Day 1 – Accident Day

23 April 2013

Today as we were driving along in a straight line on our motorbike, a young 17 year old girl driving along chatting with her friend (neither of whom were wearing helmets) were driving towards us and a the last moment suddenly crossed our path and drove in front of us to cross into a side street. They didn’t indicate or even look before they made the abrupt turn, and despite Dre’s fast reactions breaking as heavily as he could as soon as he saw these girls turn into us without looking, we weren’t able to stop in time to avoid the accident. Luckily for all of us, the impact was almost nothing since we had slowed significantly, and the girls didn’t get hurt. Dre and I however got sandwiched between their bike, which was on the ground, our left legs on top of it’s exhaust, and our bike on top of us squashing our legs into the exhaust.

Luckily I had the clarity of mind to realise my leg was being burned and that I needed to move it as soon as possible, so managed to roll out of the tangle, and Dre did the same. When I first got up I knew I was burned but didn’t think much of it, it didn’t hurt that much and I figured we’d just need to cover it and wait a few days for it to heal.

After about 10 minutes standing on the side of the road with the police, listening to witnesses confirm to the police the exact scenario mentioned above, and establishing that really there was not anything more we could have done to avoid the crash, I realised that the burns were the most painful injury I had ever had in my life. The bottom wound was weeping so much that trickles of clear fluid was running down my leg like tears.

Healing from second degree burns
Karen’s burns – don’t look too bad at all

The Luang Namtha hospital was an interesting experience. The police drove us there and dropped us off at the emergency section. We walked in and spoke to the nurses in Lao, and they told me to wait in the nearest room and Dre to go with them. I sat on the bed in the reasonably filthy room for only a few minutes before Dre returned with a big plastic bag of drugs, dressings, tape, saline and gloves. Apparently you have to buy all of the equipment the doctor needs to use to treat you. The doctor appeared in only about 5 minutes, and unwrapped a green hospital sheet that looked dirty, but smelled clean so we were hoping that it was just stains on the sheet. Inside the sheet was the surgical instruments, which all appeared clean.

Healing from second degree burns
Top burn on Karen’s leg

The doctor took a rinsed but not clean metal food tray and placed it under my leg to catch the drips and saline that he was about to pour over my leg.

Recovery from second degree burns
Bottom burn on Karen’s leg

He put his surgical gloves on and then used his gloved hands to adjust the height of the rusty bed. He then carefully and gently used the saline to clean my wounds and then cut off the excess skin with some hopefully sterile scissors. After dressing the wound he then used the same scissors to cut off the skin from Dre’s wound – something which we didn’t really mind but it made us wonder what it would be like if we were strangers who didn’t know what diseases the other may have and having the same surgical instrument used on us.

We asked the doctor if we should come back tomorrow to have the dressings changed, but he said just to do it ourselves at home.

Healing second degree burns
Dre’s burn – also looks pretty good

When we got home we took our first anti-inflamatory drug and within about 10 minutes we were both giggling and fairly rather happy from the drugs. We went down to the shop to get some food and I soon realised that sitting up wasn’t such a good option, and needed to lay down in the shop. We got dinner delivered to our house because by the evening we were both feeling quite happy, not much pain, but a bit nauseous so decided it was better to get food sent up to our house.

As you can see from the photos our burns don’t look too bad so we’re feeling super good about everything.  We are thinking that in a few days we’ll be as good as new!

We are both feeling really lucky, no bones are broken, we didn’t die, and the other girls weren’t hurt either, so all in all not such a bad outcome for a motorbike accident.

Click here for Day 2 of the road to recovery – the day we spent spaced out on prescription medication

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