It was a beautiful day with barely a cloud to see in sight. Our joy ride had taken us inbound to the sunny Gold Coast. An afternoon of food and friends was planned.
The Gruntmaster, only six weeks in our possession, gave off the most melodious roar.
A dreaded roundabout was ahead of us and ushered us to the highway. (Roundabouts are often a cause of concern for riders. Cars are less likely to see a bike on a roundabout.) We are getting ready to get to the on ramp from the roundabout when metal hit metal. In that moment -the one before impact- time slows. You see it happening and you are helpless to it. I only mustered an “Oh, shit” before I heard and felt it.
Statistics state that motorcyclists are more likely to have an accident at low speeds than high speeds. Under 40kph is the average. We became that statistic that day.
Once impact occurred, time sped up. I don’t remember flying, but I did. I heard the bike land on its side. I heard the echo of my own “Oomph” in my helmet, but all else was lost to me. I worried that the rider was also on his side under the weight of the motorcycle. My head faced the wrong direction to see anything other than the cars stopped ahead of us.
I forced myself up as fast as I could. All my thoughts were on the rider. Was he okay? Has he broken his back? His neck? Tears, unrequested, touched my cheeks. I struggled to my feet. My boots were cumbersome, my legs uncomfortably unsteady, my arms shaking – I was in shock.
I finally stood up and turned. The rider was on the ground three meters away and laid on his side. I was two meters away from the bike.
He wasn’t moving. I screamed his name. The fellow joy rider was struggling to turn off the our bike. Her bike stood to block other cars.
He called back to me and moved onto his back.
Around me the world awakened. The sounds of my voice, his voice, the bike screaming, and other cars screeching. People were still driving around us. They weren’t even stopping. A puddle of Black Death poured out under the bike. Impatient drivers were hitting it and subsequently losing control for a moment before speeding off.
The offending car was long gone. When the veil of the incident lifted, I remembered seeing it speed onto the on ramp as fast as it could. A part of me thinks they never even knew what they had done. The other part hated them passionately.
The fellow joyrider said to me days later that it was the longest fifteen seconds she’d ever had. We were both on the ground, motionless, for what seemed an eternity.
I reached the rider, and he grunted as he got to his knees and then onto his feet.
He removed his helmet, and despite looking bleary-eyed, he was fine. We had dodged a bullet. We had no broken bones. I take my phone out and try to call family. Tried to tell them what was happening before I even realized it myself. But they didn’t answer.
Ambulance came. Tow-truckers came, as well. The world was still a blur of action, but we insisted on our good health. The medic told us we were high on adrenaline. That the aches and pains of the events were likely to not be noticeable yet. We should get checked out. But we remained insistent.
We returned home. Family called, and we discussed. We were fine. Everything was fine. Except for the bike. It would be a write off.
Only, the next morning, everything did not feel fine. I could barely move my neck. He couldn’t lift his shoulder. So we went straight to the emergency room.
Scans were taken, and when we were patiently chatting away about something, the doctor came. She looked me in the eyes and said, “We don’t want to alarm you.”
Too late! The words of the Doctor echoed in my mind as a nurse put me in a neck brace. Words, incomprehensible, were spoken to me, but everything went foggy, especially my mind. Nurses on either side of me lifted me from my chair. Finally, I heard, “we need to get you on the bed. Don’t move your neck.”
I tried to be calm. I was shaking all over as they ushered me slowly onto the hospital bed.
I laid on that bed helpless, but the rider was even more helpless. He stood and begged for answers.
“Do you know of any issues with your neck, miss?” The doctor asked.
I struggle to think. My panic overwhelming all my senses, but I gather the courage. “I have fused vertebrae.”
She asked me if I remembered any other details, but I didn’t.
They pushed my bed away. I worried that the other would panic. My mind went to him and how this was affecting him. He would blame himself. I didn’t want that.
I laid for what seemed like hours. He came in to see me, and I told him I would be fine. But my voice caught, and he was unconvinced. He did indeed blame himself, and he said he would never forgive himself if I was injured.
MRI was done, though, and after some deliberation, the doctor came back. She had the neck brace removed and sat down on the edge of the hospital bed.
“You have a fusion in multiple vertebrates in your neck. It seems you were born with it. We thought there was a crack, but it was just the way they fused. You’ve had only soft tissue damage.”
It was still three days before I could move my neck properly, though, and we decided to take the insurance money instead. He had shoulder surgery less than a year later. I kept on living with my weird neck.