I am living for six days in my new house in Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia few days after the new year when the accident happened. The house that I fought to get because the people that were supposed to help me settle in my new country didn’t actually help. The moment I saw the house it was for me, I felt at home immediately even if I know I will only stay for two short months working remotely for my work in Turkey.
It was also not a hard decision to make because the house and its owners speak for itself. The owners are good people, and with my accident, they’ve proven to be angels in disguise.
As I settle in that first week, I slowly develop my daily morning routine – waking up at the crack of dawn, take showers and get the coffee running. To be followed by simple breakfast of bread and jam and more coffee. Then I set up my workstation in the smallish dining area, roughly around mid-morning, the time my work country is also starting their day. In the afternoon, I would go out to walk around the small town, get something to eat or simply watch the people as they come back from the city center.
On the 6th day, I woke up earlier than usual and cannot go back to sleep, so I decided to just take a shower and catch up on work earlier than usual.
I didn’t do anything different, including stepping on the rubber mat that was in front of my shower box since day one but for some reason, the mat slipped under my feet, and I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor with my legs in two separate places … the right leg was in front of me while the left leg was inside the shower box. The moment I looked at my feet, I knew something was wrong, I felt no pain, but I was pretty sure my ankle was dislocated. I saw my left foot slightly off further to the left, away from my leg bones compared to my right leg.
I was jolted awake because as if I was sleepwalking when it happened. It took me a couple of minutes to get my thoughts in order and my bearing to get dressed again before I called for help. Luckily there’s a grab bar next to the door; it helped me get back up, balancing on my right leg avoiding weight bearing on the left side.
I started hopping to my bedroom, holding on the wall to secure myself until I retrieved my phone. Reaching my room and my bed, I crawled to the other side close to the window. And propped myself on the French window, leaning my back on the wall while I raised my leg – thank God for pillows! Called the only friend I have (at the moment), who happens to be the logistics coordinator of the Libya mission whom I knew would be also up and getting ready for work and said “I need help, I had an accident, bring me to the hospital please,”
I called my landlord right after, and in short time the couple was in my house fussing around me genuinely concerned making me feel comfortable while we wait for the car.
I am not a superstitious person, but I believe that sometimes the world has a way of telling us the future.
Days after I arrived in Tunisia I started inquiring about logistics condition for expatriates, the information that should be readily available to share with anyone visiting the county particular on police and hospitals. As bureaucracy would have it, I didn’t get that information and then the accident happened.
My friend E also doesn’t know where we should go in an emergency situation, the information was provided by my landlord. Fifteen minutes tops we were at the emergency room of the only private hospital in the area known to the diplomatic and expatriate community (but not to my organization – efficient!). It offered quality services, I could attest to it with the services I received the week I stayed there before I was evacuated to the Philippines.
But then, when I think of it now, I may have had a premonition that I will be needing medical services and eventually I did. I don’t know what could have happened had I not asked for that information in the first place. But then again, premonition or not accidents do happen, and I attributed this one to be just that, an accident.
More than dislocation …
Forty-five minutes after the accident, as I scooted down my house and hoped to the car, I waited another hour to get confirmation of my predicament.
While I wait for the results of my x-ray, and my friend and landlord were preparing to find me a room, my ankle starts to swell. It could have been worse if I didn’t apply my knowledge of acute trauma management.
The moment of truth arrived, after waiting for almost an hour since I arrived in the emergency room — my ankle was not only dislocated but by leg bones are broken. It was explained to me with by the nurse in broken English because I neither speak Arabic nor French and them English, but the x-ray plate says it all regardless of my background.
For those who care to know — the fibula which is the smaller non-weight bearing bone of the leg and the tibia which forms part of the ankle joint, the main weight-bearing joint is broken.
I was shaken a bit because I was still hoping until I saw the x-ray that they would just have to reset my ankle, and I will be in a cast and be on my way but no, the breaks are big and I will need surgery to fix it.
I had no choice, but to accept my situation. It was not a difficult decision to make, I will need the surgery whether I like it or not but I was worried I was alone in a foreign land. All sorts of thoughts run through my head, but I was assured by my landlord that they will not leave me alone — they officially announced in the hospital that I am their adopted daughter. They assured me too that the doctor that would handle my case is a renowned specialist known in the country (even a little bit of a celebrity).
Late in the afternoon, I was out of the operating room like nothing happened. I was awake during the 2-hour surgery, didn’t feel any pain but was very thirsty. When they transferred me to my room, ( was happy to see my adoptive patents waiting for me as if I was indeed one of their own children.