When I left the US I made the choice to leave most of my cold-weather clothes behind. It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I am realizing that this was a mistake. It turns out that I seriously underestimated how much humidity does to amplify cold temperatures. The day in question was one of the first seriously cold days of the year and I had to drive across the city very early in the morning to begin the process of renewing my visa. The cold caught me by surprise. I left the house in gym shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops. I only realized how underdressed I was once I got out onto the main road. At that point I couldn't be bothered to go back so I decided to tough it out. By the time I was making my return drive I was freezing and in quite a hurry to get home and put some pants on.
Peter Eats Pavement (The Accident)
That’s when it happened. I was broadsided by a taxi that took a sudden, unexpected turn. And I hit the pavement hard. You’d think that in an event like this there would some sort of adrenaline rush that would kick in and help with the pain, at least initially, but there was nothing. In the second or two between my impact with the taxi and my impact with the ground I think my emotions are best expressed this way: “Really? Again? REALLY?”
Seeing as I was laying in the middle of a crowded intersection during the morning rush hour I was back on my feet almost instantly, pushing my bike out of the road. To the credit of this taxi driver, he stopped the car and ran out to see if I was okay. He looked very concerned but I just yelled and cursed at him in English. I knew he didn’t understand any of what I was saying but I was way past the point of caring.
My leg was bleeding pretty profusely at this point. The major wounds were on my knee and ankle. There was a lot of blood so I hopped back on my bike to zip home and clean myself up. Except that my bike wouldn’t start. So, begrudgingly, I began the long trek of pushing my bike home on foot. There were a number of good Samaritans that attempted to give some sort of assistance to the big, sad, bloody white man (me) they had spotted pushing his broken motorbike down the road. But I just gritted my teeth and kept on walking, eyes facing front. I was on a mission.
When I got home a friend of ours had just arrived at our house. He took me to the pharmacy to buy some supplies to tend to my wounds. When we got back to the house a team of our friends cleaned my cuts and patched me up. I had to work later that day so I sucked it up and got back out on the road.
Peter Goes To The Hospital
Three workdays later my foot had swelled to approximately twice its previous size and hurt to the touch. It had steadily been getting more and more painful as time went on and I had been doing my best to ignore it. In retrospect, I had not been doing nearly enough to keep my wound clean. It was not long before the pain became too intense to ignore any longer.
It was a Thursday evening and I was teaching a business English class in a large conference room. I was literally hopping on one foot to move around in front of the class. I had done my best to reassure my students that I was fine so they would chuckle nervously when I had to hop a particularly far distance. I finished the class just fine but when it was over I knew that I had to go to the hospital. ASAP.
I drove home and a couple friends brought me to the hospital. My foot was clearly infected at this point so I spent my ride on the back of my roommate’s motorbike listening to the story of the time that she had gone to the hospital for an infected wound. Apparently she had suffered an injury even grizzlier than mine on her arm. She left it alone (like I had been doing) for a week until one evening when she was teaching in a university it spontaneously discharged a large amount of puss and fluid in the middle of class. It was only then that she was brought to the hospital. When she got there her festering, scabby wounds were scrubbed spotless with a scrub brush soaked in Hydrogen Peroxide. There were tears.
My friends were pretty excited to see me suffer the same fate but alas my foot had not quite gotten that out of control. So while they watched YouTube videos on the doctors's computer while the doctor cleaned my foot, which was still quite painful. The doctor gave me a regiment of antibiotics and painkillers to be taken twice daily with meals. He told me to come back to the hospital in three days time so that they could check in on my foot again, which I really had intended to do… right up until I got the bill for his services. It was pretty steep. We had gone to the ‘white people’ hospital, which was known to be quite expensive. At one point the doctor actually said to me "This is your first time here? Good. Then you're still rich." And I just sat on the hospital bed thinking "Dammit." Next time I am just going to the normal Vietnamese hospital.
I took a few days off of work but it took about to two weeks of rest before I was walking normally. And a boring two weeks they were. As I write this it is still too painful to wear shoes so I have been sporting my Red Sox flip-flops around town. #represent
I must say, despite the obvious challenges, inconveniences and expenses that were imposed on me by this accident, the experience overall was quite up-lifting. Even from my nuclear family and closest friends, I have never experienced a higher level of concern for my well being or received more unsolicited effort to help me in a time of need than I experienced in the days and weeks following this accident. And this is coming from the perspective of somebody who has had actual health problems in the past. This is such a better social standard than I have experienced in the U.S. Maybe I'll just never come home.
To my new peeps in Vietnam:
Apparently people actually read what I write sometimes and those people have asked me for more visuals. Those people will love my next post - it's a lil' montage of GoPro footage of the daily commute around Hanoi. I think it turned out to be pretty cool so hopefully y'all will agree. In the mean time, here are a few choice freeze-frames as a preview...