Tag Archives: accident

The hospital

5 Apr

Upon arriving at the hospital, I found myself waiting in the hallway for an room. A man–whose position was not made known to me–asked me a number of questions about the accident. He also asked about my medical history. He asked if I’d ever had surgery, and I said I’d only had wisdom teeth removed, which he translated as a “no”. Somebody cut my shirt off of me, an act which rather annoyed me because I felt very much capable of removing my shirt myself, and I resented the loss of the shirt.

Eventually, they did find a room with space for me, and they proceeded to move me into the room and ignore me for a while. I found myself periodically whimpering, half because of the discomfort in my jaw and half because I thought it might make somebody pay attention to me. Lying on the bed, I had some time to examine my wounds–at least those which I could see. Both of my hands were bleeding: my right hand on the back side, and my left hand on both the front and back. I had scraped my right shoulder and both of my elbows, and it seemed like there was some blood on my face, but I couldn’t see my face. I also noticed that my top and bottom teeth weren’t lining up normally.

A doctor came in and introduced myself. He looked at my wounds briefly, and seemed particularly interested in my bleeding hands. He suggested, “Maybe you should wear gloves next time.” I half expected him to look at my bleeding right shoulder and suggest that I also wear a shirt next time, too.

The first person to see me for any significant amount of time was an x-ray technician (or whatever the person who takes the x-rays is called). He complained repeatedly that the doctor should have just requested a CT scan of my head because he wanted so many different angles. He did, at least, assure me that I was a good patient, although I don’t have any idea why he thought this to be the case. There was also apparently some problem with the equipment, and so some of the shots had to be retaken several times. I heard the technician talking to somebody else in the room where he controlled the x-ray machine, and it sounded like he was saying that something was far out of place. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I suspected it had to do with my x-rays. The technician came back into the room and told me he just needed one more x-ray. He told me to lean my head back for the shot, but I found it too painful to my jaw to lean that far back, so he found an alternative position.

When I returned to the bed and waited to be seen by the doctor, it occurred to me that I had been carrying my iPod Touch on my bike at the time of the accident. This was only significant in that it could be confused for a phone. I found the bag of my possessions near the foot of my bed, and–sure enough–the iPod was in my shoe, and my phone was nowhere to be found. I knew that I’d get my phone back whenever I got my bike back, but I didn’t know when that would be. I figured I could probably take a bus down to the fire station to pick up the bike, but I didn’t know how long it would be before I’d feel up for the trip.

Eventually, the doctor came back and asked me how I was doing. It seemed like a strange question, given that the answer should have been apparent from my very presence in the emergency room (not to mention my appearance). I tried to be optimistic, answering, “Pretty well given the circumstances.” He answered, almost as if he was trying to undercut my optimism, “Well…you broke your jaw.” He told me that I’d have to see an oral surgeon as soon as possible during the week so that the surgeon could “fix [me] up.” He then explained to me how hitting the right side of my head had caused a fracture on the left side. He also started to tell me about “the other way to break your jaw”, which apparently involved hitting the front of one’s chin. When he finished explaining, I told him, “I guess I’ll have to try that another time,” attempting to sarcastically allude to my lack of interest in another way to break my jaw. He didn’t seem to appreciate my morbid sense of humor, answering, “No, I think once is enough.” He didn’t tell me how the oral surgeon would be fixing me up, but he said that I’d need to be on a liquid diet at least until I saw the oral surgeon. I couldn’t imagine chewing with my jaw feeling the way it was, so I wasn’t at all bothered by this restriction.

The doctor and a nurse then proceeded to clean off my various wounds. In addition to the ones I had seen, there was a cut on my upper lip, a cut on my chin, and a few abrasions on the right side of my face. The chin, I was told, needed to be stitched. As the nurse and doctor cleaned and stitched me, my thoughts turned to my teaching job.  After a subpar fall semester, I’ve put a lot of work into teaching this semester, and I was concerned that I might not be able to finish the job with the broken jaw.

After my chin was stitched, the doctor raised the question of whether my lip needed to be sutured. I felt my lip with my tongue, and it felt as though something might have been stuck in the cut. I wondered if it might have been the fragments of my chipped teeth. The nurse and doctor proceeded to examine the cut, and sure enough, I heard the doctor comment that it looked like there was something in the cut before the nurse exclaimed, “It’s his tooth! His tooth shattered in his lip.” She seemed genuinely excited, as though she had never seen a case like this before. Within a few minutes, the fragments of the tooth were cleaned out, and the lip was sutured. The nurse mentioned that I was almost ready to go home, before leaving me to call my mother, who had called while the doctor was stitching my chin, on a hospital phone.

A short while later, a nurse told me I could leave as soon as I had clothing. Fortunately, my shorts weren’t damaged, but I’d need a shirt to replace the one that was cut off of my back. They found a black shirt for me, although I don’t know where it came from. A nurse gave me several sheets of paper with information about my injuries, a prescription for Vicodin, and a note that I should take three days off from school. I was more than a little bit surprised that they were releasing me without even bandaging any of my wounds, but I was glad to get out of the hospital and into the taxi that would take me home.

The scene of the accident

5 Apr

Unsurprisingly, the fall left me in a state of shock, and if not for the other cyclists surrounding me and telling me to sit down, I just might have gotten back on my bike again. Waiting at the side of the road, I realized that I was bleeding in at least a few places, at least one of my front teeth was chipped, and the left side of my jaw was sore. The bleeding didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I’ve always been the sort of person who is getting scrapes here and there, and they’ve always healed quickly enough. I was rather disturbed by the idea that my teeth had broken, having had a longstanding fear of breaking or losing teeth. I wanted to look in the road for the pieces that had chipped off, but I knew that others would restrain me if I didn’t restrain myself. Instead, I contented myself with a hope that a dentist would be able to replace the lost pieces with something artificial.

The ride leader made a call, apparently to an emergency number, and a few minutes later, a fire truck arrived from the fire station that I was told was just down the street. A firefighter looked at me, asked me some questions about the accident, and somehow determined that I had full recall of the event and no loss of consciousness. He asked whether I had somebody who could drive me to the hospital, and I answered in the negative. In truth, some of my friends would have been able to do it, but I always tend to be averse to asking people to do things for me, and I wasn’t going to overcome this weakness while in a state of shock. As the ambulance arrived, one of the other cyclists said to me, “We’ll see you back on the bike soon!” I reacted with some skepticism, not because I didn’t want to ride my bike again, but because I didn’t see any reason to hurry back to the club.

An EMT got out of the ambulance,  examined me and asked me a few questions. Most of the questions weren’t any trouble for me to answer, but when he asked how fast I had been moving before the collision, I couldn’t say, not having a speedometer. He asked if I had been going 50 miles per hour, and I couldn’t imagine that I had been moving that fast, so I said I hadn’t. He asked me which hospital I wanted to go to. I  explained that I was new to the area and wasn’t familiar with the hospitals. He again repeated the question about my speed, this time emphasizing that it was actually fairly important. He didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t have any way of knowing this information, and the fact of it being important wasn’t going to change this. He asked if I had been in the 20-30 miles per hour range, and I said that I probably had been. He decided that this was slow enough that I could be taken to Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley.

At this point, the EMTs had me lie down on a stretcher (which seemed wholly unnecessary to me given that I was able to walk), and the ride leader said that he had talked to my father (whom I had listed as my emergency contact for the ride). The EMT relayed this information to me, saying, “You hear that? Your Dad’s going to meet you at the hospital.” I told him I was doubtful of this claim and explained that my father lived in Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter, I was loaded onto the ambulance and on my way to the hospital.

A bike ride

5 Apr

Note: Recent events have led me to doubt some of what is written here. For an explanation, see this post.

I woke up this morning faced with a decision. I had planned on going on my first ride with a local cycling club that I had joined, but a couple of things had given me second thoughts. First, my seasonal allergies were flaring up, and I was concerned that this might interfere with my ability to ride my bike. The other problem was that I didn’t really have proper cycling attire. I had clothing that I was comfortable wearing on a bicycle, but it wouldn’t make me look like a cyclist. I actually bought a pair of cycling shorts yesterday, but I was overwhelmed by the price and choice of shirts and decided against buying one. I’m always more than a bit shy about introducing myself to new groups of people, and looking different wasn’t going to make it any easier. After a few minutes of deliberation, though, I decided to put on a shirt I had that was made of some sort of athletic fabric and go.

When I arrived at the starting point of the ride, I could see that my choice of clothing wasn’t the only way in which I stood out. I was also one of only two cyclists without drop handlebars. When I had purchased my bike two months earlier, I had balked at the price of drop handlebars, opting instead for a cheaper commuter bike, which I had come to like very much. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that my bike was probably the cheapest one there; it was just that the difference in construction was another thing that made me feel I didn’t belong.

After  we started moving, I became conscious of yet another way in which I didn’t fit in, although this one was decidedly more subtle. I’d always been a cautious bicyclist, and so I’d tend to use my brakes as I’d go down hills. As I braked my way down the hills, I found that the other cyclists were pedaling past me. Uphill was a different story. Living in the Berkeley Hills, I had biked uphill almost every day for several months. Over the course of these months, I had managed to cut my evening commute (the uphill direction) in half. With my youth and my comfort with hills, I found myself passing many of the other cyclists on the uphill.

As the ride progressed, I began taking the downhill stretches a bit faster. I started out braking less, and then even started pedaling a bit.  I didn’t feel a need to be going faster than anybody else. It was just my paranoid fear of not fitting in. In fact, I still found myself taking the hills a bit slower than many of the others.

About a third of the way through the ride 43 mile ride, I neared the bottom of a hill along a quiet road. The road veered off to the right, but I did not. My bicycle crossed over the center line of the road, and I tried to turn back onto the right side of the road. The next thing I remember, I had fallen and gotten up again, and people were crowding around with concern.

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