4 Cs: Cars, Crashes, Crowds, and Craziness

I’m behind on my posts and will catch up this weekend, including my trip to Rwanda last weekend. Last night’s car crash turned to be a quite jolting experience. I bought the gas for my cooker yesterday, thus finishing off the basic furnishings that I need to call the apartment home for the next 9 months. I gave a sigh of relief in recognition of what will be hopefully a substantial move towards settling down.

Matt and I met at the market to get some food to cook with my new kitchen utensils and gas stove range cooker. As we turned onto the main road from which my road diverges, Matt explained to me a local artemesin tea-based study for investigating prophylaxis of malaria that had occurred here. I kept looking forward as he was speaking and suddenly saw a car ahead violently swerving in such a dramatic way that I have never seen before outside a movie. I initially thought two things: (1) this person is in a serious car chase and (2) I might need to push us over into a ditch if this car comes any closer. Then the car took another swerve off the road and crashed into a wall 50 feet in front of us and sent at least one pedestrian flying.

Madness ensued as crowds gathered dozens of people. A woman passenger came out of the car crying. I thought I saw another woman get out or did she just run away after narrowly avoiding being hit? The pedestrian hit lay on the ground twenty feet beyond the impact site, disoriented but responsive. Matt yelled out for the 911 equivalent cell phone number and called on his phone reporting the accident and giving the license plate number to the operator.

The driver stumbled out of the car, obviously drunk but apparently unharmed. Matt and I took the injured pedestrian’s pulse (bradycardic=slower at about 45 beats per minute) and watched his breathing. He started to move; we insisted that he stay still. And he did, right next to the basket of bagged nuts he had on his head that he was selling. People wanted to move him, but we talked about waiting until an ambulance (yeah right) showed up.

The cops then showed up. (There’s a police station at the bottom of my hill on this road about 5 minutes walk from the spot where we are.) They started directing traffic and appeared to talk to the drunk driver off in the distance. Some members of the crowd were yelling at the cops that this pedestrian was going to die, because they were moving so slow. I told everyone that Matt had called the ambulance and why we shouldn’t move the man until they came. Ambulances do not come quickly here, and they are expensive.

Well, and things happened quickly, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pickup truck randomly stopped, and some of the crowd loaded the man into the back. No c-spine (cervical neck region) board to stabilize his neck, but he seemed quite limber on his own. Matt insisted that we go to Mulago hospital with the man. The injured woman, crying, sat next to us in the back seat while the injured man lay in flat bed part of the truck with a random guy from the crowd. Both had cuts and scrapes of course. We attempted to console her and asked her questions to see if she was oriented to person, time, and place but she then just started crying non-stop. The driver told us about the drinking under the influence problem here.

We arrived at the hospital and budged in the ER admission line and tried to get gurneys for them both. Everyone there was relaxed but Matt and I were a bit harried as we tried to push these two forward in the line, which thankfully was small. I think some of the staff people were almost entertained that we were there which made me feel a little frustrated but hopefully helped out the injured persons somehow.

We spoke to a police officer at the hospital about the incident, Matt asking if we needed to file a report, which we wanted to do. They seemed confused as to why we would do it, but it wasn’t surprising since the man who hit them probably won’t have legal action taken against him or any meaningful penalty.

Matt and I walked to my place from the hospital after we realized that there was nothing else to be done. We wondered about whether or not the man in particular was significantly harmed. It would be a wonder if he was not. We then pondered the inevitable – that we were 50 feet or so from the accident site. It could have possibly been us. The “what if” game. My cashier rang me up wrong at the store. Had he not, we may have been 50 feet ahead? Would I have been able to push us to safety?

I learned or remembered a few things last night before Matt and I made a nice dinner, turned on some music, and tried to forget the madness. (1) Always keep your eyes on the road as a pedestrian and walk against the flow of traffic. (2) Make decisions when crowds are not. (3) The 4 Cs always come in a package here and can be overwhelming. Please keep the injured in your thoughts and/or prayers. The hospital, depending on the resources available last night, may be another juggernaut unto itself for these two.


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