Accidental encounter highlights need for caution

I was driving along, in a sunny mood and indulging in a bit of karaoke, when a car going the other way suddenly leaped off the road and jumped into the woods. This is not a fanciful description; to my eyes it literally did leap. There followed a very loud sound which could only be a car smacking into a tree.

I turned around and pulled up to the scene of the accident. There I saw the driver, a young woman, crawl onto the road then lie down.

A man already was there, on his phone. He motioned for me to back up to provide a safety cushion, which I did. After putting my hazards on I got out, walked over to the woman and sat down on the curb next to her.

She was intact, though what I took to be her tibia was now poking out of the new hole in her jeans. She was lucid. She was also, as you would expect, in a lot of pain. She slapped the cold pavement again and again, having no other remedy for her anguish and frustration. She then gave me her hand to hold, which I gladly did as I really didn’t know what else to do.

The man who had called for an ambulance (business suit, paunch, not to be trifled with as he later hustled along a rubbernecker) started directing traffic. Another man (construction? fuel delivery? he was wearing a bright vest) walked up to join the rescue party.

The woman asked me to retrieve her phone, which I miraculously found without too much digging around in her car, the inside of which was packed and had probably been a mess even before to the accident. She was very concerned to call her boss at a nearby diner. It’s safe to say she was going to miss her shift.

The man with the safety vest approached us and took the phone, at one point putting it on speaker and holding it so she could talk to her brother between gasps and moans, in what was surely the worst call of his day.

She went back to slapping the pavement, shaking her head as if saying “No” to the whole situation, and shouting out in pain.

Presently, a passing doctor gave the tableau the stability and reassurance it required. She asked the woman the questions necessary to form a quick medical opinion, and instructed me to hold the woman’s head still. Her roadside manner was excellent.

The woman’s boss turned up and took over hand-holding duty from me, her familiar face a welcome anchor in the sea of strangers.

The woman berated herself for “Being so stupid!” and was hushed by our chorus of “No! Don’t be silly.” She felt sick to her stomach and was worried she’d broken her arm as well. She wanted to get up. She started hyperventilating. She did nothing I couldn’t sympathize with, having been laid out on a road myself, surrounded by people who seemed intent on helping me despite my best efforts.

When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic told me to hold her neck much more firmly than I had been doing; a lesson I won’t forget if there’s ever a next time. When she came with the neck brace I was relieved at my station.

What do you do after such a close encounter with trauma? Depending on your life, some of you may well experience a little trauma of your own. The woman’s boss was also looking shell-shocked.

The police interview was accomplished with the minimum of fuss (“How fast was she going?” Not fast enough for me to want to add to her woes), though by the rolling of his eyes after his chat with the businessman, I’d evidently just missed a clash with authority. Then I was on my way back up the road, the woman with any luck now on a trip to a morphine-induced stupor.

When I got home I wandered over to a neighbor, in need of normalcy. He was working on his house. We climbed the scaffolding and talked about planning permission, water seepage fracturing roofing tiles, and eventually, the bloody things that happen.

He’s seen much worse than I have: the aftermath of a motorcyclist smashing into a van (“He kept trying to get up onto his broken arms and broken legs”); a construction site story almost out of the movie Final Destination (the guy lived); a bus blowing up right before his eyes on 7/7 in London. So much for normalcy.

As Sgt. Esterhaus used to say on Hill Street Blues, let’s be careful out there.

Scott Munn is a former Tiffin resident who has lived in England for 21 years.

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