( originally written 3rd November 2009 )
[NOTE : we’ve never done this with eight fingers on the keyboard, but you learn something new everyday …instead of giving you a clinical / journalistic account of what happened to us recently, we’d rather make kwento from the heart, through the road-less-traveled prism of memories forged, lessons learned, dreams dashed, and hopes gained…]
Dear batchmates, batch, kabatch and friends :
ULTIMATELY and in the end ( a double redundancy ) two things became apparent : we would have to stop gobbling food and we would never be able to eat apples the same way again, and secondly, we would never view in the same way again, the handicapped, disfigured, or all those bundled under that generic term mga may kapansanan.
All this, from a rather minor bike accident that nonetheless left us out-of-commission for 72 hours, but gave us a six-hour tour of a First World E.R., including but not limited to frontline services, orthopedics, radiology and physiotherapy; and firsthand view of how healthcare and meds are subsidized in far-away lands.
For the record, we suffered facial abrasions, thank gosh no stitches naman, 2 chipped teeth ( goodbye forever, closeup smile ) and a minor pinkie fracture. But being the eternal baby that we are, we were admittedly traumatized beyond the cuts, bumps, tumbles and bruises we sustained that fateful Thursday that forever altered our face ( and the rest of our body ) as we have known it.
First, the emergency van that arrived to fetch us to hospital was rather quick as firemen, the medics even offering to salvage the piece of ivory that sprung from our orifice, baka maihabol pa raw, but we had already drenched both our shirt and sweater crimson with sparkling Type B positive, patch me up na, please. We felt right at home at the E.R., though, as we waited as much as 120 mins (parang PGH or barangay health center, take your pick) among other non-life-threatening cases, and as no one was complaining, we weren’t about to rock the boat. Literally we sat there holding our cracked helmet, gashed knapsack and blood soaked hi-viz jacket…
At that point our fervent wish was that our nose remained intact, as 20 years ago, from a wayward elbow we sustained a deviated septum that caused us countless clogged-up nights and a proboscis no longer as confident as years past. Thankfully, a thorough exam proved that, though chockfull of abrasions and unflattering puncture wounds, the nose was none the worse for wear…
Which, unfortunately was a lot better than our outlook for two front teeth, knocked out as we used our face to break our fall. The Good Samaritan who led us to level ground (we fell while negotiating an incline) and called an ambulance recalled us dazed and bloodied, but vain enough to look for whatever portion of tooth that could be salvaged, before being treated for first aid…
But no matter. No concussion, no stitches and no bones (save for a battered pinkie) was more than we could hope for, except that for the loss of blood, a nearby constable couldn’t help but ask cursory questions if more than just a bicycle was involved.
Through the interminable waiting (bout which we daren’t complain, everything was free and everyone else waiting their turn), the numerous xrays ( to uncover fractures as well as anything we might have inadvertently swallowed… like tooth fragments ) and the cleanup / patchup job, a few inevitable realizations dawned on us:
we would never again be able to clamp down on whole, crisp, unpeeled apples again, crack peanuts or shell watermelon seeds with bare teeth;
we would never again be able to smile at anyone (not just the fairer sex) with the same amount of confidence and charm;
we would not likely, or at least in this lifetime be able to be as fluid with our digital movements as before, not that we were ever a piano virtuoso but would we ever regain the same movement with our fingers?
Shortly after we were briefed about how long healing would take place and the follow up appointments we would need to make (more xrays, more exams, and more waiting), we allayed our own uncertainties : goodbye to the whole wild eating thing, but maybe the charm and fingers weren’t lost forever…
** ** ** **
We’ve always been a gobbler. Not gobble, gobble the way a turkey does but wolfing down and gulping our food as if mauubusan lagi, it did help that we had 4 brothers competing for the same limited slices of shrinking pie. But our mishap made our front teeth not only gingerly sensitive but also functionally unable to bite into anything harder than the soft part of sandwich bread, buti na lang we could eat rice 3 times a day.
But chewing was another story, every grinding movement in our mouths painfully difficult, the sharp edges of the newly serrated front teeth also creating ulcers above and under our tongue.
A concerned kabayan suggested we try sampling liquid cereal, smoothies of all sorts as well as oatmeal, wheatgerm or even arroz caldo, if we could ever find it. We were warned against relying too much on instant noodles especially after what the internet said about MSG and the perils of too much salt on everything.
In the end, we learned that if we chewed care-ful-ly and slooowly, taking care to not let anything touch the front teeth while eating (an unlikely, but not impossible task) eating would still be a temporary agony, but not as much.
** ** ** **
The facial cuts and bruises were, as you might expect, something else. It was nothing that wouldn’t eventually heal, but for now almost the entire left side of our face was covered from forehead to chin with deep abrasions that made it painful for us to just smile and twitch our cheek.
Improbably, we had become even more marginalized the minute we entered the mall to purchase painkillers and antibiotics from pharmacy: not only were we Asians (well actually we refer to anyone not Caucasian, but since Asians occupy probably 90% of this group, we might as well refer to it as Asian), we also looked roasted and on steroids; sorry but that’s the kindest way to describe it.
In short, we had become a caste within a caste, very nearly an untouchable.
There are only two ways to address such a sight, when you’re fortunate enough to be “normal.” You either pretend everything is hunky – dory and avoid looking at the person, or you inevitably can’t help but stare longer than the socially acceptable 3 seconds max. Or at least, something approaching those two mini-scenarios, cuz that’s how we reacted to something that we now looked like.
For the moment, we find ourselves proverbially on the other side of the fence, after jumping such fence rather recklessly. It only took us one trip to the mall to discover that, with all the bandages and cleanup job done on us, we were still being avoided like the plague.
To illustrate, the injured part of our face looked like an upright multicolored chicharon bulaklak, dominated by bright red and shiny welts crisscrossing our forehead, temple and cheek. Definitely not a pretty sight, to say the least.
Most of the adults made an effort to avoid staring, but instead acted as if we looked TOO normal, which definitely wasn’t the reality. The kids with the adults were more candid, staring without malice with some actually pointing at us. A bit unnerving, to be the center of attention, and not because you’re eye candy.
But we’re not chicharon, eye candy, other things yummy, or even the source of attention, fleeting though it may be. Inasmuch as we’ve been one all our lives, we’d just like to be treated as a regular guy, admittedly a pretty battered one at that. For now.
** ** ** ** **
After 5 days, the welts and abrasions have reduced in both size and scarletness, but we still won’t be attending any blind dates. The physiotherapist also designed us a cool, neat glove-sized cast to serve as a splint for the next few weeks. Sick leave has allowed us days off work, but only for a week. The rest hopefully will be answered for by workmen’s compensation.
We just hope we can heal completely in time for the olds and the loved ones back home, our regular shift, and our fragile ego. Not necessarily in that order.
Keep safe & healthy everyone