Before you read this blog you may want to take the morning off work. It is especially long. It is also a good idea to have tissues handy.
Monday morning brought another day off work as the plant wasn’t quite ready to be moved in to. To pass the time I sat down, pulled out my note book and began plotting an afternoon adventure. The weather was particularly fabulous, warm, breezy, and gentle, a true PEI summer day. I decided to do something courageous and crazy and bike to Brackley and back. I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the beach but I would make it to Brackley and as far as my legs would carry me after that.
If you have similar biking adventure aspirations then I suggest Mama Jo’s bike adventure survival kit:
1) Sunscreen. If you are a fair maiden like myself and burn faster than an egg on a hot tin roof then don’t be afraid to rub in generous amounts of sunscreen before facing the sun.
2) Water. Water. Water. Enough said.
3) Travel snacks. I am partial to a big Johnny Gold apple but if you favour trail mix and berries go to it. It’s important to keep yourself energized and a rest stop along the way to indulge in a yummy snack is a great idea too.
4) Camera. Keep your eyes open for all the visual treats you will see along the way and having a camera handy will keep those treats close to your heart.
5) Bandaids, and general first aid kit material. Even if you don’t plan on falling on your face someone else might so be prepared to help out a fellow traveler.
With my bike basket packed with all the necessary provisions I headed out. I decided to follow the confederation trail. It would be free of motor traffic and I knew on a day like today there would be friendly travelers enjoying it so the potential to make friends was high.
The trail was beautiful it curved through the middle of Charlottetown, with trees along either side of it shielding it from the bustle of the city. Ditches full of lupins hugged the trail closely hanging a thin dreamy aroma in the air. I pedaled along the trail and stopped at the first beautiful site I saw: a graffiti covered picnic table, gazebo, and trash can. Random words and symbols were tattooed on the surfaces with various colours and thickness of paint. I was captured by it. The words didn’t make sense to me and there was a tremor of misunderstood hurt vibrating through the sprays of paint. There was something so beautiful about the rebellion, it was raw and an effort to be heard. Had the delinquents that defaced the picnic table and gazebo known that I would find their rebellion worthy of my attention they probably wouldn’t have done it, which is another testament to its beauty.
The trail continued and I saw butterflies and lupins and fields of red soil. When I made it to Brackley I carried on, biking down the highway and side roads. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular just curious to see what I would see. I have mentioned that the inland of PEI is just as rolling as the ocean that surrounds it. After about my fourth especially large hill I made a bargain. If I got to the top of this hill and I could see the beach and it was all down hill, I would press on. If I didn’t I would go back. I made it to the top of hill and starred off into the distance. I could smell the sea and feel the salty air prick my skin. I could just barely see a thin line of ocean but it was protected by another hill, bigger than the one I had just conquered. I parked myself under a shade tree in the ditch and took a moment to rest. I ate my apple, reapplied sunscreen, and drank more water. Finally I pointed my bike home and set out, along the way I picked some especially beautiful lupins, accomplishing another goal on my Island to do list.
I was called in to work on Tuesday at the new plant on the edge of Charlottetown. I was so excited! I had mapped my course, packed an excellent lunch, and even had a carb heavy breakfast so I would have energy to bike there. After being laid off work for a little over a week I was ready to jump back into the saddle and get my elbows dirty with chocolate, butter, and toffee.
I hoped on my bike and started out of the driveway, looking both ways making sure it was clear of traffic and followed carefully behind a big pink bus. I slowly scootched into the middle of the lane hoping to make a left hand turn at the intersection. As I began making my turn I saw out of the corner of my eye the hood of a car. “Wow, that’s close,” I thought. No sooner had the thought left my mind when I was hit. I remember everything that happened to me in those following 5 seconds.
I felt my body travel along the hood of car, clattering and folding awkwardly. When I hit the windshield I bit my tongue and was sent into the air. Like a rag doll being tossed my limbs fell around me limply and I tumble toward the ground. I hit the ground with a vicious thud, my butt hit first, just below the lower back and tail bone. The impact and position of my limbs caused me to roll onto my side, my leg scraped against the pavement and my head hit with a sharp bang. I heard my bike clatter to the ground 4 feet away from my head and something on my bike shattered as it made contact with the pavement. I could smell the warm pavement and heard a calamity of confused cars screech to a halt. ‘Praise Jesus I am wearing my helmet,’ I thought to myself. After the fullness of the impact of my body was absorbed into the pavement I rolled onto my back and my legs slumped into an uncomfortable position. As my body relaxed my left shoulder brushed heavily against the ground and finally I was still. I instantly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit run his hands up and down my body, “You are fine, Joelle, you are completely fine.” He left and in that moment I had the thought to get up, ‘I am fine, I should get up, this is embarrassing, I’m in the middle of the street, I could get run over.’ Jesus came up beside me, firmly placed His hand on my left shoulder and said, “Stay down, you just got hit by a car, stay down.” I obeyed and opened my eyes and was starring up at the blue morning sky dotted with a few puffy clouds. A saw a bird fly across the sky and studied the span of its wings, the pace of the wing flaps and how it carried itself in the sky. ‘There’s a blue heron,’ I thought to myself.
I became very aware of what had happened, where I was, and what this meant. When I looked around I saw a man running up to me. His face was rigid with concern but calmness. He knelt down beside me and starred into my face searching for me to respond to him. His face was so handsome and kind and calm, he had curly brown hair and bluey green eyes. ‘Thank you Jesus for sending a handsome man to my side,’ I thought.
“Are you ok? My name is Daniel, I am the first responder, where are you hurt?” The touch of his hand on my arm said he wouldn’t leave my side until the paramedics came. I looked at him and thought about what he said, ‘First responder?’ That’s the professional way to say “I have first aid training or I am in a profession where I see tragedy all the time.” I could see a fireman crest on his navy blue t-shirt. ‘What are you doing here? The fire department is in the other direction.’ I thought, ‘Hm, he must be getting coffee for the guys.’
“I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok,” I repeated, my voice was trembling from the shock, I didn’t like the sound of it and I tried to push my voice to sound controlled, and brave but it wouldn’t change its tone. “My lower back and neck.”
“What’s your name?” He asked.
“Joelle,” I said. From somewhere off to my right I heard the shrill voice of a woman screaming. Her voice got closer and closer. ‘I need to calm her down,’ I thought. ‘If she doesn’t calm down she will go into shock and be in worse shape than me.’
“Joelle, what happened?” The fireman asked again. This time I saw another fireman standing off behind him. He was assessing the situation and nodding and pointing at by standards.
“I was biking to work, I was making a left hand turn, I didn’t see her, I got hit. I was on my way to work.” I said, disbelief of what had happened setting in.
The woman was in hysterics her hands were covering her mouth and she was crying. She had long dirty blonde hair and it swished back and forth as she trembled. I smiled up at her. ‘I needed to smile. A smile is a good sign,’ I thought. “It’s ok, I’m ok, I’m ok. We’re ok. It’s going to be ok,” I said. She knelt down beside me and leaned on the fireman. I reached up and held her hand, rubbing it with my thumbs, and repeated that I was ok and that we would be fine. The fireman smiled and relief flooded his face for a moment. He then returned to business and waved a by standard over to console the woman and take her away.
“Joelle can you tell me where you are hurt again?”
“My lower back and neck.”
“Ok just lie still, try not to move, you’re doing good. Where do you work?”
“Anne of Green Gables chocolates, on the Cossway, outside of town.”
“Oh that sounds like a fun place to work. You’re smiling still, that’s good.”
“I’m always smiling,” I said. “It’s a bad sign when I’m not.”
The highest level of hysteria had been reached and I could feel the situation deescalating. A nurse on her day off arrived and called the hospital and an ambulance. When I knew the situation was under control and that I was safe a list of things to do in that moment to help those who were helping rolled through my mind.
“Someone needs to call my roommate, his name is Ian, I just live two houses down from here.” I instructed the nurse to get my phone from my back pack and call Ian. He was called and came two minutes later. “How is my bike?” I asked the firemann, afraid of the answer.
The fireman looked at my bike and his raised his eye brows in surprise. “Your bike is fine actually,” he paused, “But your coffee cup is gone. Yeah its completely smashed. You won’t be getting your coffee today.” At that moment I started to cry. I didn’t sob or scream of become hysterical, but a small well of tears trailed down my cheeks as I mourned the lost of my favourite drug. The fireman made more small talk with me keeping me alert, asking me questions he had already asked and some new ones like where I was from, how long had I been in PEI, what did I study at school, etc.
The police came and rerouted traffic. I saw a transport truck creep around me and I noticed that I was directly inline with the traffic like. ‘I am right in the middle of the intersection,’ I thought. The paramedics came and checked me over, asked me the same questions the fireman did and began checking my body for injuries. I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping to fall into some space of peace where I could just breathe, where the calamity would melt. ‘Stay with them, stay alert,’ I told myself. I looked up the paramedic treating me, her name was Alice. “I have a friend who is a medic.” I said, grasping at this conversation topic made me smile, I needed to talk about something familiar and happy. I suddenly remembered that I had texted my medic friend, Eric, that morning. He was flying in from Holland the night before and I knew he would still be up and jet legged. I had said, “Welcome home!!” and I am thankful that those would not be the last words I would say to him.
“Really? Where is your medic friend? Why aren’t they here helping you?”
I chuckled, sort of, it was more like a shaky exhale of air with a smile attached to it. “He lives in Ontario.”
“Where in Ontario?”
“Hey I was just there last week,” the fireman beamed.
“Oh really?” I said. I felt relieved that someone could fly back and forth to Ontario on the weeks I couldn’t, haa haa. I was about to ask him why he was there when a stretcher appeared and they began to load me on. The fireman, with the kind face, held my neck firmly and yet so gently that I could barely feel his hands. It felt like sunlight around my neck. The paramedic took off my helmet and the second fireman held my head. Because I had back and neck pain it took six people to move me. There were so many hands guiding my limbs and body where to go that I didn’t instinctively try to move. I was strapped to the stretcher starting from the chest down. With every strap that encompassed my body I felt like I was being harnessed into a roller coaster. I was able to just close my eyes now and let them tinker with me. A stiff collar was strapped around my neck and another to do list popped into my head. I would need my health card, the insurance card for out of province health care, ID, etc. Ian retrieved my wallet and then I was slid into the ambulance, the doors were shut and I was off to the hospital
‘I am in an ambulance. Cool,’ I thought. Because I was strapped in tighter than a fat lady in a corset I could barely move my head to look around. I darted my eyes around the cabin, I saw an oxygen mask hanging to my right, an identifiable machine to my left, and other medical gadgets and gizmos. The paramedic asked how old I was, where I was from, what my name was, if I had any allergies, etc. All of these questions she knew the answers too but I realized that answering them consistently again and again assured them there was no brain damage. She tested my blood sugar levels and the thought occurred to me that I should ask if she could test if I was diabetic. Being a pastry chef diabetes is an occupational hazard, but asking that might cause more questions and more concern and then I would be at the hospital all day. So I decided not to.
I was wheeled into the hospital and suddenly I felt like I was a victim on an episode of Greys Anatomy. We were met by a nurse and the paramedic rambled off medical jargon to her. “We have a 23 year old female victim of a car verses pedestrian accident. Pain in neck is 2 over 10, pain in lower back is 4 over 10. Cognitive respond is clear and consistent, no external injuries . . .” The nurse placed two blankest that felt like they had just come out of the dryer over me to prevent me from going into further shock. I am really fortunate that I was awake and responsive to everything around me it made the hospital experience enjoyable. I was moved onto a bed and my body sighed with relief as the stretcher and straps were taken off. More nurses moved around me and hooked me up to machines and asked me more of the same questions, they passed in and out of the trauma room and every time someone came in it was a new face to memorize, hmm, maybe they do that on purpose.
I suddenly heard a mans rolling and jovial Scottish voice resonating down the hall way. ‘Oh sweet Jesus I hope that voice is coming my way,’ I prayed. It was! A few seconds later a bearded, jovial, bright eyed Scottish man was at my side, he looked me up and down and said in a thick red accent, “Hello darling, my names Eugene, what’s yours?”
“Joelle,” I answered, smiling and shamelessly blushing.
“Joelle, what happened to you?” he asked in a teasing tone.
“I got hit by a car while biking to work.”
“You got hit by a car while riding a bike? What’d you do that for?”
“I don’t know,” I chuckled.
“That’s a smart way to start the day, well you’re smiling and your vitals are good, I think you’ll live. The doctor is going to come in and check you over and maybe send you for some x-rays and hopefully we’ll have you on your way. Ok I’m going on break.” And just like that he left. The rippling golden texture of his voice remained nestled in my ears.
The doctor came just as Eugene had said and after listening to my heart, poking me, and asking me questions I was asked to slowly move my neck and limbs one at a time. When I sat up the doctor looked at me surprised.
“Wow, you are completely fine for just getting hit by a car. You may be sore for the next couple of days, go home take a nice hot bath, don’t go to work, take something for the pain, but if you have any problems come back in right away. You are free to go Joelle, you are one lucky young woman.”
‘Divinely lucky,’ I thought. Ian came with my health card and I filled out some forms and just like that I walked out of the hospital. I walked out of the hospital. I did as the doctor said and took it easy. At first it was easy to rest, I just wanted to fall into bed and never get out. But as my body rested my mind became restless and I had energy to do things that my body wouldn’t permit me to do.
A mean case of cabin fever was coming over me when my friends Lindsay and Nathan invited me out for ice cream. I was overjoyed at the invitation and couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. I thought we would go to someplace in Charlottetown for my favourite treat but they took me all the way to Kensington, a decent 45 minute drive out of town. The scenery was refreshingly beautiful. Lupins filled the ditches with waves of blue, purple, and pink. The sun was setting in a flaming display of red, orange, and yellow. Against the blazing sky was the dim silhouette of quiet farms. Beauty is so comforting after a tragedy. The ice cream was fabulous, sweet, thick, and it coated my mouth in curtain of classic vanilla.
As I went to bed that night I felt overwhelming guilt. I had caused so much trouble today. Not only had I given all the people I care about mini heart attacks but what about the witnesses that saw the accident, what if I scarred them for life? What if they never drive again? What about the woman who hit me? How is she? I know it wasn’t my fault but think of all the tragedy I had caused that day, a mean butterfly effect. It didn’t help that every time I closed my eyes all I could see was the accident over and over again. I prayed for relief of nightmares and in that moment a friend texted me out of the blue. He enjoys teasing me and after telling him what happened and that I was alright he started to tease me. It felt so good to be teased, to be treated normally.
The following day I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a car. Obviously. I was sore all day. The scrapes and bruises started to show up and I counted 3 decent external injuries on my body. I rested all day, staying on the couch reading, writing, watching the Euro Cup, and movies. In the evening a friend from church offered me her bath tub to soak in, it had jets and was especially deep. I painfully climbed in and then melted. The water flowed around and over me, soaking away my pain, and sweeping me into bliss. After I arrived home and had gotten ready for bed I saw Ian enjoying a glass of $50 whiskey. I inquired to how it tasted and if it was worth the purchase, he generously offered me a glass, and let me say that a $50 bottle of whiskey is well worth the purchase. The texture was warm and smoky it laid in my mouth like sunshine on restless pastures. The taste was rich and graceful and reminded me of aged mahogany. It was the perfect treat to end the day. I slept well that night.
I awoke on Thursday with no pain. I walked around the apartment freely and without favouring my injuries. I puttered around and could hear someone singing, I realized that someone was me! I was singing again! I had gone two whole days without singing that is an eternity in my world. The sound of my voice cheerful and bright bouncing off the walls told me I was officially out of the woods. The accident had happened, I was sore, sad, worrisome, and guilty for two days and now I was fine. Everything would be fine. My injuries were on the mend, my scrapes were scabbing over and my bruises were changing colour just as quickly and vividly as the Northern Lights. All was well.
Over those 2 days of rest and healing I discovered 3 things that speed the healing process and that bring bliss after getting by hit by car, or any injury:
1) A hot bath. As soon as you are able after an accident submerge yourself in the hottest bath you can stand for as long as you can. Fluid relaxation does miracles.
2) Surround yourself with beauty. Watch the sunset, eat ice cream, look at pretty pictures, people watch, etc. Beauty is comforting. I made a point to wear skirts while I was resting mostly because they were the easiest thing to slip in an out of it, but they made me feel pretty and special. I even fingered through my jewelry box and admired the craftsmanship of my favourite pieces.
3) Drink whiskey. Especially a $50 bottle of whiskey. Invest in an especially crafted whiskey and save it for occasions such as this. And drink it after a long bath and before bed.
Finally Friday came and I was called into work again. I found a ride to work rather than taking my bike, but let me say that I am not afraid to bike again, I just haven’t had the energy to. Work was wonderful. The new plant is HUGE! The walk in fridge alone is the size of the first floor of my apartment. Seeing everyone at work and laughing with them and talking was a welcome ray of sunshine. I have missed them so much! We worked hard all day, cleaning and moving heavy machinery, assembling tables and cupboards, putting boxes in their rightful place, organizing and slowly unpacking. By the end of the day the plant didn’t look so thrown together anymore, the maze of trolleys, carts, machines, and boxes had been sorted and there was a clear path through the plant. I am very excited for the plant to come together and for production to begin.
So there you have it, the start of my summer with a smash. I pray the beginning of your summer is much less traumatic, but if you should be so unfortunate, have the doctor prescribe you a bottle of whiskey. Cheers.