Driving in to work the line of cars was suddenly slowed for no reason I could see and then I noticed yellow flashing lights ahead. A tow truck looked like it had a customer in the right line. It was only when the car in front of me managed to drag its eyes from he scene and get moving that I saw a scooter on the ground, a car parked in front of it in the travel lane and two people on the ground. One of them looked to be in terrible shape, a limp doll in the roadway face down and I started to feel queasy.
Had the tow truck not been on scene covering the accident I'd have felt obliged to stop to help but as it was I called ahead to my office and advised them to send two ambulances as there were clearly two patients. The other half was lying on the sidewalk face up with his arm across his eyes. I know that feeling all too well. My PTSD kicked in. They were riding a rental scooter with no evidence of helmets in use as typically only paramedics remove headgear to preserve the integrity of the rider's neck. I was lucky that way and I found as I lay on the ground my helmet actually made a comfortable pillow supporting my head. Weird but I remember that well.
In dispatch we don't usually find out how these calls end but I know there's lots of pain and self doubt down the road. A half hour later someone fell down some stairs and was left in an altered mental state as we sent an ambulance. You don't have to ride a motorcycle to get hurt. I don't know if I'm more aware of them nowadays but we seem to be having a spate of accidents, and they do freak me out a bit. The other night a young man died when he ran his bike into a tree in the middle of the night. A passing ambulance found the rider but he was beyond help. I had another very thoughtful night.
I talk in terms of living on borrowed time. I don't mean that in the sense of time taken from someone else, or in terms of an overdue deadline for a disease or trauma but in terms of time borrowed from a future that didn't exist for me. Every time I dispatch to a severe accident or a fatal trauma I realise that there go I but for some great good luck and excellent medical care. Had it been a crappy day for the helicopter to fly, for instance, my time would have been up most likely.
The difficulty about living on borrowed time is that you cannot live at 100 percent all the time. It's just not possible not to waste time because humans are imperfect. Some days the little things do irritate me and some days I am impatient to be somewhere to do something or simply I feel irritated something has broken or someone has failed me. I have to remind myself borrowed time doesn't elevate the user to sainthood status, it just means every day gets a little extra flavor from the realization this day might not have been. Explaining this to someone who hasn't had the experience is complicated. You sound preachy or demented or irritating so it ends up being a losing proposition. The dispatch center goes quiet when motorcycle wrecks are announced. My frailty is noted.
People look at me like I'm mad when I say I got some positive experiences out of the hospital and recovery. My wife says i don't remember a lot of the misery but I remember it quite well, most of it though some of my experiences were deleted by memory loss caused by the brain's natural self protection as well as memory loss caused by powerful chemicals. I was talking to the hospital staff in ICU this week and they remarked how cheerful I was in my wheelchair which surprised me. By the time I could be propped up and out of that goddamned bed I was pretty happy.
I am actually surprised more people aren't cheered up by finding themselves alive and mobile for the first time but apparently not. I loathed the wheelchair frankly but it got me out and about and that made it worthwhile. Were I stuck in one I'd like to take advantage of modern electric technology and have one like I saw in the hospital with electric hubs in each wheel and speed to spare! The reality is wheelchairs are hard to push by hand especially when you are broken. My wife was extra patient in that phase of my recovery.
I wonder about the young man who was a passenger who fell off when his motorcycle went down on the Boulevard in Key West. They told me later he probably had a broken pelvis and to this day I wonder how a man in his 20s copes with all the struggle and suffering to come from this most complicated of injuries. I hope has come to terms with what needs to be done to speed his complete recovery.
Last I heard the scooter riders were being flown to Miami in the wake of three people injured in a boating accident earlier in the day. Five people flown out of the city in one day. Not the sort of record one wants to witness really.
Yes indeed every day is a gift, if only you knew it. I think Rusty does after his rough start.