Saturday, 14 March 2015

Getting hit by a car, or: my life in a nutshell

I'm incredibly lucky. Or incredibly unlucky, depending on how you look at it. It's the second year in a row that I have found myself suffering a bicycle related accident, yet also the second time that I get out of it without any permanent injuries. This time around it was definitely among my scariest accidents. Worse than when I took a tumble over the asphalt with 50 kilometers per hour, or that time last year when my front wheel got stuck in the tram tracks and I smacked straight into a barrier.

I was on my way home from work on Wednesday when I came to this crossing near a shopping mall. Along this stretch of road I was on all connecting roads had to yield, so I could zip along on my bicycle without too many worries. At this one crossing I noticed a few cars coming from my right and kept an eye on them to see whether they'd slow down and stop as they should. I'm not sure whether my attention had slipped or something, because the next thing I remember is seeing the bonnet of this grey car looming up to the right of me. My only thought at this point was 'it's going to hit me'.

I guess I did indeed get hit, for the next thing I remember is lying on the ground, in a considerable amount of pain. People were gathering around me, telling me to stay quiet. Someone cut away the backpack from my back. Then an ambulance arrived. An EMT at the scene had actually witnessed the event, watching me getting hit and immediately rushing in to help me. At that point I had no idea what had happened exactly or how bad the damage was. As I was lying on a stretcher on the ground, police officers arrived on the scene and began to ask me questions. After I got moved into the ambulance by the EMTs the questions continued, with prodding and poking added as well.

Nothing really hurt too much at that point, and I was able to comprehend and answer coherently to any questions, even if my German was a bit hard to understand for some of them. One of the people in the ambulance turned out to be Belgian and for a moment it was considered to have him talk to me in Dutch/Flamish. I felt relatively calm through all of this. Most of my worrying was about my bicycle which I was told had been damaged severely, along with my backpack which was destroyed, and how to replace it all. I also felt pretty terrible about how just when my life was on the upturn something like this had to happen.

The ambulance arrived at a to me familiar hospital, as it was the same one where I had been a little under a year before as well. I spent a total of three hours at it this time. During this time I got a full CT scan, with contrast dye, plus another check-up. As it turned out I had not broken anything, nor was anything visibly fractured. They did however want to keep me at the hospital for another twenty-four hours for observation, due to me having impacted my head during the accident as well. I felt that I could resign myself to this until I got told a while later that they had no free rooms, so that I'd have to camp out somewhere on the floor.

Faced with spending the next twenty-four hours confined to a mattress or bed parked possibly in some hallway or random room, I picked the second option after some pondering, which was to sign a form to accept the responsibility for going in against the physician's judgement and leaving the hospital. My reasoning was that I'd have a far better night and day at my own place than at the hospital and based upon my knowledge of a previous concussion I was fairly confident that it'd be all right.

While at the hospital I was also visited by a police officer and an EMT. The former informed me about the proceedings of the investigation. He told me that they had already determined that the fault was with the driver of the car which had hit me, as it clearly had to have yielded at the crossing. I also had had my light enabled on my bicycle. The driver of the car fortunately had cooperated fully with the police, having all insurance details readily available. I should be able to get any damage covered that way. The officer also explained about the punitive (criminal) side of the investigation, for which he'd be calling me in a week's time or longer again, in case I want to press charges.

Both with the insurance side and charges I'm not really sure how it all works, but I think I'll have to figure it out, hopefully with some help. I do know that I'll be more than happy to just get all the damage covered. I'm not really the type to go asking for blood, or money. Especially not after this EMT which accompanied the officer told me that the driver of the car had sent her best wishes for a speedy recovery. I can quite imagine that she was pretty shaken by the accident as well. I doubt many people willingly take the decision to go crash into a cyclist.

Standing outside again, a short while after signing the form, I decided to first make my way to the hackerspace. I could use some regular company at that point, instead of heading straight home to an empty apartment. I walked this whole stretch, with just a slight limp because of my injured right knee and carrying my crippled backpack with my right hand as my left wrist would not support any weight. At the hackerspace I spent about an hour, also checking for any damage to my work laptop. It was fine, except for some cosmetic damage to the aluminium shell, with gouges running along one side of it. At the hackerspace one person ultimately noticed my injuries and we ended up chatting about it.

Taking the tram home from the hackerspace, I walked the last bit from the tram stop to my place. There, in front of the apartment building was my bicycle, parked just as the police had told me earlier at the hospital. The front wheel was all twisted and unusable. As I pulled it free, the back wheel turned out to not move at all either, with the gears making clacking noises. Dragging the bicycle to my garage, I put it inside and locked the garage, even though I wouldn't know why anyone would want to steal it in that state. Once inside the building's hallway I found the bicycle's key in my mailbox, also as agreed. Once inside my apartment I was ready to crash, which I did soon after. Getting changed for bed was a painful experience, however.

Waking up the next morning everything plain and simply hurt in ways I cannot even begin to describe. Every motion hurt. Every shift in balance hurt. Only with the help of painkillers was I able to get through the day, working from home, as the project I'm on was simply too important at that point to call in sick. The same story the next day. Around this time it was becoming clear that I definitely had a bit of a concussion, with the tiredness, mild confusion and other symptoms I remembered so well from the first time I suffered one.

Today is Saturday. I have put in a full working day again, because it's crunch time in the project and I wouldn't know what else to do with my time. Aside from finishing this book project for which I'm supposed to finish the last draft chapters this month. I really have no time to be sick, I guess. Tomorrow I have to buckle down again and try to finish some work. Then next week I have to get my bicycle to a repair shop. Somehow.

Those who have followed me on Twitter the past days have seen the images of the damage to my right hand and face, the bruising on my shoulder and other garish injuries. Most of the things which really hurt are internally, however. Particularly my muscles and joints seem to have taken a beating and are keen to remind me of this fact. That said, it could have all been so much worse. I could be stuck with broken bones right now. Or be paralysed. Or dead.

In that regard I'm really lucky, but just like with life in general, it's all relative.


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