For my last few days in the hospital they moved me to a regular ward. It was kind of sad to leave my nurses from the Vip ward, but they came to visit me whenever they could. Also, I had a whole new crew of sweet sisters to joke and flirt with. Everyone seemed concerned over the fact that it was a small room, about a 1/4 the size of the last room, but it felt more cozy to me. The family seemed embarrassed that I had to stay in such a run down tiny room. I did miss the super comfy bed and clean bathroom, but the new room made me feel like I was traveling in India again. The filthy ceiling fan, forty-year old peeling paint, spider web filled corners, steel bars over the window, a rock hard bed, miniature TV, and a bathroom you need a gas-mask for. It reminded me of some of the run down little hotel rooms that I’ve stayed in during my travels. Like the last one, it had a tiny bed that a police guard would use at night. My last night, I finally convinced him to go home to his wife.
At this point the spinal headache was reduced to a simple migraine, and it felt like a monkey was off my back. A week before, I was freaking out thinking I had a cranial subdural hematoma and was gonna die in that stupid room. It’s never a good idea to google medical conditions to try and figure out whats going on. The doctors told me what they thought it was, which I had no idea about, so I used my only contact in the outside world at the time to google it for me. Over the phone, my mom looked up info about severe long-lasting spinal headaches and read me the info. Bad idea. She got to one of those parts that talk about seizures, coma, and death. I was given all the worst case scenarios, which wasn’t what I needed lying alone in a foreign place. The new ward I was in had many other rooms and had random people poking their heads in all throughout the day. I just left my door open all the time for anyone who wanted to come in. Better than hanging out alone. Finally I was able to obtain some crutches to hop down the hallway and meet other patients. When I heard babies crying I could go track them down instead of having them brought to me like in the other ward. The sisters were just as sweet as my other ones and I developed favorites, but this girl was my first favorite.
The last couple days, I was so excited to be getting out that it felt like I was packing for vacation. I organized all my stuff and packed it perfectly ready to go. I was prepared to leave that hospital the minute I got the word. I was able to go through everything, and by some miracle, I hadn’t lost anything. During my first days in the hospital, I needed clothes, and they tried their best to bring me mine. I spent the first two days in my blood soaked torn up jeans that I had made into short shorts. There was a huge rip in the front of the shorts with a flap of material acting as a loin cloth.
I’m sure many visitors got a peek at my junk during this time and I was always having to make sure it was covering me. It didn’t help that I was on a bunch of painkillers and oblivious to everything. Probably everyone who came in my room asked me if I wanted some new clothes and seemed concerned that I had the same ratty clothes on. They even offered to go buy me clothes, but I just needed some of my own. My bag of clothes was at the police with my motorcycle. It took two days to get them because the police officers had a really difficult time finding them, which boggled my mind. It’s a clear plastic bag full of clothes. First they brought me my sleeping bag and tent. I didn’t have much need for these in my hospital room. Then they brought my entire right side ammo can full of almost everything except my clothes. Eventually they brought the rest of my stuff, which included my clothes. At that point I had everything except the motorcycle with me. I was reunited with my snake and unleashed it on the hospital. I put it on the end of my bed so it looked like it was ready to strike. That snake is the greatest purchase of my entire life. The entertainment never stops. Everyone who came in the room jumped out of their shoes and ran with fear.
The Indians are petrified of snakes. Even once they knew it was fake, they still were terrified of it. I think what goes through a lot of their minds is, “why would anybody make a fake snake” and “why would anyone carry a fake snake around with them”. A few of the sisters would come in and poke at it. They would bring other nurses and workers from the hospital to see the American with a snake on his bed.
There was one nurse who refused to come into my room and help with anything because she was so scared of the snake. During my time in the new ward, I met and talked to a lot of people, but spent the most time with a local girl named Dipti. Her dad was in a room by mine and she spoke good english. She had never met a foreigner before and has never been outside of Assam. It can be difficult to have a real conversation with most Indian girls while traveling. It’s a very conservative place where the girls don’t have as much freedom as the guys to socialize. We talked a ton about life and she told me all about how it is growing up in India as a woman. I respect all cultures, but I would never want to be a girl there. Just my personal feelings. She was so sweet and at twenty-six hasn’t even kissed a boy. Her biggest worry is finding a husband, and if she can’t soon then her parents will arrange a marriage. They have a beautiful vision of what love and marriage will be, and I can only hope it turns out that way for them. The girls are almost brainwashed that it’s their sole purpose in life, and not to pursue any true passions. She told me of her dreams and aspirations, but talked about them like they were nothing but that, dreams. She loves to paint because she can forget about all the problems in her life and go to a happy place. It made me sad to see someone with so much talent not be able to use it. We had some great talks about life, and I think it was nice for both of us to have a friend in the hospital.
Dipti always wore beautifully colored traditional clothes and had some colorful finger and toe nails. I asked her jokingly if she could do my toenails and she showed up the next day with a huge kit of a zillion colors. She really has some artist skills, and spent probably an hour giving me some nice new toes. I got three color stripes with stars and a flower on each toe. She did it somehow by painting the design onto a piece of foam and then transferring it to the toes.
Throughout the process, the nurses and her family all came to watch. Her family thought it was pretty cool that she made friends with a foreigner. Her mom, dressed in a beautiful pink sari, watched with a huge smile.
Before leaving the hospital, they unwrapped my leg for the last time, cleaned it, took out all the stitches, and put a new plaster cast on it. Every three days or so while i was there they would unwrap it and give it a good cleaning and check for infection.
It feels a lot better to have an injury covered by wrapping or a cast. When I can’t see it I can pretend like it’s not that bad and I’ll be better soon, but once it’s unwrapped those hopes go away. The shooting pains and how limp and weak it looked made me realize I had a bunch of recovery ahead. It’s amazing how quickly the leg shrinks when it’s not used.
They took me down to have it all done and parked me in my wheelchair right outside the ER table where they were working on a little girl. She had broken her arm about a month before, but instead of going to the hospital the family just had a local shaman in their small village do some traditional medicine on it. I’m not against holistic medicine, but there are times you should get your ass to the hospital. She ended up getting a bad bone infection, which cut off the blood supply to her hand. This caused the hand to start dying and getting gangrene. They were just able to save to hand, but had to remove a lot of dead tissue. Now they were having to unwrap the arm every day to clean and re-wrap it. It was very painful looking and I’ve never heard such blood curdling screams in my life. The poor girl kept yelling the same thing over and over in her language. It brought tears to my eyes and I could feel her pain. I had to get someone to move me because it was hurting my insides. Never feel bad for yourself because there’s always somebody way worse off than you. Guaranteed someone is in a worse situation or pain. I don’t know how the ER doctors do it and I’m grateful to them for what they do. I could never handle what they go through on a day-to-day basis. This was one of my doctors. He was younger and always had a smile on his face. His positive energy was always great to be around. I could feel that he actually cared.
The same guy who had been doing my cleanings set me up with the new cast. It always felt so good to have a new wrapping, but man the cast was tight. Whenever my foot was down and swollen it felt like it was being crushed in that thing.
As usual, I had my regular onlookers who would show up whenever I had the cleaning to watch and take pictures with me.
When I was released from the hospital it felt like getting out of jail. Unfortunately I’ve felt both of those feelings, and I think getting out of the hospital felt the best. There’s no better feeling than getting into the sunlight and breathing the outside air. I wanted to hug and kiss everyone.
From the moment of my crash until walking out of those doors Biswajit Ray was by my side. He will always be my Indian dad.
It was his car that I crashed into in the other lane. If I wouldn’t have crashed into his car who knows where I would have been thrown and ended up. It was almost like he was a catcher’s mitt for me. When nobody else would help me at the scene, he’s the one who tried to call for an ambulance and when it was going to be too long of a wait, flagged down a rickshaw, loaded me up, and got me to the hospital. He had gathered up my laptop, camera, money, paperwork, and everything important from the scene so nobody would steal anything. He stayed by my side in the ER keeping my things safe and watching after me, organized the police to take my motorcycle to their station close by, and stayed with me the whole day. Then over the next week he spent at least half his days at my hospital room.
He just supported me and brought goodies. I always got excited when he walked through the door in the evening with a sack because I knew what it was. He would bring me the most delicious tandoori chicken. Anything I needed, he would try and sort out. This is all while he spoke virtually no english. Also, he works building bridges, and blew off his busy schedule to spend time with me. Once I was doing better, he felt more comfortable coming to visit instead of spending most the day. He was really worried at first. When I needed something to pack my stuff into for flying back home he went out and bought me a duffel bag. When it was time to be wheeled out of the hospital, he was by my side just as he was when I arrived two weeks before.
I’ll always be grateful for his friendship and everything he did for me. My flight was the next day so I had to stay in town for one night. The family put me up in a hotel by the police station thats apparently the best one in town. They wanted me to know that all important people stay at it. Cracked me up. If they only knew some of the places I’ve stayed. The only thing on my mind was going to see my motorcycle. I’d been wondering about it everyday and how it was. People had told me that it wasn’t too bad and could be fixed, but was eager to see the real damage because I knew going that fast there had to be a good amount. They drove me over to the police station where it was being stored at. I was a bit heartbroken when I first saw it, but it felt like being reunited with a long-lost love. It was that feeling when you haven’t seen somebody for way too long and you see them at the airport. Reunited.
Fortunately it was pretty much just the right side that got damaged, but more than they had let on. I don’t think they could tell the extent of it. It’s all fixable though and I’m grateful to be alive. The rear subframe got bent, main frame has a nasty dent in it, engine guard was ripped and mangled off, engine fairing broken, air filter box broken, pannier rack broken, exhaust pipe mildly bent, rear brake reservoir and cover crushed, and the rear top case won’t lock. It started up just fine though so I know the engine is good. Only sounds a bit weird from the air box being crushed.
I spent a while making a list of all the parts I would need to fix it and then we covered it back up. The head officer of the station took everything I was leaving behind into his office for safe keeping. They told me not to worry about a thing and it would all be waiting for me when I returned. I sat on the front porch of the police station with a few officers who quickly cheered me up. A lot of the Indian guys chew tobacco. It’s really strong and comes in little pouches. Some of them make a mix with lime, and then grind it together with their thumb in the palm of their hand. It burns the hell out of your lip and sends the nicotine straight into you. I like having them mix me up one. They get a big kick out of it and love to see my reaction. We all filled our lips and talked. Since my first day in the hospital, I’d been wanting one of their police badges. I gave it one more try and jokingly asked them for one. Five minutes later an officer came back with one for me. An official Assam Police badge. When they gave me a ride back to the hotel, I sat in the front seat of the police jeep wearing the badge and an officers hat. The big chew had me floating and it was a funny ride back. The expressions on people’s faces was priceless when they saw me. My little room for the night wasn’t much different from the hospital room, but I was free and had peace. It even had a room service menu next to the bed, but when I called they informed me that they didn’t actually have any food. Only in India. My flight was leaving out of Guwahati, which is about three hours from Bongaigaon. The police organized a jeep to take me there with a driver, two armed police guards, and of course Biswajit. He was sticking with me till the end. The two police men sat in the back behind me squeezed into the small space. Like the guards in my hospital room, I didn’t understand why I had them, but it was fine with me. Just some more people for the road trip. They were friendly guys and let me check out their guns.
We stopped half way for lunch, but my leg was feeling pretty shit so I just laid in the back. Just in case I hadn’t had enoug brought to me the last two weeks, a young kid brought me out cubes of pig fat on a plate. The sauce was incredible and the onions were great, but the fat just isn’t my thing. I ate most of it to be polite and I hate wasting food. I probably could have used the fat at that point as well. I was super slimmed down. I gave Biswajit a big hug and we said our goodbyes. What a man he is. He was with me from the moment the crash happened until I got to the airport to fly home.
He never wanted anything except to watch after me and make sure I made it through a wild experience. The best part about traveling with a broken leg is being taken around in a wheelchair and skipping all the security lines. I never thought the day would come, but I boarded my first of three flights that would deliver me home half way around the world in twenty-four hours. It was very bitter-sweet and a little bit emotional as the plane gained speed down the runway, the nose slowly rose into the sky, we climbed up into the clouds, and India slowly disappeared.