I am going to deviate from writing about writing today. As most of you might already know, the daily prompt for today (or yesterday? Time difference is confusing.) by the daily post is close call, and I have a perfect story to share along that line.
Back in 2007, when I was 19 and studying, I was sent to a Nature Reserve here in Singapore, for an internship sort-of attachment. It was just a 2 month stint that was deemed compulsory by the Polytechnic where I was studying.
This Nature Reserve is an offshore island called Pulau Ubin. For those of you who are not familiar with Singapore, if you look at the world map, you can find a little red dot just below Malaysia, named Singapore. That’s us. Tiny. And we have even tinier little islands surrounding us. One of them, is Pulau Ubin, also known as the last village left in Singapore. It was a small Island of about 11 square km with a population of about 100. It’s not a modernised island, although there are roads.
I was assigned to the park rangers’ office and basically my duty was to run around with all the rangers and help them in their duties. An assistant of sorts, I used to help with paperwork as well as field duties, like birdwatching, hiking through the forested areas in search of abandoned houses or buildings, checking on the abandoned quarries left behind after granite mining stopped in the 1960s etc. So it was a very interesting and fun job. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t even mind getting suntanned.
One month passed in the blink of an eye, and on the same day that marked one month of my working there, I was assigned to follow 2 rangers on their trip to find and identify all tall trees in the island that had been fitted with lighting conductors. They had a list and this job had been done before, but we were supposed to check on them and use a GPS tracker and create a map of where these trees were standing.
We were required to cycle around the island. Everything was going well until 12 noon. We had to cycle down a steep downhill slop, and turn at a 90 degree turning with a speed hump right at the turning. We were cycling like pros and the other two went ahead of me. The wind in my face as I went down the slope was thrilling and the usually careful me decided against breaking in between to slow down.
Down I went, and then came the turning. “That’s ok”, I thought. “Done this thing before.” I took on the speed hump and the turning at top speed.
And before I knew it, my bicycle was on the other side of the road and I was among thick bushes and trees. My first concern? “Please tell me there are no spiders nearby.” There weren’t any. All I wanted to do was to just gather up whatever pride I had left (although there was no one else around) and catch up with the others. About 100 metres ahead of where I had fallen down was a cemetery. I just could not wait to get up and get going.
While wiping the dirt off myself with my right hand, I tried to push myself up with my left hand, but for some reason, I couldn’t feel my left hand. It was numb. I couldn’t get it to move at all. I glanced to my left and realised that my hand had somehow shortened in length. My forearm was half the length, fingers were turning purple and I couldn’t move them at all. There wasn’t a lot of pain, but I could see that the portion just below my elbow was bulging. I was very confused.
I shouted for help but my voice didn’t travel far. Checked my pockets and, glory be to God, I had taken my mobile phone with me that day. In my one month of working there, I had never taken my phone with me whenever I went for field work. That day I was lucky. I quickly called my co-workers and they came back soon after. The senior ranger took one look at my hand and went “Oh dear, I think you broke your arm!”, and proceeded to call the police stationed on the island. He looked like he dealt with this kind of stuff on a daily basis. -.-
After some waiting, the police arrived and helped me to stand up. My knees almost gave way but they held on to me, did some basic first aid, called the ambulance and rushed me to the boat jetty. The only way out of the island was through a boat. I was given VIP treatment as they loaded me on a stretcher into the police patrol boat.
After arriving on the mainland, we waited a while for the ambulance to arrive. I had gone into shock. I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t feeling pain and I was chatting with the police and my senior manager who was in charge of me while I worked at Pulau Ubin.
I still hadn’t believed that my arm was broken. It was later on after I was brought to the hospital and had the x-rays done that the doctor confirmed “yep, you have broken two bones in your upper left arm.” They gave me two options:
1. “We can pull your arm back, place your bones back in position and put up a cast around it,” or
2. “You’ll need to have a surgery done.”
I chose the first option and the moment they touched my hand I regretted it and told them I’ll go with option 2.
So I had my surgery done and the rest is history.
The reason why I wanted to share this story for this prompt was because of something I found out some time after my surgery. Three people had fallen down at the exact same spot where I fell down – all cyclists. I was the second person to fall and hurt myself there. There was one person who fell some time before I did, and one lady who fell shortly after I did. And both of them had died from head injuries sustained from the fall. After the 3rd accident, that road has been officially closed down and no one, except officers, is allowed to travel that way.
I wasn’t wearing any protective gears apart from mosquito repellant the day I fell. I consider myself extremely lucky that I escaped with just a broken hand, which has healed completely and is functioning well now.