The accident

Driving lesson

As a journalist one finds scopes and stories everywhere one goes. So far during my stay here I have had an endless fountain of ideas and inspiration for stories and possible articles. I think the ultimate test of my journalistic abilities came on the 6th of September after being in an accident with a three-wheeler.
During the hours we drove from hospital to hospital, my crushed foot pounding with pain and squeezing poor Nick’s hand, all I could thinking about (out loud and to myself) was that this mishap was going to provide me with ample fuel for a good story. I mean if in a state of emergency the matter that was foremost in my mind is the great story I would get out of it, well doesn’t that say something!

But firstly back to the beginning. While at Cinnamon Grand recently (one of the lovely 5 star hotels Colombo) I was flipping through a tourist magazine called Explore Sri Lanka when I came across an article on Lanka Challenge 2009. I was immediately gripped by the novelty of this venture which was a 10 day tuk-tuk challenge/race across Sri Lanka which was being held the following week. I remember thinking that it sounded like a great idea, lots of fun and something I would love to cover.

A few days later, 6pm on Saturday evening to be precise, having completely forgotten the article, I received a call from an unknown number. On answering I was informed by a delighted caller (who had been trying to obtain my number all day) that he was calling on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism. What he wanted to know was if I had heard about the Challenge and if I was interested in covering a leg of the event. I told him I would be very happy to do so. The next question was would I be ready to leave Colombo at 5.00am the next morning to join the participants in Negombo. Again I replied in the affirmative. So that is how, at 5.00am on Sunday the 6th of August I was underway amid torrential rain, to Negombo to join the start of the Challenge.

The start

We arrived at 6.30am, where we breakfasted with the participants, a bunch of about 52 young foreigners from all over the world who had come to Sri Lanka to partake in the 10 day event. After breakfast the challenge began.
The 25 trishaws all left the hotel amid the cheers and shouts of spectators and off they went with only their road map of Sri Lanka and their team mates to find their way to Sigiriya.

I was taken in a nicely air conditioned jeep to that days destination by a lovely Sri Lankan gentleman who was one of the organizers of the event. We passed a number of the rickshaws on our travels, many of whom were presented with numerous obstacles on the first leg of the event.

After everyone arrived and we had had lunch I was taken by one of the organizers and a mechanic for a lesson in driving a tuk tuk. Thankfully the road was one of those obscure dirt tracks which had little to no traffic at all, so I wasn’t in anyone’s way with my constant stalling.

It was like learning to drive all over again. But after a while I got the hang of it. Once I had gotten to grips with getting the two stroke engine to start, gently easing the tuk-tuk into first, then second and being adventures even third gear, I managed to gently bump my two passengers and myself down the dusty red road. With Sigiriya rock in the background, and a beautiful evening sun gently warming us, it was picture perfect. Who would have thought the evening would end far from perfect!

Sigiriya rock

I will skip over the details of the accident, as it is not something I dwell on with much pleasure. All I will say is that in travelling from where we had dinner back to where I was staying the three-wheeler took a corner too sharp, hit a bump and fell to the right. My subconscious reflex was to put my unfortunate right foot out, which is exactly where the tuk tuk fell, imprinting itself on my foot.

It was a rather surreal experience which I remember in sporadic burst, but not in its entirety. What I do remember is my being the only one injured and my having to continually ensure my two rather unnerved fellow passengers that everything would be ok, while at the same time trying to keep my foot elevated and bracing myself against the pain.

Let me skettch a picture for you. Imagine after three hours, fatigued from traversing from hospital to hospital three foreigners are coming down the hallway of a government teaching hospital. The time is approximately 5.00am on Monday morning. The trio is made up of two guys and one girl. One guy is of medium build half Irish half Kenyan, dark skinned with a head of dreadlocks and a cheeky smile that is currently hidden behind a mask of fatigue. The second guy is a tall good looking South African with blond hair, he is wearing three quarter length trousers, a pink wifebeater and a rather concerned look. In one hand he is carrying a shoe and a woman’s handbag is draped over his other arm. Oh I almost forgot both guys are barefoot due to the hastiness of their departure. Now for the girl; she is Irish, of small stature, with dark hair and she is wearing glasses.

When we meet our trio the girl is being pushed in a wheelchair, a shoe on one foot, the other is raised and the subject of a rather unpleasant looking wound. These three weary and rather odd looking trio are in search of a capable doctor to look at the unfortunate girl’s foot.

Once found the doctor decides that an x-ray is in order, so off they set down yet more hospital corridors which are inhabited by numerous members of the canine and feline family. On being left alone in the x-ray room the girl in question takes a look around and is immediately transported to medieval times when old fashioned x-ray machines were located in small cramped rooms with rickety looking sinks surrounded by chipped tiles. She shakes her head to clear it but the image remains and she realises that she is still in the present. Despite the medieval looking machine the x-ray comes out just fine and it turns out there were no broken bones. A sigh of relief is expressed by all three foreingers.

The next image I will present to you is of a female dormitory lined with hospital beds which are peopled by sleeping forms. Luckily for our girl there is a free bed which is covered by a single dark grey sheet. Later our hero in pink admitted to his, let’s say shock to keep it mild, of the establishment the trio had found themselves in. For the time being however, our two boys were asked to vacate the female only ward and leave our Irish lass alone, which they reluctantly do, after ensuring she was given a pillow to rest her weary head on.

We shall leave our heroine to a few hours rest before meeting her again. This time, the setting unchanged, she is surrounded by seven or eight doctors who are all peering with interest at the gaping wound on her foot. In the background are the remainder of the trio, still barefoot, anxiously looking on as the medical men prod and discuss in an unknown tongue the fate of our Irish girl’s right foot. They seem to come to a unanimous agreement and slowly disperse, leaving only four capable medical experts around the bedside, who notebooks in hand, diligently take notes.

Later on in the day our fatigued but brave girl is approached by two well rounded nurses who are carrying a sheet similar to that covering her bed. They draw the curtains around her sleeping quarters closed and tell her to take of her clothes. The exhausted girl diligently complies under the scrutiny of her two robust companions. The grey sheet is placed around her and she lifted onto a gurney. After being wheeled a few meters the gurney with our heroine atop is pushed against the wall and the charming nurses disappear leaving our Irish lass to the curious gaze scrutiny of those passing. However, the show is short lived as the gurney is once more put in motion this time all the way to the operating room, where a general anaesthetic is administered, allowing our girl with a short period of much needed respite.

On waking she finds herself in a room with a kindly looking doctor hovering over her ready to ask her a serious of questions on whose successful completion our girl receives a winning smile and is shortly thereafter returned to the capable hands of her portly nurses. By degrees a type of understanding is established between our girl and her wardens, who manage to communicate on the most rudimentary of topics.

After sleeping her anaesthesia off our dark haired heroin is visited by her two companions, who by now have purchased much needed footwear. After ensuring she will be well looked after and promising to call the next day, the two foreigners depart, leaving our girl to the mercy of the full-bodied but kindly nurses.

Following two nights in her grey sheeted bed and two surgeries, unable to contact anyone, and with nothing but her handbag and a copy of Wuthering Heights which a kindly gentleman had given her to read, our heroine is finally discharged and is taken back to Colombo to her host family who are anxiously awaiting her return.

Thus ended the first experience of our girl to hospital! I shall not dwell on her slow recovery, but it is safe to say that after much rest and another brief sojourn in hospital her foot is on the mend. The doctors have mentioned that she will regrettably have a lasting aide memoire of her stay in the beautiful country our heroine is currently residing in. But at least she is on the mend and will soon be back on her feet again, running around, chasing stories and as enthusiastic and dedicated as ever.

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