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How to survive a road accident

The road home is clear. These twenty kilometres are so familiar it is easy to go into auto-pilot and drift into thoughts only my head can manage. I have had a long day- work, a reading, and dinner with a dear friend.

There is a lot on my mind. On the road I drive through the bends and turns that lead me to the wide Umar Musa Yar'Adua express way. In my head I take the bends and turns that lead me through the maze that is my mind. To painful decisions I must take, long overdue. To thoughts of all the things I planned to do before I turned thirty. To the fact that I turn thirty tomorrow and have done none of them. I try to find my way back to the beginning of things; to discover how I got here, this lonely cold place I cannot recognize.  

I am tired. I shake myself awake. My body fights back- it demands rest and it demands it now. Five more minutes, I tell myself, five more minutes until I get home. I reach the express. Some parts are lit, some parts are not. I drift again and in one second it all happens. I run into a curb at one of the points where the road bends suddenly. Instinctively I step on the brakes. It is too late. I lose control of Sylvanus, my old tired car and we are screeching at a 45 degree angle. I hit something else and my head slams into the steering wheel. My head spins and suddenly everything is upside down- my body, Sylvanus and my thoughts. Sylvanus comes to a halt by the side of the road. Upside down, I feel the blood filling up my mouth. 

It is fear that actuates my body, makes me ignore the pain and crawl out through the shattered glass. Fear that a fire might break out and I might get trapped in a burning vehicle. I drag myself to the side of the road, my white caftan soaked in blood. I feel open flesh hanging in my mouth. It is 2am. I am cold. Alone. In pain.

Writers who try to describe blood must not have bled like this. Real blood pouring from ones body does not smell metallic. It smells like fear. Like death. 

The first car that stops is a green taxi. I am lying on the gravel with my right hand up in the air, calling for help. The taxi reverses, stops and suddenly drives off. I think of crawling back to the car to see if I can find my phone. I am too scared of a fire and too weak. Slowly as I slip in and out of consciousness cars begin to stop and voices begin to multiply. 

“Do you know anybody’s number?’  someone asks, from a distance almost as if he is afraid to come close. I shake my head. He is shouting. Everyone seems to be shouting.

“My phone,” I manage to say, “in the car. My phone.”

I am afraid the phone might have flown out of the car during the crash. Someone finds it. 

“Your wife, what is her number?” A man assumes I am married. I shake my head. Suggestions fly over my head. My father’s voice, on discovering I was not quite acting like a virgin, plays in my head: “I was not up to your age when I got married.”

“His brother.”

“His family”

A police van stops. They do not come close. They make radio calls that have nothing to do with an ambulance or first aid. I know at this point I must do something or bleed out in front of passers-by arguing about what to do.

“Call Achile,” I say to the man holding my phone, spitting out a glob of blood. I try to get up. They all scream at me to lie back down. They try Achile. He is asleep. They try Al-kasim. He is asleep. 

Suddenly I feel like this is it: I am going to die out here alone. My parents are nearly 200kilometers away and the only other relatives who are in this town, are strangers to me.

“Garki hospital!” I call out as the police and others argue. “I have a card in Garki hospital”

Nobody is listening to me and I am fighting to retain consciousness. 

After a few minutes, a man who I later will learn is Group Captain Onyike, orders the policemen to stop what they are doing and take me to the Air force Base where he lives and where there is a hospital. I am put at the back of the police van like a ram that has been knocked down by a car. I am handed my phone and they drive off. 

I am afraid that I will lose consciousness completely and nobody will know where I am. I manage to send messages to a few people and tweet with the only information I know. That I am at the back of a police truck headed for the Air force hospital near the airport. I pass out. 

Group Captain Onyike makes sure I get treatment. I come to and the doctor is able to get a friend, Salisu on the phone. 

In the morning, the worst has passed. I am stable. Kasim, Musa and Achile are around and are taking care of things. I open my eyes and I see the dear friend with whom I had dinner last night. I am not sure how she knew or who called her. As much as I did not want her to see me like this, I am grateful that she is here. And I cannot stop my tears from rolling. But for the quick thinking of an air force officer, she might have been the one to tell stories of my last words, my last thoughts, my last feelings. 

This is how to survive a road accident in Nigeria: Pray. Pray that someone with quick thinking and hospital contacts runs into you. Do not expect the police to know what to do. Do not expect emergency services. Just pray. 


Comments

So it actually did happen. My bad. I thought it was a follow up to your 'Mechanic piece'. Hmmm.
Get well soon. I will say a pray for you.
Seriously, are you turning 30 tomorrow?

You have done a wonderful job with this story, very descriptive details. It is unfortunate that it is a true story, but we must thank The Lord that one is alive. I wish you a Quick recovery....You have given me things to ponder about And be thankful for when I turn 30 next year.
Keep striving And being an inspiration to others!
Lady Y

Bros, sorry oooo!!! Thank God for your rescue and the quick-thinking NAF officer. It could have been worse. More people die just just because we do not have a clear process for managing the victims etc. You are even lucky, many people are robbed whilst being "helped".

Hi Elna,
I am one of your silent fans. Sorry to read about your misfortune. I wish you a very quick recovery and pray that this is the worst experience you will have in your life. Chin up mate!

Dear Elnathan

Just two days ago I wrote the piece How to get people to love you and even mourn your car

When I wrote that piece for you, I was concerned that you might not be writing so soon after the accident and my first thought was to send it to Daily Times to publish it as a guest blogpost on your space. Then as if I knew you'd be getting to your feet soon, I posted it on The Blogazette instead.

This account of your accident and survival is beautifully recounted and really touching and as usual you open the behinds of a section in the pages of a national newspaper.

Grateful that you had the presence of mind to use Twitter,grateful for the man who had the clout and chose to use it to save a stranger,grateful to clueless policemen who drove you to the military hospital,grateful that there is a military hospital,grateful that life did not seep out of you,grateful I did not have to mourn......I hate pain,very grateful I can read what you wrote again today,too grateful!

We all have lots to learn from this. About how the triumvirate of the Body, Car, and Thought rule the highways (literarilly) I have learnt. Thank you

This type of thing is very grateful, daily there are so many accidents happen in road and in some other ways, after the accident you can't thing about you how to handle the situation and contact with the people who will solve the problems. In cases more victims died due to the proper communication or treatment.

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