Monday, January 26, 2009

A Change of Plans

Mon 12 January, 2009, 8am
As I lay on the pavement, I wasn’t sure if I was dead or alive. No, I must be alive, but in what state? How long had I been there? Had I lost consciousness? I don’t think so. A woman bent over me and, afraid that she might try to move me, I said in a raspy voice, “don’t touch me” and I don’t think I saw her again.

The pain was intense but how extensive I was injured I knew not. I did know that shock and adrenalin was insulating me from the worst of it. I beseeched The Source or whatever you want to call it: god, Nature, the Universe. I internalised a sort of prayer, but I didn’t want to ask for anything for myself. I simply wanted to be able to accept whatever hand I had been dealt. “May everything be as it should”. Such is the influence of the Eastern mysticism with which I delved into during my youth.

After a two-week Christmas break, I was keen to get back on my bicycle and ride to work, but with a cold and sore throat, I decided to take the motorcycle. Eastbound on Lonsdale St., just before Swanston St. and only 200 metres from my destination, a DHL delivery van driver changed lanes without looking and, without indicating, sideswiped me and forced my motorcycle out of control and into a steel street sign. That’s the last thing I could make out before I hit the ground.

As I lay there on my back, largely immobile but writhing in pain, a crowd of indeterminate size, office and retail workers gathered, frantically pulling out their mobile phones and dialling 000. The guy in a Chubb Security shirt, standing over me and speaking to the operator, became my eyes to the world. From him I discerned that I was not the only one injured. Another man was bleeding profusely from the head and someone was holding a towel to contain the blood loss. I didn’t know then that my motorcycle had mounted the footpath, hit a pedestrian and came to a stop on the footpath. I didn’t know how badly he was injured, but nor did I know how badly was I. It didn’t look or sound good.

I closed my eyes and centred myself in a kind of meditation. I focused on the place within myself that I call my ‘psychic screen’, where I ‘see’ things, including colour. I often see purple and chartreuse (the pale green shade that my psychic father also used to ‘see’), and on occasions brilliant blue or yellow. The colour I saw was indeed strong, but not particularly pleasant. It was a murky orange which I deduced must be associated with severe physical trauma. While I had no out-of-body experience per se, I suspect it may also indicate my ethereal body’s not being quite aligned with my physical body, a feeling I had very strongly (and which lasted for several days).

Opening my eyes, I took to analysing my state. Vague pain was everywhere, but sharp in specific places: both shins, the inside of my left knee, above and below my right knee, my throat and chest a little, and I couldn’t move my right arm without sharp pain. One at a time, I moved each of my appendages and my fingers and toes. Pain, yes, but no signs of fractures. So far, so good. The armour in the Dainese gear that I’d been wearing every day for five years, rain, hail or shine had served me well. None of my most vulnerable spots were damaged, though the areas around them were heavily bruised.

My neck and back were stiff but numb, so I couldn’t ascertain my spine’s state. I had to get my helmet off. With the intense pain in my right upper arm, I managed to remove my right glove, undo my helmet strap and remove it, revealing this otherwise faceless body to an assembled crowd I could barely see from my position. I must have looked like an Egyptian mummy clumsily coming to life. Pulling down the zip of my motorcycle jacket, my now exposed new white business shirt and black Italian silk tie revealed a guy not that different to the office workers around me. Raising my bum, with some effort I undid the zip that attached my protective jacket to my trousers. I knew that others would struggle with it when the time came.

I felt all over my head but I could not detect any fractures or blood. There was slight bruising on my left jaw, at the point where I later discovered my full-face helmet was fractured. That was one of the best thousand dollar investments I ever made. The underneath of my jaw was also sore, from the helmet straps. I systematically felt my teeth with my tongue and there was no sign of chips or breakage.

Ambulances arrived, the paramedics assessed me and decided to put me in a neck-brace as a precaution. I remember joking with the paramedics and tried to be a good patient, complying with all their instructions. The documentarian in me urged me to pull out the digital camera in my pocket and record what was going on in video and/or stills, but the damn pain in my arm wouldn’t allow me.

The paramedics were concerned at the sensitivity of my arm but couldn’t remove the jacket while I was in the brace. Though I offered, they declined my invitation to remove my trousers in the street, but did so once I was in the ambulance. I then raised my leg into the air and could see my grazed shin. I didn’t know it then, but the thick plastic knee armour had taken a severe knock that had continued along the shin armour. Without my safety gear, I almost certainly would have had a smashed knee and possibly a fractured shin. Though I had bruising around the right knee, the knee itself was fine and the shin lost a couple of layers of skin from the shin guard scraping against my leg, a superficial injury.

Being lifted onto a stretcher and into the ambulance was indeed a surreal experience, like something out of a film. My already limited view was restricted even further in the neck-brace. I managed to pull out my mobile phone. I called my manager to say I won’t be in for a few days – I’d been in an accident but should be fine. I wasn’t yet ready to phone the missus, and deal with her hysteria. My condition needed to be stabilised first.

Continued in Part 2


jw said...

Jesus that's brutal. Hope you get better soon.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Oh wow, that sounds terrifying. Thank god you had all that equipment on! When was this? Last week I assume.

Glad you're okay, Paul! I'm picturing it going on in my mind and it looks bad so it's a good thing you're alright (in the grand scheme of things).

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul - i just came across this now. I'm sorry to hear this happened to you, and hope you're recovering okay.

- Ali

Paul Martin said...

I have more to write about this, but in short, I'm sore but recovering (and back at work). Street signs are death for motorcyclists so I'm very lucky. But without my protective gear, which I wear in all weather (including 40 degrees+ conditions like today), I would have had multiple fractures. The paramedic in the ambulance told me he attends lots of accidents with scooter riders who often wear no protective gear.

Glenn, it was two and a half weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

DHL is a good company to work for, I would not disparage them, that really get's on my craw.

Lynden Barber said...

Glad to hear you are basically OK Paul, even back at work and able to tap out blog posts about the accident with amazing clarity and detail. You could have been killed or paralysed, by the sound of the accident.
All the best

Paul Martin said...

Yeah, I'm just fine, Lynden, though limping. And will be for a few weeks yet. I just found out yesterday that my Honda Blackbird was written off, so now I'm shopping for a replacement (that model is no longer in production). I rode to work on my motor scooter a week after the accident.