Easter Sunday 1991 was one of those perfect English spring days which occur more commonly in memory than they do in real life. It was the day my wife and I were in an horrific car crash with a flat back lorry driven by a drunken bloke.
The accident was serious and resulted in me being cut out of the wreckage of my brand-new car. I’d bought the car – a bright red Mazda 323 Fastback – at the end of January. Less than three months later, it was so badly damaged that it had to be written off. But, as I tried to remind myself, it was only a car – and unlike people — easily replaced. We, however, were both pretty much bashed about; my wife suffered a badly sprained sternum as well as having a number of fractured ribs.
I had a few bobby-dazzling injuries myself: my face and head had lost the argument with the steering wheel making me look like I had just gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson; I also ended up snapping the third vertebrae on the left side of the lumbar region of my spinal column, at the same time causing serious soft tissue trauma to the discs; and of course my ribs were badly bruised by the effects of the seatbelt – no complaints there as the seatbelts probably saved our life.
I had to spend some time confined to a hospital bed lying flat on my back. A bit of a bummer but things could have been worse I suppose. Much worse! Life is full of different events, some good, some bad, but all sent in equal measure to challenge us (I’d like to think). This event just happened to fit into the latter category.
The facts surrounding our unfortunate car crash were duly transmitted to work which prompted a host of telephone enquiries and visits from colleagues and well-wishers (nice to know that people care). The day after the crash, I was lying in a hospital bed, on my back, in pain — feeling really sorry for myself. I was struggling to eat this lunch that I had been given which consisted of…’brown stuff’.
As I was poking and prodding this ‘brown stuff around on the plate, who should walk in but my Superintendent (The Sooper); a real nice bloke, one of a dying breed amongst senior officers — a real gentleman. Seeing that I was struggling to eat, he offered to feed me. The thought of being spoon-fed by my boss didn’t really fill me with joy and wasn’t something I could ever live down if the lads found out, so I just told him that I wasn’t hungry and asked him to put the ‘brown stuff’ to one side. Looking closely at the injuries to my head and face, he said, “Do you remember what happened?”
“I remember it as if it were yesterday sir”, I replied.
“When did it happen?” He asked.
“Yesterday”, I said.
“I see you haven’t lost your sense of humour then”
We had a good chat and he left after assuring me that he was going to personally take care of any welfare issues that I had – and he did – he made sure that I had no worries at all throughout the whole of my subsequent recovery and for that I am extremely grateful.
Being catheterised and having to lie on your back for extended periods of time means that you can’t just get up and take a shower when you feel like it; the fact I had a spinal injury too, put an extra ‘crimp’ in that idea. You can imagine my joy when, one of the many lovely nurses that were looking after me, popped her head around the door and said, “Ian, you are having a bed-bath this morning”. She must have seen my face light up; inwardly I was jumping up and punching the air at the thought of having my ‘bits and pieces’ washed by a young nurse.
My joy was extremely short-lived when I saw the ablutions trolley being wheeled in by a stocky male nurse who had large hairy forearms and the biggest hands I’d ever seen. The nurses must have been out in the corridor peeing themselves laughing; all I could think was, “I wonder how many blokes they have caught out with this?” When it came to the bit where this male nurse had to wash my private bits I immediately interjected and said, “I can manage this bit”. I was in enough pain and the thought of having my ‘junk’ mauled by some big hairy bloke was just too much for me to bear.
It wasn’t long before they removed my catheter and I was free to pee on my own – on the proviso that I didn’t get out of bed to do it. How the heck was I supposed to do that, I thought. My question was answered when one of the nurses plonked one of those pee bottle type things down on my bedside cabinet. Have you ever tried to pee into a bottle whilst lying on your back? Not easy, I can tell you. This particular morning I was concentrating hard trying to pee into this bottle but the cleaner was in and out of my room like a blue-bottle with the runs. I decided that it wasn’t going to happen and I would leave it until the cleaners had left whereupon I would have some ‘me time’. So I put the ‘bottle’ onto my cabinet at the side of my bed.
Just then two of my younger colleagues walked into my room for an impromptu welfare visit; without warning one of them picked up my ‘pee bottle’ and said, “What’s this?” Before I could reply he put his lips to the bottle and started playing it as if it were a trumpet. I started laughing, although every time I laughed I was feeling pain everywhere, but I just couldn’t help it. The thought of him putting his lips around a pee-bottle where only minutes ago I’d had my ‘private parts’ was an absolute winner for me. Of course he had no idea why I was in bits with laughter, that is, until I told him. He was absolutely horrified and began rinsing his mouth out and of course he tried to swear us both to secrecy about the whole incident. Yeah right, I lost count of how many people we told but suffice it to say that everyone at work knew about it and there was no way he was ever going to live it down.
The gloom of my short stay in hospital was punctured by some light-hearted and humorous moments, due in part to the friends and colleagues that came to visit me. Great people, great days – times that I remember with great fondness!
“No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” Francois Mocuriac