Friday, January 8, 2010

It All Started Way Before Groundhog Day

I arrived in northern California in January, 1978. Within a few months, I had discovered and fallen in love with international folk dancing in the Bay Area. A few months later, I met and fell in love with my future husband at a folk dancing event. We lived together for four years before getting married. And then I became pregnant.

It was now the early 80s; I had come of age in the 60s. We prepared for childbirth without drugs, going "au naturelle", using the Lamaze method. I routinely biked to work, a few miles away, even at seven months pregnant in late 1982. Jim and I biked everywhere, and being pregnant didn't stop me from biking, even though several years earlier I had been hit by a car while on my bike and thrown into the middle of El Camino Real, a major six-lane roadway on the peninsula. Fortunately, being young and resilient, and with the good fortune of timed traffic lights in my favor, I was not injured. That accident didn't discourage me from biking, but now in retrospect, perhaps it was an omen of things to come.

My dad was on a business trip to San Francisco, and my husband Jim and I were supposed to meet him in the city for dinner on the evening of December 2nd. This was the only time my dad ever came to the Bay Area on a business trip. I think it was a Wednesday. It was late afternoon, about 4pm, when I hopped on my bike and headed home. (OK, maybe I didn't "hop", but I threw one leg over the top bar of the 10-speed, and started pedaling.) A few blocks from my workplace, a car careened around the corner and headed down the wrong side of the street, straight at me. I had little warning and almost no time to react. I tried to get out of the path of the oncoming vehicle, tried to veer toward the side of the road, but it was too late. The car hit me, and the bike, sending both of us up into the air, in different directions. My legs flipped up over my head, like the legs of a rag doll. I came down on the asphalt, hard, on my back. I had worn my bike helmet, thankfully, so I did not lose consciousness. It could have been much worse.

Almost immediately, a woman came by and held my hand and tried to comfort me as I lay on the ground. I turned my head and recognized her; she was someone who worked in my building. I asked her to call my dad at his hotel in San Francisco and tell him what happened; that I was in an accident on my bike but that I was OK and not to worry; that I would call him later. She promised she would call him, but first had to wait for the paramedics to arrive. (Remember, this was in the days before cell phones.) She stayed with me until the "professionals" arrived.

First on the scene were two fire engines, the first responders. They covered me with a blanket (for shock) even though I had several layers of clothing on and complained to them that I was actually hot. Then they wanted to move me off the roadway. Why, I do not know to this day, as the street I was lying on was not a busy one. In any case, they decided I needed a neckboard to protect my neck, but of course they did nothing to protect the rest of my body. Every time they tried to move me, I screamed in pain. Finally, they left me where I was and waited for the ambulance to arrive, the "real" professionals.

The ambulance staff assessed me, and realized I probably had a broken leg. They splinted the leg and put me on a stretcher and into the waiting ambulance. Forget about the blanket, which I had thrown off, and the neck brace, which I clearly didn't need. They did their job and got me to Stanford Hospital in a reasonable amount of time. (Much to my chagrin, they didn't use flashing lights and sirens, as I was clearly not dying. It was probably better that they drove fairly slowly, because every time they went over any little bump, my leg cried out in pain.) My dad was called, my husband was called, my obstetrician was called, and they all met me at the hospital.

X-rays were taken. My left femur, the largest bone in the human body, was most definitely broken. Jim had come to the hosptial with the car, one of the few times a year he drove it, intending to take me home after what he assumed was a minor bicycle fall. But I wasn't going anywhere that night. In fact, I wasn't going anywhere for quite a few nights to come.

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