I opened my eyes and the first thing I noticed was pain. Everything hurt.
Yup, I was in my room at the ashram-y type place in Ubud, Bali. How did I get there? Aaaaooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww.
Yup, that was blood on my sheets. I wondered where my scooter was? How did I get home?
At least I had my phone with me. It was Maria messaging from Perth.
Maria: How are you doing?
Me: Everything hurts.
Maria: Oh darling. What have you done to yourself?
Me: I think I had a bike smash on the way home.
Maria: You think you did?
Me: I don’t remember anything, but I have road burn all over me and everything hurts.
Maria: Do you think you have broken anything? Do you need me to send help?
Me: No, I think it is all superficial. Let me go to the bathroom and get back to you.
I laboriously got out of bed to go to the bathroom. An easy or graceful process that was not. DAMN! I didn’t know it was possible for that much of a person’s body to hurt at once.
My eyes fell upon my completely blackened right thigh, and the numerous road burns all over my arms and legs. Ouch. I staggered into the bathroom finding new places to experience pain with every movement. Damn.
I got to the basin to wash my hands. Water and fresh road burns do not mix. I looked up and clocked the awesome site of my badly bruised and scraped face. My right eye and everything around it was completely black. My nose and the right side of my face under my eye were scraped free of skin.
But it was when I glanced over to the full-length mirror on the wall to my right, I saw the real damage. There was a huge, deep hole in my right elbow.
A bandaid is not going to fix that…
“Hmmmmmmmmm, a bandaid is not going to fix that,” I thought.
It was a lot of effort all of that movement, so I went back to bed to contemplate my next move.
Maria: Don’t hate me, but I think you need help. I am sending someone over.
Me: I think you are right. I just saw the extent of my injuries and I am going to need help.
Dianne to the rescue!
Dianne is a lovely spiritual healer in her sixties from Canada who had lived in Bali for a number of years. She was quickly able to get a driver and come and get me.
I had tried to shower. I was again reminded fresh road burn and water REALLY don’t mix and that was quickly aborted.
She took me to a local medical clinic and we waited our turn for me to see a doctor. She took one look at my elbow and said, “Why weren’t you here eight hours ago?”
She tried to clean it out and prepare it for stiches but she gave up.
“You are going to have to go to a hospital and have this operated on. I can’t fix this. But you have to go to this particular hospital. Don’t go to any of the ones around here…”
One more thing before you go…
She also said before I go, they would have someone come and clean up my road burns so they didn’t have to do it at the hospital. I lay there with no anaesthetic or pain killers of any kind, and this man, who I am fairly sure had no medical training in his life, went to work brutally scrubbing my deep skin grazes.
If I thought I knew pain before, I was sorely mistaken. This was next level, white hot pain. Dianne sat with me, her hands on my arm offering support.
“Do you think you could be a little more gentle with that?” she asked.
He looked at her with a blank stare and continued roughly gauging me. I guess that was a no…
“You are doing so well, Claire. I don’t know how you are still conscious,” she offered.
I didn’t either.
After paying the Clinic for the privilege of being assaulted, it was back into the car to go straight to the hospital. It was an hour and a half away so not a short or comfortable ride…
Time to consult the big guns
By the time I made it to the hospital, I had no energy left. We went to the waiting room, registered, sat down, and waited. I was physically incapable of holding myself up, even supported by a chair, so I lay down on a group of chairs.
One of the nurses informed me lying down was not allowed in the waiting room.
“Well I can’t sit up, so how do we solve this problem?” I said softly.
She worked out I was not going to be able to keep this rule and found me a bed to wait in. Dianne was such a lovely, calming presence to have waiting with me reassuring me I was going fine.
When the doctor came in, he said I needed an operation on my elbow and would have to stay overnight. I was so exhausted, likely from all the effort my body was putting into healing, that I told him to just do whatever he needed to. That is the last thing I remembered for a while.
Like an orgasm, but without any of the good bits
When I woke up, I was paralysed by a pain the likes of which made the previous day seem like a mere inconvenience. There was nothing else in my consciousness and my body was completely consumed by it. For some reason my mind was thinking it was like an orgasm, in that you have no control over your body, but without any of the good bits.
It was untenable. I buzzed the nurse. It must have been around 3.00am and the hospital was quiet.
“Thank you. I am in a LOT of pain. Is there any way you can increase the pain medication for me?” I asked.
“No, you have had all of the pain medication we are allowed to give you,” she informed me and promptly walked out.
Argh. I had been in hospital before when I broke my pelvis a million years prior, so I knew sometimes addicts come in, try to increase their medication, and they can be very strict if they suspect those cases. This was not one of those cases, and I was legitimately not sure how I was going to stand this level of pain. I don’t know how long I waited, but I called her in again.
“Look, I know you have to be careful about the drugs you administer and some people abuse them, but look at me,” I gestured to my face which I was sure must have been sheet white and trembling along with the rest of my body. “I am not making this up. I am in excruciating pain and I need some help.’
“I’m sorry. I can’t help you,” she said again and walked out.
I couldn’t believe it. Were they really going to leave me like this? Was it going to be possible for me to spend hours like this? Again, I am not sure how long I waited, but it felt like an eternity and certainly the limit to what I could tolerate.
I buzzed again and she came in.
Get me some #$%@ing DRUGS!
“Look, maybe there is some medical reason my body has to go through this level of pain, but is there any reason I need to be conscious? I want to see a doctor and I want to see one right now!”
“Okay, okay,” and she scurried off.
She came back a short while later and her demeanour had completely changed. She had with her a cart with medication for me. It turned out they forgot to give me ANY pain medication so when the anaesthetic wore off, I was on my own. OOPS!
She changed my drip, very quickly the pain was gone, and I was back in a peaceful slumber.
I woke up the next day and was F-L-Y-I-N-G. WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. My face was numb; my brain was jelly. It looked like they overcompensated last night. But do you know what? I wasn’t going to get them to tone it down. I deserved this after what I went through last night, I thought. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
I woke up once more to Dianne sitting there with me. What a hero. They said I couldn’t check out until the doctor saw me and he wouldn’t be in until later. More sleep for me.
When the doctor finally came, he said I would need to have the stitches out in 10 – 14 days and I should come back to their hospital to do it. That was not possible as I would be visiting my brother in the Philippines then so I would have to go there. Just remember there are two layers of stitches, he said.
Dianne dropped me back at my place after paying my bill and I got into the business of healing. It was hard work! Walking was not an option for my first two to three days. Luckily I had the lovely Lauretta who I met a few days prior and was staying at my place to help me.
Lovely Lauretta picks up the pieces
When I first met Lauretta she had a lost look about her. She had come to Bali to get ayurvedic treatment for workplace stress related physical issues. Working in child protection will do that to you.
She didn’t know where to start setting herself up, so I spent a couple of days showing her around Ubud, getting her a SIM card so she could speak with her family, getting her a scooter, practicing so she could get around while she was there, and so on.
Because she is so lovely, she wanted to know how she could ever possibly repay me. I said the usual: people help me all the time; I am just paying it forward; you just pay it forward too… Little did either of us know she would be paying me back a millionfold after my smash.
She washed the blood out of my hair because I couldn’t do it myself. She brought me food. She helped me walk very slowly to one of our local Warungs (Indonesian restaurants) when I thought I was up to it. She marvelled with me at the inside of my mouth miraculously healing in the space of drinking one coconut. How good is young coconut water?? If I had access to a bath, and wasn’t scarred by my earlier water versus road burn escapades, I might have tried bathing in it after that performance!
I also caught up briefly with some friends from Adelaide, Joc and Nathan. They decided my extensive injuries had to be photographed for posterity which I hadn’t done until that point. They are the generous benefactors of this post’s cover photo because I didn’t keep any!
What could go wrong in the Philippines?
Then it was off to the Philippines. I had intended to pop off to one of the islands and look around, but my new health situation meant I would be mostly sleeping at my brother’s place and scaring my young niece and nephews. One road burn on the top side of my ankle was particularly pronounced. It caught the eye of my four-year-old nephew and he exclaimed in horror, “Auntie Claire! Where is your skin?” Just like his old man, I thought. Soft! I put a bandaid on it after that…
My brother organised an appointment and dropped me at a hospital in Manila to have my stitches taken out. The hospital was modern and reasonably easy to navigate. I found the doctor’s office quite easily, and from memory the wait wasn’t too disastrous.
I told him about the two layers of stitches and he informed me the second layer near the bone was dissolvable so we didn’t need to worry about that. That made sense. I had heard that before.
All done for now although I still had to wear my lovely arm bandage for the time being.
Suspiciously undissolved stitch-like-looking stitches
A few days later and on my return to Bali I noticed suspiciously undissolved stitch-like-looking stitches starting to poke through the skin on my elbow. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I guess they WEREN’T dissolvable… Argh! What a pain! What was I going to do about this?
I wasn’t especially enthused about driving an hour to the hospital that didn’t give me painkillers, then overcompensated, and didn’t put dissolvable stitches down there in the first place. I also wasn’t overjoyed about going back to the clinic that mercilessly scrubbed my fresh road burns with a ‘technician’ I am pretty sure had all his medical ‘training’ ‘on the job’… So I did what many of us who want to avoid doing something unpleasant do. I ignored it. And more stitches started poking their way through…
One afternoon I was exhausted and not up to doing more work, so I decided to leave my coworking space early. As I loaded up my scooter and got my helmet sorted, I noticed a girl taking delivery of a new scooter. She had the look about her of someone who had never ridden a bike before. The guy was showing her the lights, the horn, the accelerator, the breaks, and so on. The traffic directly outside the parking space was crazy. She looked worried. I hesitated. I couldn’t just leave her there…
The blind leading the blind?
“I know how this looks,” I said gesturing towards my still incredibly scarred, battered, and bruised form. I still had an impressive black eye and half of my nose and cheek scraped off, not to mention my now yellowing thigh and vast assortment of scrapes… “Full disclosure. This was a scooter accident. But if you like, I know a quiet place not far from here I can take you, and we can practice driving around a bit until you feel a bit more comfortable.”
“Yes please!” she said.
We drove around a few times and then had a bit of a chat. She was a chiropractor who came to Bali to work on her Master’s degree. I told her about my stiches situation and showed her. Her eyes lit up.
“You! You’re going to take my stitches out!” I exclaimed.
“Okay. I’ll watch a couple of YouTubes,” she offered.
The next day we went to a pharmacy and picked up a few things: steriliser, some tweezers, scissors, and so on, and went back to the place I was housesitting to get the job done. Maria, who sent the lovely Dianne to me the morning I woke up in this situation, had just arrived from Perth with duty free vodka, and thus our surgical arsenal was complete.
My newly minted surgeon very diligently and gently worked away at the stitches, which were well and truly bonded with my skin by this stage. I am sure I would not have had as good an experience at the hospital or clinic. And I doubt they would have served me vodka throughout. It actually didn’t hurt at all, so the precautionary vodka ended up being purely ‘cosmetic’…
That, however, was not the end of my unconventional treatment. When one has such a significant jarring to the body, it is advisable to seek some realignment from a physio or osteopath. I heard about a French woman nearby who was supposed to be quite good. She was expensive for Bali, but I felt like I was worth it. This recovery was hard work and taking a lot longer than I expected it to.
The Friday evening after my first visit to her, my coworking space was having a social evening. I went straight there, grabbed a beer, located my chiropractor cum surgeon friend, had a quick skull and then said, “I think I just paid someone a lot of money to assault me.”
“What?? The Osteopath?? Tell me everything.”
I told her how we started the consultation with me telling her of my many ailments. She informed me we were going to need a few sessions because I had really done a number on myself. She also told me she was going to do some things externally, and some things internally.
You want to treat me where?
That’s right, internally.
I had not heard of this before, but the way she explained it seemed to make sense. The positioning of my organs was an issue apparently. She was going to need to adjust things from ‘in there’ apparently. While she was ‘in there’ she was sure to explain exactly what she was doing and feeling.
She also went into my mouth and adjusted some things in there. She said afterwards my facial bruising might become more prominent as more dead blood might be released. Meh! By this stage I was well beyond being concerned about my aesthetics. I might as well complete the violation!
The French Fingerer
“Oh my god, who is this woman? I have to go and see her!” my chiropractor friend said. Apparently, although unconventional, this treatment was indeed legitimate. It did however, earn this osteopath the name, “The French Fingerer” for which she shall be known for all eternity.
Of course the gentlemen standing with us at the social event, mouths gaped open, listening to the story all had one question. “What did she look like?” So predictable.
For their information and yours, she was a very matter of fact, school headmaster type of woman with short, brown hair, likely in her 40s or 50s (I am terrible with ages).
I did go back to The French Fingerer once more after my chiropractor friend’s enthusiasm for her techniques. This time she went for the trifecta, and I felt since she had been further with me than any gentleman callers, it was time to wrap up our ‘medical’ relationship, and let my body sort itself out from now on.
You can’t always get what you want….
Ubud in Bali is a funny place. It is known for its healing ‘energy’ and is a magnet for damaged hippies the world over. Maria often says that Ubud will do some weird things, but usually it will give you exactly what you need.
I’m not sure I ‘needed’ to have a debilitating bike smash. But I am forever grateful for the lovely people who came into my life and/or showed up for me when I needed them the most. Situations like this force us to surrender to our body’s weaknesses, go through the necessary motions, and accept help from other people. This does not come naturally to me, humbles me, and makes my heart burst every time I am forced to do so. It also makes for a great story.
Until next time!