Today’s the 40th anniverary of my accident. I’ll give the full details below, but basically I was in a motor bike smash. I lost the front of my right leg and broke all my ribs, so that I could not breath.
I spent a fair bit of yesterday being broody about the delayed infusion and about the accident anniversary. This morning I woke up with a migraine. Almost certainly it’s just my body deciding to throw a wobbly because I’m still chewed up.
I saw a motor bike crash on the sports news last week. If I know what is coming, I can cope, but I wasn’t expecting it, and it brought everything back. From lying on the road waiting to die, to the two years it took before I walked again. This cancer has been bad, but compared 40 years ago, it’s nowt.
Still there was some good news. We saw a friend of my wife, who is about 5 months behind me with the same cancer. He’d stopped eating and gone to 45 Kg. Since starting chemo he’s begun to eat everything and is slowly putting weight on. That was good to see.
And lastly, here’s an account I wrote several years ago about what happened 40 years ago. If you are sqeamish, you may prefer to skip some of it.
This happened years ago I was coming home from work on a small motorbike, (a Honda 50).
I was driving down the main Manchester – Stockport Rd ( The A6, which tells you just how major a road it is), and I was in the line of traffic, i.e. in the centre of the line of traffic, behind the centre of the car in front. If you are nerdish enough to want to know, it was at 53o 26’ 56.30″N and 2o 11’ 31.70 W.
A car coming the other way wanted to turn right (i.e. across the road) into a small side street. I think he looked ahead and saw a line of the drivers’ sides of cars, with a gap. What he could not see was that I was the gap. So as the car in front of me passed the side street he slammed his foot down and made the turn.
He hit me in the right leg, breaking it just below the knee and ripping off the flesh from the front of the leg. I went over his bonnet and bounced off his windscreen, then off the windscreen of a car in the small side street, then onto the road. I had all ribs broken and could not breathe.
I tried to get up, and could not understand why I could not, but I knew I was badly injured, so I concentrated on staying conscious. I heard a voice, presumably the driver, saying “I don’t know where he came from, he just came out of nowhere.”
I thought, “I didn’t come out of nowhere, I came from Manchester, you idiot.”
Then I heard the ambulance coming and I thought, “Oh well, if I going to die, at least I’ll do it in style.”
I decided the best thing to do was to pray, sort out anything outstanding and confirm my trust in God. It was the only thing left to do, and I was presumably dying, so it seemed the rational thing to do.
I was conscious most of the time, probably with the aid of oxygen, but with my eyes closed, so I could concentrate on staying conscious. I wasn’t afraid, why should I be, but I was very annoyed – and why not?
Eventually we must have got to the hospital, because I heard a voice saying “So do we have the next of kin to sign the consent form?”
I was really annoyed about that. “That’s stupid,” I thought. I’m dying, why are you wasting time?”
So I put my hand up, as if I was holding a pen, and waved it about.
The voice said, “Well give him the pen then nurse, give him the pen.”
I felt a pen in my fingers, so I opened my eyes, and signed the form. (I saw it later – quite a good signature).
A few minutes later my wife arrived and spoke to me, she told me she loved me, said she would sort out everything needed, and that she would pray for me.
After the operation I was a week on morphine, which does not stop pain, it distorts what is happening. I thought I was taken on an underground railway to a concentration camp near Alderley Edge to be tortured. (The truth was that I was taken on a trolley to Intensive Case, to be given a tracheotomy and emergency surgery.)
Eventually I woke up, on a breathing machine in Intensive Care. I asked for a cup of tea (I had to mouth the words). The nurse gave me a funny look, but went away and came back with a cup. But she didn’t give it to me, she picked up a little cone, and poured the tea down a tube. A moment later I felt a warm feeling up my nose, and down into my stomach. That’s how I knew I was being fed by a tube. I thought, “and she didn’t ask me if I took sugar!”. Then laughed at myself.
Every day my wife came in at least twice. She read to me from a thriller I had just borrowed from the library (Wings over the Diamantina by Arthur Upfield) and always finished on a cliffhanger to make me want to stay alive to find out what happened.
After a week, I learned to breath, so they moved me to the broken leg shop as the residents called it. We were all strapped down to metal frames, so we could not move. We still did our best to create mild havoc, like stealing washbowls from a trolley left too near a bed and passing them along the ward to hide under the bedclothes. The nurses were good. They said they preferred our ward to some of the others, at least we were fun.
After 5 more weeks they put me in a plaster, with a window so they could dress the flesh and skin grafts, then they sent me home.
I got back to work 5 more weeks later, but the tissue grafts only partly worked, and I had to learn to dress the leg four times a day through a window in the plaster.
Twelve weeks after the accident I went back to work on crutches, and stayed on them for a year while the top part of the graft rotted and fell off, and then the open scar slowly healed over. Fortunately there was no pain, the front of the leg is now permanently numb.
For a while the healing went backward. As I saw a different doctor every week, they did not detect it, but I could see it. The District Nurse (off the record) suggested I might be allergic to the Cetrimide dressing they were using, and that I try switching to saline dressing. I did and it worked.
After a year the leg had healed, but the bone had not, so they did a bone graft from my left hip. It took six months, but that did mend, although it needed another few months in callipers before it was strong enough to allow me to walk unaided.
My kids were great, although the littler one did burst into tears the first time I walked unaided. He ran into the other room to get my crutches. It wasn’t his Daddy without his crutches.
The first thing we did was go to Devon for a holiday. One day I went out by myself to Dartmouth. I had heard that Christopher Robin Milne (yes that one) had a bookshop there. I knew my wife loved the Winnie the Pooh books, so I went in and bought a boxed set, and asked if Mr Milne could sign them, “From Malcolm to his wife, to celebrate him learning to walk”.
Milne added, “And may he walk long and far.”
So that’s what I’ve tried to do. We’ve worked from Poland to Romania, lived in Germany and Switzerland and visited Hong Kong and Singapore, and generally knocked around Europe.
“I Shall Walk” in Welsh is “Mi Gerddaf i” or “Cerddaf” in formal Welsh, so I when I started writing I used that for my first penname, A.F.Cerdd, and later Cerddaf as a handle or bardic name. And I still think it was a kind and thoughtful comment from a kind and decent man.