Saturday, December 26, 2009

One Lucky Girl

Christmas Eve was a day off for everyone at the SIL Centre in Ouagadougou and I was looking forward to a day mostly at home in order to get ready for Christmas. All I had to do first was run a quick errand for a friend and pick up a new battery for our truck in town. I should have known better. It didn’t turn out that way at all.

To begin with, it was an absolute zoo downtown. It took me 15 minutes to get through one intersection alone! I should have known better than to go at this season of the year, but our truck battery has been hinting that it’s getting ready to give up the ghost over the last several months and I was afraid that it would leave us high and dry somewhere right during the holidays.

However, it was on the way back home that the really unexpected happened. I decided to pop into Decorama, a Lebanese-owned store in the Zone de Bois area of Ouaga, to see if they had some of those LED Christmas light sets. A few of ours have been giving us trouble (I think the cat’s probably been chewing on a few wires). Anyway, as I was approaching the store, I threw on my right turn signal and began to slow down for the turn into the parking area. Just as I began to turn, I glanced in my right side mirror and, to my horror, saw a young lady on a moto come barrelling up on my passenger side, going far too fast and obviously oblivious to my turn signal. I slammed on my brakes but it was too late. She frantically tried to swerve to miss me, but didn’t really have enough room to manoeuvre. Instead, she grazed the side of the truck, bounced off, lost control, and careened off towards the storefront before hitting the pavement hard and sliding to a stop. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

Leaving the truck where it was, I ran over to where the young lady was crawling out from under the bike. Gasoline and oil were dripping out of the engine, and a few plastic body parts lay scattered nearby. The young lady made an effort to get up but couldn’t do it. She ended up rolling over onto her back, crying from shock and pain of her accident. A crowd of people quickly gathered.

Holding her hand in an attempt to provide some initial comfort, I told someone to get something to put under her head, and checked her over visually for injuries. Apart from a scratch on her neck, a small scrape on her elbow, two bigger scrapes on her foot (she’d only been wearing sandals and these had come off in the accident), and dirt on her jeans, she seemed to be in one piece. No bones appeared to be broken. She wasn’t wearing a helmet (most people here in Burkina don’t), so she was darn lucky she hadn’t hit her head!

After a few moments, we got her up and inside the store where the young Lebanese manager got us chairs to sit on, as well as a bottle of water, a box of tissues, and some rubbing alcohol for the girl. She nearly hit the roof when he tried to clean her wounds with the alcohol! It must have stung something fierce but she hardly made a sound, just squirmed violently in her chair from the pain. But eventually we got her settled down enough to call someone from her family. I ended up sitting there with her for two hours before two young women arrived. And they appeared to be none too happy with me! They probably assumed that it was me who had hit her!

Anyway, we took the injured girl to a nearby clinic where they cleaned her up and prescribed some painkillers, as well as an antibiotic to guard against infection. After this, one of the young women took her home while the other young lady and I went back to Decorama to look at the moto. It was soon clear than it was not driveable. So I offered to put it in the back of my truck and take it to her home. Home turned out to be in Ouaga 2000, a ritzy new part of the city for the wealthy and upwardly mobile.

As we were driving there, I pointed out how fortunate the girl in the accident had been. It could have been a lot worse, like what happened to our son Josh back in 2005 when he crashed into and went flying over the hood of a truck that cut him off. He ended up breaking his arm and had to have a metal plate inserted to help the bone set properly. The girl riding with me said that a similar thing had happened to her, except that it was her leg that had been broken. Pulling up part of her dress on one side, she showed me a long scar on her upper leg, the only visible indication of what must have been a pretty traumatic experience at the time.

Yesterday morning, on Christmas day, I called the injured girl to see how she was doing. Apart from her throat, which was still quite painful, especially when she tried to talk (it’s likely that this is where she connected with the handlebars of her moto when she fell), she said she was fine. Tongue in cheek, I pointed out that her sore throat was not necessarily a bad thing. Her family would no doubt be quite thankful for a respite from her constant nagging and complaints!

Fortunately for me, her sense of humour was fine too :)

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