Getting injured in Haiti, Part 2 — The circus begins.

Note: this post won’t make much sense if you haven’t yet read the previous post. I’ve broken this story into multiple posts for the sake of length and dramatic cliffhanger value.

I was sitting in the back seat of the Polaris on the passenger side, which was the side that ended up on the bottom. When the vehicle flipped over, I had a pile of bodies on top of me, and my leg was trapped under the frame of the Polaris, just above my ankle. Despite being under such a huge pile, my lungs were able to clearly (in my recollection) belt out “Whoever’s on top, try to climb out and lift up the frame!” I don’t know that the people on top really needed to be told to try to climb out from the wreckage, but in a moment of chaos like that, nothing seems obvious.

I have no idea how long I was lying there on the ground, as the others tried to climb their way out. A crowd of people had assembled, though, to try to lift up the vehicle in order to free my trapped leg. The first attempt ended up just dragging the frame across my ankle, without creating enough clearance for me to pull my leg through. I was shouting in Creole “Lift it but don’t push it!”

During the time I was lying on the ground, my whole body was in such a state of shock that I couldn’t really feel anything or determine what was hurting. I remember thinking to myself “If I can get my leg out from under the vehicle without any damage, I might just be okay.”

Finally, the frame was lifted up high enough, and I was able to stand up. I looked down at my right side — the one that had hit the ground — and I nearly threw up: my shoulder looked like it was about six inches behind me.

Amidst the chaos, everyone was trying to be helpful, but it was all a blur. One of my friends told me I needed to sit down, but I felt so paralysed by shock and horror that I didn’t even think I could force myself to sit. Someone else, seeing how badly messed up the right side of my upper body was, told me to hold up my right arm with my left hand. The least helpful of all the bystanders was some guy (not from our group, and not a local) who asked me why we’d crashed. I just shook my head and whimpered something. He walked over to look at the wreckage and a few seconds later came back to tell me that the problem was with the brakes –Interesting information, but not particularly helpful right at that point.

As I staggered around, gritting my teeth and trying not to think about the pain, I saw a puddle of blood on the ground by the Polaris. “Who’s blood is that?” I asked. “Erika’s” someone told me. Erika is a friend and neighbour who had been sitting in the seat directly in front of me in the vehicle, which meant she also would have hit the ground and had people land on top of her. I looked over and saw her sitting on the side of the path, with blood on her face, completely dazed.

The path up to (and down from) the Citadelle.

The pickup truck that we’d passed earlier had now arrived, and we were instructed to climb in the back so that we could ride to the nearest hospital. As I walked toward the truck, I started seeing stars; I think the only thing that stopped me from losing consciousness was the throbbing pain. Luckily, a friend was right by me, so I leaned on him and hobbled into the back of the truck. Erika was the most seriously injured and she had to be lifted into the truck. Yves, another guy from our group, who had been sitting next to me in the Polaris and who was already nursing a torn ACL, came in the truck as well because he thought he might have aggravated his ACL or perhaps injured something else.

Under any circumstances, the ride that followed — in the back of a pickup truck, freshly wounded, speeding over a rocky road — would have been miserable. But let me add here that this was Flag Day weekend — a pretty important holiday in Haiti. So after we finally got off the rocky path down the mountain and onto the paved roads of the nearby town of Milot, we encountered a parade in full swing.

The driver honked his horn and the un-injured friends riding in the back of the truck for support were frantically screaming in Creole that there were seriously injured people in the truck and that we needed to get through, but they were competing with a brass marching band.

One by one, the back lines of the marching band turned around, saw us and rushed out of the way, telling the line in front of them to get out of the way, who in turn told the line in front of them to get out of the way, and so on…

Everything about the ride was excruciating; even the slightest bump in the road sent pain shooting through my whole right side, and most of the bumps in road were not slight. Erika meanwhile looked frighteningly distant. “I can’t feel half my face” she managed to say at one point.

Finally, we pulled up to Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot. But the circus had just begun…

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