here, there, everywhere

A Good Old-Fashioned Bus Whipping

In At home on April 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

On Dec.1, 2009, I met my brother after work for dinner.  Nice dinner, butter chicken and apple pie for dessert.  Afterwards I decided to walk home, it was a pleasant early winter evening, cool and clear.  I was wearing a brimmed hat to keep the cold off my head and I was listening to my favourite group, Outlandish, as I crossed the bridge.  About 3/4 of the way across a trolley bus was heading towards me when I noticed a cable flying through the air.  I have bad depth-perception at night and was thinking that was kind of weird when I felt a thump on the left side of my neck, similar to being whacked with a hockey stick.  I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, I didn’t black out, but I found myself on my back on the bridge sidewalk.  I started looking for my head because I thought maybe it had been taken off.  Fortunately it was still attached to my shoulders and I managed to sit up.  The bus had stopped about 25 metres up the bridge but there was maybe only one other vehicle close by.  I got up and walked towards the bus, the cable was dangling off the trolley pole.  People were getting off and one guy yelled at me, “Did you see that??!”  I said no, but the cable hit me.  He looked at me like I was on drugs and then told me they had heard an explosion and seen a flame shoot off the back where the cable blew.  Nobody would listen to me, they were too excited about what they had seen.  Another bus pulled up and everyone got on that one to get to the next available stop.  I hopped on the bus that was out of commission and told the bus driver what had happened to me.  He was already shaken up from his experience, it didn’t help that I had come to tell him I’d been hit, but to his credit he took my name and number and treated me like my story was true.  I didn’t know what else to do so I continued walking home.  I phoned my brother and he said he was on his way to meet me.  I got home about 10 minutes before he arrived at which point I finally broke down and started crying.  We walked to the hospital a few blocks away and by the time I’d checked into emergency he’d calmed me down enough that I was starting to see the funny in the episode.

I was admitted and the doctors started coming to take a look.  At that point the impact site was pretty faint but I guess it looked like someone had tried to strangle me since the doc pulled me aside and asked if my brother had done that to me.  I started crying again, what an awful thing to say although it gives you insight into what medical staff has to deal with on a regular basis.  Fortunately the staff also believed my explanation and I was sent home to sleep it off.  Needless to say there wasn’t much sleep that night but I managed to get myself to work the next morning.  My boss took one look at me and got an assistant to drive me to my regular doctor’s office.  This one told me I had first degree burns, gave me some burn cream and told me to go home and sleep.  Mom and dad came by that night to bring dinner and keep me company.

The day after. Pretty 1st degree burns.

View from below. You can see where the cable ended it’s journey on the right side of my neck.

The next morning I woke to a big jello-y neck.  Overnight fluid had come in and swelled up the area around the burns.  When I talked or moved my head it would jiggle and it looked absolutely stupid.  I decided to stay home from work to save everyone the sight of my mutation, but the next morning the jello had hardened and I figured it was time to get back to emergency.  They confirmed an infection had set in and put me on an IV to funnel the meds through, the process would have to be repeated for the next three days.  The doctor on day 1 poked his finger right into the swelling to figure out what was causing pain.  I let him know it was his finger, until he did that everything was fine.  He told me it was his job and walked off in a huff.  The next day a beautiful doctor with intense curiosity decided to do a minor ultrasound on my neck after the IV had run it’s course.  He was so gentle and so nicely wiped off the gel afterwards that I immediately fell in love with him.  This feeling disappeared when the nurse gave me my discharge papers.  The diagnosis was “cellulitis” in the neck.  I marched out to the nurses desk and demanded from him if that meant what was on my neck was what had happened to my thighs.  He looked confused for a moment then responded that cellulitis is different than cellulite and he was pretty sure my neck would look “normal” after a few weeks.  Hallelujah.  The doctor on the third day basically told me he hadn’t heard of these meds helping my “issue” and went on to explain that drug addicts do not encounter noticeable differences in their addictions after receiving treatment.  Uh, yeah.  My neck is swollen because I shoot up bus cables.  After convincing him I felt the IV would help he relented and gave me one.  By this point the swelling was greatly reduced and all that was really left were the burns.

An infection caused a whole lot of ugly swelling. I think this was after 2 IV treatments to get rid of it.

I have a tendency to scar pretty badly and light burns take a few years to disappear.  Mom came over with a small gift, two turtleneck sweaters.  She said she thought they’d be more useful than flowers considering I might look like Frankenstein for the next few months.  However, between the IVs and the burn cream, everything faded out pretty quickly and by Christmas Day there wasn’t a lot of evidence that I’d almost had my head cut off.

This is Christmas Day, 24 days after the accident and you can barely see the remains of the burn.

The doctors still wanted to make sure things were ok so I was sent back for an extensive ultrasound.  The scan revealed the initial impact of the cable hit in the one place it couldn’t do any damage:  it was just a few millimetres off from the carotid artery, barely missed the saliva glands and landed in between all the lymph nodes.  This is nothing less than a miracle.  During the scan I asked the technician if I could get a picture.  She asked why and my response was if all my friends have “baby” pictures on their fridges than I want something comparable.  She said that made sense and sent me on my way with a couple of great scans.  I fired them off to my brother to photoshop the important info out and then posted one on facebook with no explanation.  Sure enough, within 15 minutes the congratulations started pouring in.  Well wishers, people excited for my “news”.  My brother posted a comment that all it showed was 10 out of 10 people don’t know how to read a scan.

This is not a baby. This is what the inside of my neck looks like.

It’s five months later and I’ve settled the case with the insurance company.  It’s not a great feeling to see a monetary value placed on your life, but still, my neck and throat are fine, I can still sing, the scar is completely gone, and with the help of my massage therapist there’s no underlying scar tissue.  Even my family doctor says he’s amazed by the speed and thoroughness of the healing.  It’s still a bit of a mystery why the cable blew off the bus in the first place and I actually don’t care, it was a case of being in the wrong place at the weirdest time.  I don’t walk across that bridge anymore if I can help it and whenever I hear the trolley buses passing I cringe a little, but for the most part this is a pretty happy ending.

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