September 18, 2013
A split second, that’s all it takes for life to change. A split second, is a mere blink of an eye. A split second, and I was hanging on for dear life.
It was September 2008 and I was visiting Bangladesh for a couple of weeks for a bit of work. My parents were in England so I would be alone at my dad's house. Fortunately, my maternal uncle, his wife and kids would lodge at our house for my stay. It was a bit of an inconvenience for them not because it wasn't their home, as they had stayed on many previous occasions. More so because it was the month of Ramadan and the daily rituals were trying at the best of times let alone when one is observing fast from sunrise to sunset at someone else's house.
I planned one day to visit a colleague who was also in Bangladesh from the UK. He lived forty miles away to the west of Sylhet city. The roads being what they were it would take over two hours. My uncle would join me on this trip and we were to leave early morning. We would be taking my Nissan Terrano that I had brought over from England in 2006.
My uncle decided to drive, even though this irked me a bit, as it was my car which I had not driven for almost six months, I didn't give it much thought. As we were driving out of my village, my uncle stated that we would be picking up his cousin who wanted to come with us. I hadn't realized he had invited someone else and I thought why do we have to dilly-dally with someone else for the journey. Begrudgingly I accepted his cousin travelling with us as we headed into Beani Bazaar to pick him up. We found his cousin waiting for us next to the stalls of fresh produce vendors who were setting up their wares for the day.
We headed north along the potholed road and left the town itself at around nine in the morning. Once out of town the road was flanked by open fields with the green shoots of rice protruding from ankle high water. The day was beautiful, it was dry, sunny and judging by the sun it was going to be at least thirty degrees Celsius. Our drive to the town of Bishwanath was uneventful. Once there we spent a couple of hours chatting and my friend showed me his family farm and the crops there were growing. As it was Ramadan no food or drink was offered and none was sought.
It was sometime after one in the afternoon that we headed back home, again my uncle drove with his cousin sitting in the back seat directly behind him. We made one fuel stop in Sylhet and drove by a car spare parts shop to ask about tyre prices before heading east out of the city. Just outside the city my uncle drove to where the new bridge crossing the Surma River was being built. After a brief look we got back in the car, however this time my uncle's cousin sat behind me and immediately fell asleep.
I occupied myself by sending text messages to friends back in England and looking at some of the pictures I had taking that day. We were on a stretch of road just outside the town of Charkai about eleven miles from Beani Bazaar. The road was long and straight, our car was the only vehicle on the road and nothing was ahead as far as the eye could see.
I returned back to my phone, when all of a sudden I felt the vehicle veer unnaturally away from the road and towards the right. I looked up to see my uncle slumped over the steering wheel and before I could even comprehend or react to what was happening the car slammed into a tree trunk – and the tree won.
The sleeping passenger behind me slammed into the back of my seat and hurtled me forward smashing my forehead into the windscreen and my right knee on the dashboard. When the car settled wedged into the tree trunk I found myself without my glasses and blurred vision. My vision was further hindered by warm blood flowing down my face. I felt an immense pressure in my chest and had difficulty breathing. I looked down at my right leg which was pointing out a weird angle and I could not move it. I realized that my leg had come out of the hip socket.
In that instance of realizing how severe my situation was, my heart said “Dear god take me away.”
However my mind stepped in and said “No! this is not how it is supposed to end. I have so much to do, so much to see and there are so many people who rely on me. I will not let it all end like this."
Anger took over and I started to become more alert and aware of the situation. Anger made me focus and get my wits together. Anger caused adrenaline to course through me enabling me to find new strength.
I slowly looked towards my right to see my uncle leant over the airbag that had deployed from the steering wheel. He was rasping, breathing heavily and moaning in pain. I could not move to check if he was okay and the passenger behind me made no sound nor movement. I began calling out to my uncle even though it hurt to breathe let alone speak. I could feel something rattling in my right rib cage.
The car horn was blaring away stuck in activation, the engine was hissing as steam rose from the bonnet and I could hear people scampering around in an attempt to rescue us. I could see through bloodied vision that the tree we struck was in front of a small homestead. I could make out blurred people milling around in a panicked state.
From having been in accidents before I knew not to try to move, not that I could if I tried. Increasingly the blood flowing over my eyes began to completely block my vision. I had horrific images of my forehead cracked open like a nut.
Eventually after what seemed like an eternity two men came round to my door and opened it and before I could say a word they grabbed my legs and left arm and pulled me out of the vehicle.
I screamed in agony as my right hip popped back into place, I yelled that my leg was broken, but I do not think they heard a word. They lay me out on the roadside as they got my uncle and the rear passenger out. The pain I experienced was so excruciating that I felt nothing as I had become numb to it all. I saw nothing due to the blood over my eyes and time became impossible to measure. Everything was happening in slow motion, I heard everything yet understood nothing. I was powerless and without control over my welfare. I resigned to whatever was going to happen as the nearest hospital was twenty miles away which could take an hour or so to get to.
I did not see or hear from my uncle as I listened to people saying he was unconscious and the backseat passenger was also out cold. From what I gathered a passing mini-van was hailed and the three of us were hauled in. I experienced another bout of pain in my ribs and my leg as they positioned me in the back of the van. I held on for dear life as the van rocked and rolled its way over rough roads and into Sylhet.
I ensured I stayed awake and when I arrived at the hospital the emergency team got to work immediately. They cut all my clothes off except my underwear. They wiped me clean and then sewed my face up which required eleven stitches. They then put me into an open ward as that was all they had. I told them about my leg pain and my chest pain. Upon x-raying me they said that nothing could be seen because of shadows caused by internal bleeding. They gave me shots of opiate based painkillers and left me in my bed as relatives in Sylhet having heard of my accident started to visit.
I lay there on the bed not knowing what was happening to my uncle nor the backseat passenger. The conditions in the hospital were so bad that with the agreement of my relatives I discharged myself in less than twenty-four hours. My relatives hired a mini-van to drive me six hours to the capital Dhaka to a private hospital. I was accompanied by someone I didn't know. When I arrived there I was cleaned up, given pain killers and put in a private room.
X-rays with better equipment showed that I had four broken ribs too, but they still could not see what the damage was to my hip. So I was consigned to the hospital for a week. News had got to my brother in Dubai who was flying in and my mum would be coming over from England.
As I waited for their arrival I had a day to contemplate my situation and what had happened. I thought about my life, where I was heading and what this tragedy was trying to teach me. Several thoughts came home to roost;
- I was single and I was vain, my face was lacerated that required eleven stitches. I was living a vainglorious lifestyle and had shut my heart to the possibility of love. I wasn't sharing my life with someone who I could love and be reciprocated by.
- I was carefree and enjoyed a comfortable income which was now being taken away as I would lose a lucrative overseas contract and be relying on my savings. I had to live off my savings for four months.
- I considered myself to be physically in tip-top condition, yet here I was with four broken ribs and a broken hip that made me bed-ridden for over three months. I became a baby once more, whereby my mum moved in with me to look after me for the whole duration.
- Last but not least before my trip I had said some harsh words to a co-worker in London and the man ended up in tears. At the time I had no remorse and I felt I was totally in the right saying what I did.
I realized life had just prescribed me some tough medicine and I had to see the error of my ways. I was humbled to the core and to the point where I was hit financially, physically and left dependent on my parents like a newborn child. I realized that I had to re-evaluate my life and live a more balanced and well-rounded life. I needed to be mindful of the words I used, I needed to be accepting of help from others and finally I needed to open my heart to love.
As for my uncle he had suffered a heart attack and was saved by the airbag as it had acted like a defibrillator, kick-starting his heart back to life. The back seat passenger, well! he did not even suffer a scratch. I guess as he was sleeping his body was like an elastic band and the impact did not affect him at all.