Posted on 11/14/02
November 14, 2002
PAT'S BEEN HIT BY A TRUCK!
It was a beautiful sunny Portuguese afternoon. Pat & Cat were returning from Vila do Bispo where they had retrieved the bike bags they had mailed from Finland. As they sailed down Highway EN125 they were, as they always are, conscious of traffic. They practice being defensive at all times, calculating what the car coming up from behind or turning in front of them is going to do.
The cross roads here have little turnout lanes. As they approached Pat saw a black Volkswagen slowing from behind. They were almost in the turn out lane when the guy made a quick turn in front of them. Pat remembers thinking, "Geez, you're in such a hurry that you cut us off, you must be on the way to a really important appointment?"
The little black car was around the corner when Pat caught sight of the big flat bead truck bearing down on them. He was close to the edge of the road but Pat & Cat were on a diagonally marked area at the turn out. With out warning, with out a blinker going like the Volkswagen had, the truck veered right and hit him. The side board of the flat bed smacked him on the shoulder and he yelled out but it was too late. He tried to swerve away but the force of the crash sent him wobbling and in an instant he was on the ground.
The impact was absorbed by his left elbow and knee. His head hit on the ground and he saw stars. He thanked his lucky stars that he always wears his helmet. He regained composure and sat up. The truck pulled to a stop at the intersection. Cat asked him if he was okay. He felt okay but was in a little shock. She pulled ahead and began to yell at the truck driver. He, of course, didn't know what she was saying.
The light turned green and he began to drive forward. Cat was almost hanging on the door handle. Pat yelled for her to get a paper and take his license number. As soon as he saw her writing it down he pulled through the intersection and over to the side of the road.
A guy in an SUV pulled up, took a look at Pat and said, "We'd better get you to a Hospital."
"I think I'm okay," Pat responded.
"No, man, take a look at your arm."
Both Pat & Cat stood and stared in disbelief. Pat's left elbow was blown up like a balloon. That worried them. His first thought was that he was bleeding badly under the skin. The skin was by now looking like it was stretched over a tennis ball.
Roman Stern was the Good Samaritan. He insisted that Pat sit in his car. Cat didn't want to leave the bikes. At first she said, "Get him to a Doctor, I'll stay here with the bikes." Pat hated that idea. The truck driver had been yelling and complaining. Roman said he was denying that he hit Pat but rather that Pat pulled right in front of him.
When Cat said that wasn't true Roman told her he had seen the whole thing happen. He thought the truck driver was blind in one eye. He had thick glasses and it was obvious he had a hearing problem, too. Pat suggested that they ask the guy to take the bikes into town on his truck. He objected and the one word that Pat & Cat could understand was Policia. They thought he wanted them call and wait for the Police.
Roman said the guy was just positioning, preparing his story for the Police. He asked if we wanted to call them and suggested it wouldn't do much good. The guy obviously didn't have anything so there wouldn't be much good in suing him. Pat shook his head and told Roman to let the guy know that we wouldn't call the Police. Tell him we want to get to the Hospital but we need him to take the bikes for us.
Hearing "no police" calmed him and he agreed. Roman took Cat's bike and literally threw it like a power lifter, up onto the truck. He grabbed Pat's but it had the heavy bags on it and he staggered under the weight. Cat ran to help. Even the truck driver lent a hand.
As Roman jumped into the drivers seat Cat remembered that her wallet was in the handle bar bag. She feared that the driver would lose us and she would have to get new documents and credit cards. Roman jumped out and ran to the back of the truck. He was pounding on it, yelling and trying to get the bag off but the driver was oblivious and began pulling away. Roman grabbed the bag from the handlebars, off the tail gate as he ran along behind the truck.
Back in the SUV, he said, "That guy can't see or hear!"
It was like Mr. Toad's wild ride, to the Medical Center. Roman was behind the truck and began to honk and waive as the driver passed the turn off. On the horns of dilemma he made a quick decision to chase the truck and get him to turn back. When he got behind it he flashed his lights and honked. The driver didn't respond at all. In a huge display of power and speed, Roman burst passed him and we waved our arms out the windows as he continued to flash and honk. The truck driver was completely oblivious at first then got the message and pulled over in a dirt lot. Roman jumped out and talked with him. The driver still seemed to be protesting his innocence. When Roman got back in, Cat asked and he told us that the guy was now beginning to question whether he might have made a mistake when he hit Pat.
Once in front of the Medical Center, Pat left the logistics of the bikes and bags to Cat and hustled inside. Roman had suggested that he just say that he fell in order to avoid having them call the police which would trigger an offensive by insurance companies if we needed help paying for the treatment.
Pat walked right up to the desk and said, "I fell down."
The clerk hustled him into an exam room and they had him lie on a gurney. The Doctor's first question was "What language do you speak?" When he said English she asked, "So you are English?" "No." "Then what language do you speak?" she asked again with a hint of irritation in her voice. "I'm from the US." Pat responded.
Once they got the language thing out of the way, Dr. Anke Wiltinger told Pat she was from Germany as she began to feel his hand and arm. She had him wiggle his fingers and make a fist. Between them they decided that there weren't any broken bones. At the same time she had the nurse, Jose Nascimento start trying to drain some of the blood that had accumulated in the bulge, at the elbow. A quick incision and some probing only brought out a small amount of the crimson fluid.
The real fear Dr. Wiltinger had was of infection. She cautioned Pat to keep a close eye on the elbow during the next 24 hours. If there was any sign of redness or heat she wanted him back in the Medical Center immediately so they could begin a course of antibiotics.
Believe it or not, they rode the bikes back to the little flat they have rented. In fact they were near the Grocery Market so they picked up things for dinner then rode the cobblestones. The leg was stiff, the arm sore but the spirits were high. They rejoiced in the fact that it wasn't any worse. They shuttered at the thoughts of what might have been. But, they are great believers in fate, luck, karma and coincidence. Coincidence is when two unexpected events occur simultaneously. The driver hadn't expected to hit anybody and they hadn't expected to be hit. Several things led them to that moment. They had tried to buy a little car but the deal fell through. They had to get to Vila do Bispo to get their packages so they decided to ride the 21 Km on the bikes. Another car for sale led them off the beaten path and up a dirt road for an hour. They turned back because it was getting late and they weren't sure they were on the right road.
Had they canned the idea of the dirt road or gone on seeking the car, they would not have met the blind driver. Had they been able to get the little car they would have driven. You see, each time you choose a direction it is chance and coincidence that leads to the next interesting story on the paths that we call life.
On Monday they checked back in to the Medical Center. The nurse on duty, Ana Cristina looked over the wounds and pronounced them "on the heal" without any signs of infection. Another moment of joy. Then she said, "YOU'RE RIDING YOUR BICYCLES AROUND THE WORLD? YOU MUST BE CRAZY!"
(Movie: You Must Be Crazy 0:13)
We'll have more in our story about Roman, his wife, son Alex and the Real Estate projects they are involved in. Stay tuned, we will do the Portuguese Chapter in a week or two and introduce you to Scotty.
It's great to be alive and well!!!
Pat & Cat