The End of the World as We Know It

Here is what life became in the aftermath:

  • an external brace was fitted to my leg to hold the bones in place until the swelling had diminished enough for surgery. The brace was an odd metal contraption which sat on top of the leg with what looked like drill-bits going through my leg and into the bones. I wore this for ten days.
  • seated in a bed for ten days, with my foot up (to help reduce swelling), unable to move. When I was given crutches, it was just to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, stuck in the same position – not just bed, but the same position.
  • an injection in the stomach every morning which was to thin blood and stop blood clots. I had to learn to do this myself and continue doing it when I got home.
  • two slow-release painkillers at 8.00am, and two at 8.00pm.
  • another painkiller and two Panamax four times through the day.
  • for a week, medication meant to help dull the problems from nerve damage.
  • two laxatives twice a day, which was to help mitigate the constipating effect of the painkillers. All the other medication was taken for a month which for somebody like me – who only takes medication as a last resort – was dispiriting.
  • pain.
  • nerve misfirings – severe pins and needles; feelings of claws digging into my soul; burning sensations; excruciatingly sharp jabbing sensations which would cause me to jump; feelings like somebody was twisting off my toes with a set of pliers. At their worst, they made doing anything else impossible. I just had to bear through them. However, they could last for hours at a time, and medication did nothing to negate them. (They’re still going on.)
  • the knowledge of intense rehab just to get my ankle moving again.
  • more rehab learning to walk properly on my right leg again, (and I was told it’d be six months to get back to normal).

I didn’t know this, of course, as I sat on the nature strip, clutching my ankle. If I did, I might’ve stepped back out into traffic, being the fatalist I am.

What I did know, however, was that my world has collapsed in on me. A broken leg meant ambulance, hospital, surgery, no more evening walks, no more swimming, no more going to football, no nothing, a long recovery time (I’d broken my arm in 1986, and had suffered nerve damage to my hand; that had taken a year to recover); and, as REM sings, the end of the world as I knew it. Yeah, I’ve already admitted I’m fatalistic.

A woman approached on the nature strip. She was fifty or sixty, short, squat, and the sort of migrant typical to my area – sad-faced, beaten by a life of immigration and working hard at some crap job to save up lots and provide for family. I thought she must’ve come from one of the houses to see if I was okay. Instead, though, she apologized for hitting me.

I was stunned. Obviously, anybody can be behind the wheel of a car which hits somebody, but given the destructiveness of the act there was an assumption that the offender would be somebody destructive, some young hoon, stereotypic in appearance. You don’t think of somebody’s mother, potentially somebody’s grandmother, as the culprit.

I can’t remember what was said exactly, and any attempt would really just be my imagination filling in the gaps. She was very apologetic, though, as though if she could apologise long enough and hard enough she could undo the situation. Just as I didn’t want to be a victim, she didn’t want to be a perpetrator, and everything that meant.

I told her to call an ambulance, telling her she’d broken my leg. She apologized again. I briefly lost my cool. Generally, I’m very good in an emergency. Everyday life? Forget it. I’m hopeless. But give me an emergency and I’m actually calm and purposeful. A counselor once suggested to me an emergency narrowed my focus, and eliminated all the intrusive chatter which distracted me in every moment of everyday life – concerns, anxieties, random thoughts, all that sort of stuff.

I yelled at her, asking how she didn’t see the light, which was still green. Again she apologized. Back to calm: I told her to call an ambulance again. She told me she couldn’t, because her English wasn’t good enough.

She may as well have just come over and kicked me in the crotch while I sat there.

She said she’d find somebody else, and flagged down another car which had just turned into the intersection, and was obstructed by her own car, which she’d just left in the middle of the street. Another woman emerged, about thirty or forty (I’m a terrible estimator, in case you haven’t noticed), who was terrific. She called the police and an ambulance. When she was done, I beckoned her over and asked her to take down the offender’s details, which she did. She was fabulous. It’s people like this and acts like this which really encourage you that the world’s not as hopeless as you might fear. Cliché, maybe. But sometimes it takes getting hit by a car to learn truths.

Now I just have to work out the rest.

May take a bigger car.