Thursday, June 28, 2012

This is what being hit by a car is like

Warning: the following account of my recent incident with a car is long and may be upsetting for some people. I've written it in the hopes of getting people to think about the consequences of their actions. Please pass this onto your friends and family, please be safe on the roads.

I was riding home from work mid-afternoon on Friday the 15th of June.  It was rainy and cold so I had my fluro orange and wonderfully water-proof Ground Effect She Shell on. I was riding my lovely Linus duchess so I wasn’t zooming along. Just gracefully cruising home as I usually do. I got to the intersection of Collins and Brougham St where the intersection is currently blocked to cars going through to Simeon. However the workmen had left a space for pedestrians and cyclists to cross. I waited on the road on the right side of the car that was turning left (not wanting to get run over you understand) and when the lights went  green I checked to make sure that no one was running the red before heading off.

I do this check every time I’m stopped at a red since the February earthquakes; there seems to be an epidemic of red light running in Christchurch. I safely made it to the gap where the crossing is in the middle of the road and observed a red car that was pretty much stationary at the lights. Of course I thought it was safe to continue, I was on a green, the red car seemed to be stopping, the car beside it in the further lane was stopped and had been for a while so I pedalled on. And the woman in the red car put her foot down.

She hit me when I was right in the middle of her bumper and everything becomes a blur of images for me here. I remember seeing the sky and feeling the bonnet give as I landed on it. I remember feeling shocked that this was happening, disbelieving that someone could be so stupid. I remember the back of my head striking the road and feeling my helmet do its job (I'm pretty sure if I hadn't been wearing my helmet I'd be dead or a vegetable), and then the rest of me hit the road on my right side. Then I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a couple of seconds as everything was blurry and fuzzy, but as my senses came back the first thing I did was wiggle my toes. Thank God they were moving.

Then I realised I couldn’t breathe and there was a woman standing over me saying “Sorry” and “Are you ok” over and over. As I gasped for air the pain hit and I began to make the most horrible wounded animal sound. I didn’t want to make this noise, it wasn’t me making it, it was the pain. I managed to roll into the recovery position on my left side and when I stayed still the noise stopped.
I gasped to the woman, still not believing what had happened, “Did you run a red light?” and she started explaining that she did, but she thought that it was blocked off so no one could cross. She even said she didn’t check because she didn’t think it was necessary. This made me so angry that I started sobbing and I pointed out to her that children cross here all the time and if it had been a child she would have probably killed it. She is lucky she only hit me.
Owie from hitting the road.

Lots of people appeared and told me not to move, which wasn’t a problem because my world became pain if I so much as flinched. A really lovely lady brought me a pillow and covered me in a blanket. I lay there on the road, curled in the recovery position, feeling the cold rain falling on me, being so grateful for the my Ground Effect jacket that was stopping the water from soaking me, and my new thick long Chalkydigits jersey that was keeping me warm. I told everyone I was ok, that I was warm enough and listened as they called the ambulance. I stared at the bumper of the red car and noticed a dent in the middle of it. I thought of how upset my husband was going to be. Once the ambulance and police had been called I got one of the lovely women looking after me to call my husband. I could tell he was so shocked and I yelled out to him that I was ok, hoping to calm him down. Then I had to wait.

I lay on the road in the cold rain with trucks and cars whizzing past me, looking at the grey sky. That grey sky is what I see when I try and sleep at night. That and the shape of the red car suddenly moving forward and there’s nothing I can do to stop from being hit.

The ambulance arrived really quickly and stabilised my neck before putting me on the backboard. Oh the pain. I was now lying on all my really sore bits and trying not to blubber. They lifted me up and got me in the ambulance and just then my poor husband arrived. He looked so scared. And seeing me in the ambulance didn’t seem to make it any better. I tried to tell him it wasn’t serious, I hadn’t broken my back, that I was ok, but it didn’t make a difference.

Then the ambo’s had to cut my clothes off me to get the collar on. I cried when they cut into my ChalkyDigits jersey, I’d just bought it the night before and I was so happy with the way it had protected me from the cold road. Then the horrible collar was on and it was time to cut the rest of the jersey and my She Shell off me.  The ambo’s laughed at this to cheer me up. They were really wonderful.

Finally I was covered in electrodes and being fed orange flavoured panadol liquid. It did nothing for the pain. Then they gave me NOS. I sucked the canister dry and it did nothing for the pain. The ride to the hospital seemed to go on forever and then when we got there it felt like another eternity till they gave me more pain meds. Even that wasn’t getting rid of it, just winding the volume down. When I finally went for my x-rays it was pretty rough going for me and for the young trainee techs. Every little movement I made would be agony and when it was over I was relieved.

After the xrays I got more meds and finally the pain was bearable. I just couldn’t stop crying though, I was so very angry. Eventually the doctors came and told me I hold some damage to my pelvis, but that it looked minor and that I could go home. They got me to stand up and I almost passed out from the pain. I had to give a urine sample to make sure my kidneys weren’t damaged, but I couldn’t walk so I had to have crutches. It was agony using them, but my kidneys were fine and my lovely mum in-law arrived to take us home.
Nightly meds - the liquid is particularly traumatic

Now the final indignity was upon me as I had no clothes so I had to wear disgusting lost and found clothes home.  I ate pizza and ice cream and codeine when I got home, but I couldn’t sleep at all and ended up awake till 5 in the morning. I managed to sleep till 7 when the cat woke me. Sigh

Saturday things weren’t so bad. I could move about with only a walking stick and managed to sleep better that night, although I had to listen to a podcast of Through the Looking Glass to stop my brain seeing the grey sky and the red car. The next day, Sunday, everything went wrong. I woke up sore and when I moved I screamed. My back ribs on the right popped out of place and the pain for shocking.
We managed to get me dressed and back to ER we went. I stood in line for 10 minutes holding my ribs in place and finally got triaged as a high priority. Another set of painful xrays and there were no punctured lungs so I was sent home with horrible strong pain killers and instructions to see my GP on Wednesday.  The next few days were pretty rough. The pain was really bad a lot of the time and I couldn’t sit up or stand up without my husband helping me. I was completely helpless. I could only lie on my back.

My awesome GP turned all that around with a great routine of drugs. Now I say great because it has completely got my pain under control, but I hate it. I don’t like taking drugs at the best of times and now it feels like I’m taking great handfuls.

So almost two weeks on I’ve got one or two broken ribs, a bruised lung and a damaged pelvis. I’m pretty much stoned out of my mind all the time and can’t really move round much. I can sit now and can get myself up and down if I’m very careful. I’ve missed a week of work that ACC doesn’t cover so I’m a grand down just on wages. I’m lonely at home by myself, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to ride again. The woman who hit me is being charged with Careless Driving Causing Injury and the policeman I’m dealing with is really good.

So there you have it. That is what it is like to be hit by a car. Please try and avoid it and most of all try and avoid doing it. Maybe send a link to this onto your friends and ask them to avoid doing it too. Cars hurt a lot. Way more than crashing into a trees or gateposts or the ground. I am very very lucky to be alive, and pretty much intact, but I’d be fine if the woman had obeyed the road rules. Please please please don’t run red lights, Ever.  On your bike or in your car, and if you are in a car and see a bike run a red light, remember that your car is deadly if it hits a pedestrian or cyclist, just because someone else breaks the law doesn’t mean you can.  Please obey the road rules. It could happen to you.


Anonymous said...

A pox on the driver. I hope that you heal quickly. On a positive note, a very well written post (as all of yours are). Very similar thoughts/feelings to what I had when I got hit a few years back.
Regards, Tony

lonewheel said...

Hope you get well soon. :-)

Andy Kerr said...

That's pretty stink, hope you get well soon.

It's been a few years since I've been hit but it stays with you.

Get back out on your bike when you can it'll help.

Anonymous said...

Once the woman is charged, convicted and discharged, please name them.
The dreadful part about drivers is that, once they've done something wrong, they go through the indignity of the criminal system and then it's all over.
If we name and shame other drivers may take note and be more cautious.

That being said, if I see a cyclist in lycra I immediately become wary. They are usually aggressive and arrogant - I'm very happy to share the road, as I drive a vintage vehicle that has no seat belts and makes me just as vulnerable to injury as a cyclst [the usual death in a head on involves impalement on the steering column on these vehicles] - and these lycra bastards hog the driving areas on the more narrow areas and prevent me from passing safely. I can patiently wait for a few hundred meters at 25kph, but after that without the courtesy of allowing me to pass... watch out. I'm going to have to pop by the best I can.
I think that there's a mutual disrespect for each other on the road; instead of right of way, perhaps EVERYONE should give way to each other, communicate and then carry on with consent.

Laurence said...

Damn Mel, that sux. A new She Shell is on its way from the crew at Ground Effect to help cheer you up.

Tinkerbell said...

My vintage car driving brother, I completely agree with you. The situation has got so much like an us and them war that each side seems to think they are justified in being arrogant douches. EVERYONE needs to be considerate. How fricken hard is it?

Allen said...

Read this via Oli in Wellington, hope you get better soon. I live in London and strangely it feels safer than NZ - cars are slower and there is less feeling of 'entitlement' from motorists! Still, a good reminder to keep things cool and cautious when comuting. Glad you got a new jacket from GE and hope you enjoy your first spin.

Bob said...

Oh Mel, I just read this entry. I'm glad you are recovering well. Please update us so we can follow your recovery. Take good care of yourself.

Dad said...

I am at a loss to know where all this ends. On a short ride in Auckland the other day, I almost got taken out 5 times in less than an hour! None of it was my fault, just sheer bloody mindedness on behalf of some drivers. You either carry on knowing that one day you will be killed, or you give up riding. If I do get snuffed, I hope it's by a Ferrari rather than a truck (:-)