Saigon: Foreigner Motorbike Accident

It will be OK!

By: Axel Marrocco

I am not sure it matters what philosophy or spiritual path you take; some times no matter what trouble you are in; an inner voice that tells you “it will be OK”.  In my existence I have had more than my share of those experiences, however, whether you are willing to actually believe that voice depends on things like: extent of trouble/injury, distance from help, ability to communicate, tolerance for chaos, emotional age (I might say maturity but as commonly defined; maturity has too many interpretations).

I had motorbike accident in late May that had me examining my faith in that inner voice.  Let me start by saying that I have been living in HCMC Vietnam for the last 3 years and was forced to close my company 4 months before. So, with cash reserves depleted and no insurance I was looking down at my flopping leg with both bones broken and a bit of blood seeping through my pants where the bone went through the skin and thought “It will be ok”, get the keys from the motor bike so no one steals it and… call for help.

Like an “agony of defeat” sports video, I didn’t even realize I had a broken leg after the accident until I got up to yell at the bastard who caused the accident (after all he was wrong, I was angry and it wasn’t even that big of a crash)… that is probably when the bone actually broke my skin and I fell down immediately.  Dragging myself to the side of the road, hands shaking so bad that I was having trouble dialing my phone and not having enough understanding of the local language to describe my situation… A situation analysis and possible outcomes were screaming through my head—working hard to drown out that inner voice.  I was able to contact my wife and a good friend and I calmed down. The police arrived parting the sea of bystanders who surrounded me to gawk and click their tongues in disapproval. After verifying my identity I was released for a very painful taxi ride to the local orthopedic hospital.

The Vietnamese surgery turned out much better than one would expect.  For them, it was nothing unusual… like going out for a coffee… “ho hum”… open compound fracture, bone through the skin… “so boring…” (After all, they are dealing with broken bone motor bike accidents 24/365) The operatory theater was very clean and professional utilizing an MRI or CT Scan to install the new hardware in my leg, and now… I have a bionic leg,

No Cast!.. I was up and moving around with the Dr. telling me to walk on it w/o crutches, SOME, in only 2.5 weeks!!! It still hurt, a bit, and I needed to rest often to keep the swelling down—A 100 years ago they would have just cut it off to avoid septicemia.

OK, “Big Picture”- before and after surgery was a bit dodgy, but I can’t help from feeling lucky

Before-surgery-  The Emergency room was loaded, groaning moaning gurneys lined up like boats in slips at a summer marina. Family members, scurrying in/out of the triage and the nurse- a military sergeant berating at everyone who had gotten by her.

Truth is,  I was delayed from surgery for 5 hours because my wife could not get in to see me and the hospital was looking for her to sign some documents.  PLUS NO ONE GAVE ME ANY PAIN MEDICATION!!!

After-surgery… No rooms available and similar to my Brazilian Cobra Bite experience (another “it will be OK” experience) I was put in the hallway. but more shockingly (unlike, a USA hospital where nurses attend to the needs of patients) in a Vietnamese hospital the family cares for all of the human requirements (don’t make me describe) while the nurse only takes care of the medical issues (cleaning wounds administering meds)… So the hallway looked like a post Katrina shelter, with people sleeping on-top of filing cabinets, on the floor, every where, and even under my gurney.

As crazy as that was it was better than the room they moved me into the next day. At least in the hallway, I was under a fan so there was some “fresher” air and the droning of fan bearings going bad covered many of the background noises.

The room, on the other hand, was shared with 5 other patients (families)… the air- stiflingly hot, filled with farting, snoring, arguments, moaning, and the smell of local foods.  Foods, which I still do not understand how humans ever figured out they could eat and survive.  REALLY; how could the Europeans be afraid to eat tomatoes because they though it was the devil fruit, when the Asians eat food they has been aged to the point that harmful bacteria can no longer live in such a caustic soup, think of every story you imagined about the Chinese 100 year egg and substitute fish, shrimp or some other water creature. I guess the counter point is that no harmful bacterial can survive in such a soup and we age our beef.

On the morning of the 3rd day I had not seen a doctor since the operation, I was starting to freakout, when a doctor finally came in and said… “Your are going home today!”.  Just like that… didn’t even look at the leg (I say “a doctor” because I never saw the same doctor twice- not during my hospital experience nor for the follow up visits- six different doctors not one of them holding a file my X-rays or anything that I could tell identified my ailment from the next victim in traction or a cast).

In the end what can I say, besides… “What do you expect for 300 USD!”

After being released from the hospital I called some Western friends and found a clinic for a second opinion… (I am good… they did an excellent job… “physically”)

Anyway, I am still looking for a good theme I can use to tie all of my experiences together… I would like to change my story from another episode of the Jack Ass Show or some other MTV shock comedy show into a better representation of the nuanced and eclectic life I seem to live.

I returned to the States on June 29 for a visit? My wife and child were not able to come with me; Vietnamese Bureaucracy and the Visa Process are killing me, but “It will be OK!”