Monday, May 23, 2016

Altar para mi hijo

rezar, oracion
                                                                                                                 ©Chuck Steak

                                                                 ©Chuck Steak

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Motorcycle Accident

Ever been in a serious car or motorcycle accident? Were you seriously injured? Don't be shy, speak up...

The $500, Honda 550K.
Note full face helmet on sissy bar.
The physical trauma, sense of mortality, the sounds and smells at the time, the one just forgets about an event like that. Being grievously injured poses an immense physical and psychological hurdle to clear after the accident. Hearing about it is usually pretty boring, like someone telling you about a dream they had. So here's my boring story...

I bought my first motorcycle when I was 20, a used 1978 Honda 550. I paid $500 for it. I went to a bike shop to buy a helmet; prices ranged from $50 for a basic brain bucket to $250 for custom painted racing helmets. I asked the salesman how much I really needed to spend. He shot me a condescending look.
"How much is your head worth?"
I returned a cheapo helmet to the shelf, and picked up a weighty full-face model that had a small scratch on the visor; it was half price. Wish I could find that salesman now and thank him...

I kept the bike in a friend's garage upstate. I rode it weekends, on well-paved, bucolic roads that wound around scenic lakes and reservoirs near the border of New York and Connecticut.

I upgraded to a second-hand 1980 Suzuki 850 that been suped up with a carb jet kit, racing exhaust and a custom paint job. I had it shipped to the west coast when I moved to Los Angeles.

Everyone told me a motorcycle was a mistake in Los Angeles. When I argued that I was an experienced rider, they said it didn't matter; it was a city with too many cars. No one looked out for bikes. Guess who was right?

I lived in Venice Beach, four blocks from the ocean. I had finished a sushi dinner with a friend near downtown, and was riding home down Lincoln Boulevard, Venice's main drag. I crossed an intersection as the light turned yellow. A 17-year-old driving his uncle's car was stopped on the side street. He saw the cars stop at the red light, and proceeded through the intersection, not seeing me.

From the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of white light from his headlight. There was an impact, and then I saw earth-sky, earth-sky. That was my body flipping through the air. Then there was nothing.

The GS 850. 
I woke at the bottom of a swimming pool. Somehow I could breathe in the tranquil water; I was looking up at a warm light, with soft music playing. I was incredibly warm, relaxed, blissful.

An annoying siren and flashing light invaded my reverie. I came to and looked into the bluest eyes I'd ever seen--a paramedic staring down on me, with a worried look on his face. I realized I'd been in an accident, was lying in the middle of the street, probably injured. Always wondered how long I was unconscious...

An involuntary, agonizing groan escaped me when they put me on the stretcher. My shoulder was broken. A crowd was on the sidewalk, watching. I looked into the eyes of a woman with a horrified look on her face. In the ambulance, I told the EMTs, "I can't move my legs, but my dick is killing me. That's not good, is it?"
"No, it's not," one of them said.
I could wiggle my toes, though, so I knew I wasn't paralyzed.
"So how's the wife and kids?" I asked him.

I had been riding with my legs stretched forward, feet resting on illegal pegs attached to the roll bar. Upon hitting the car, my body slid forward and slammed into the gas tank, splitting my pelvis and severely bruising my privates, which later turned psychedelic shades of purple and yellow, to the marvel of doctors, nurses, friends and anyone else who wanted a peek. The rearview mirror caught my right leg, tearing it up and causing nerve damage which remained for several years. Ultimately. my head and left shoulder slammed into the pavement. I separated my shoulder, but as that salesman surmised, didn't crack my head open. Somewhere in the crash I broke my right thumb as well.

I spent the entire night in the emergency room getting x-rayed, cat-scanned, poked and probed. When asked what happened, I coudn't remember anything except a white light; they feared a concussion, and taped my head to the gurney so I couldn't move. At 6 am, a male nurse came in, looked at me with pity and asked if I was in pain. I nodded slowly. I was also exhausted.

"Would you like something to put you to sleep?"
I nodded again.
He gave me a shot of Demerol. Immediately I felt a rush flood through my veins, like warm honey. I figured heroin probably felt this way. I also started to turn green.
"Do you feel nauseous?"
I nodded again.
He gave me another injection, and just as rapidly, the nausea vanished. Now I just felt wonderful. Within three minutes, I was out cold.

I woke up in the critical care unit. A day or two later they rigged a steel triangle on a cable over my bed. With the four working fingers of my right hand, I could pull myself up and adjust my position, since I couldn't move my left arm or my legs. My first visitor was a hospital lady holding a clipboard, asking for insurance. I explained that I didn't have any.
"Then how do you expect to pay for this?"
"The accident wasn't my fault. I'm sure whoever hit me has insurance."
She pursed her lips. "Let's hope so, Mr. Sabatino."  She turned on her heel and left.

Every two days she would return and ask the same question.
"Any news on the insurance? No? I think we should move you to a county hospital. It'll be less expensive."
I was at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, an excellent hospital. I still couldn't move my arm or legs, was on a drip feed and hadn't experienced a bowel movement yet--parts of my body had shut down, still deep in shock. They were still debating whether to operate on my pelvis; a doctor told my family he didn't know when I would be able to walk again. I really didn't need the added stress of worrying about payment.

Ultimately, I spent 12 days in the hospital.  A pelvic specialist came in and said he thought my pelvis would close up and heal on it's own, which it eventually did. A hand surgeon sewed up my shoulder; I never had problems with it again, although my softball glory days as a centerfielder were over. The police report put the blame squarely on the driver; insurance poneyed up a cool hundred grand. My lawyer took $25,000 off the top, bargained down the hospital bill to $30,000, leaving with me $45,000. I put it in the bank and forgot about it for several years; it never seemed real to me, since I didn't earn it.

I never met or heard from the guy who hit me. I held no grudge against him, it was an accident, and I made a full recovery. But he could've at least apologized...