survived the fall with no ill-effects. OK, If we’re being picky, I did crack the plastic headlamp on my bike, but it still works.
This was on Tuesday, and things are going quite well. I was able to walk to work the next day and squash any of the wilder stories that had spread through the community.
This was Tuesday, and it is now Friday night. Once the bandages calm down, I barely even limp anymore. My elbow is tight when I flex it, which is understandable as I lost a square inch of skin. We’ve changed the bandages, and swelling is minimal, and no sign of infection or leakage.
Thanks to the Lord for:
- A loving Savior that holds me in His hand.
- A loving wife to take care of me when I need it.
- A community of people that rally around us.
- That I was able to keep a cool head even when I was the one with a crisis.
- Well-qualified and well-equipped medical staff.
- That the accident was not worse.
- That the pain has been quite minimal.
- No loss of feeling or dexterity.
- A good prognosis.
- Thanks that this happened over a holiday where I could take time to recuperate.
- Continued healing
- That no infection will take hold
- Encouragement for Teresa as I currently grunt and groan like an old man (no offense intended to any old men reading this) until I get moving.