Driving home from church this morning we came upon a young man laying screaming on the ground next to his crashed motorbike. A car had just knocked him down and fled the scene, leaving him for dead.
We pulled over, and I ran to help. Having studied a bit of first aid (and even written a first aid course two years ago as part of a contract for a merchant bank – itself a long story: large sections needed revision to cover their executive staff; turned out the classes on CPR were irrelevant since none of them had hearts ;-) it was a relief to discover how much I could remember: if you’d asked me any questions ten minutes earlier I’d have known nothing. Emergency (it’s 000 in Australia, not 911) dispatched an ambulance and began going through the DR ABC checklist (if you don’t know what that is you should: knowing could save someone’s life - why schools seem to think it’s more important to teach algebra than first aid is completely beyond me) and it was reassuring to be able to confirm each step had already been taken.
The rider began to settle: his left arm, leg and collarbone were in pretty bad way, but he had movement and feeling in his fingertips and toes, no significant bleeding, and no head injury – helmets are compulsory for a reason. A passing fireman stopped to take care of the fire hazard: fuel from the bike had splashed everywhere, and then the emergency services arrived.
The police explained that an off-duty officer travelling in the opposite direction had seen everything and given chase, arresting the hit-and-run driver at the next intersection. She (the police officer) returned while I was giving my details, and looked every bit as proud as she deserved to feel: the driver was a tall and angry man easily three times her size, and confronting him would have taken considerable courage.
I’ll drop over to the hospital to visit the rider later today and see how he’s going: in parish I used to do a lot of hospital work, and it still feels like one of the most rewarding ways possible of spending a Sunday afternoon.
All of which brings to an end what has been very dark week. On Thursday a close friend’s ex-wife lost her son in an accident on Sydney Harbour: their daughter was tragically killed about 10 years before, and the grief into which they have been plunged is more than anyone can even begin to comprehend. While at the same time this weekend, which is for us late autumn with high clear skies and cold afternoons, marks 20 years since another dear friend developed tertiary aids.
In those days, which were long before the appearance of antiretrovirals, his future was so much of a forgone conclusion that everyone went into a kind of denial. Quasi-fundamentalist and strangely bohemian at the same time, we were all about as functional as an acupuncturist with Parkinsons. A close-knit community for whom the years have not been equally kind, we’ve long gone our separate ways, and for some those days are only a vaguely remembered science-fiction.
But I know each of us remembers Dusan, and the months following this weekend, which lead to that awful August-September of 1988. I’ll post more in his memory as the anniversary of his death draws nearer, and I promise that it shan’t be too bleak. To write of Dusan in any way other than with laughter and energy would be to deny the life that he brought to everyone around him. This is a song from “back-in-the-day” local band Died Pretty called D.C. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found it on YouTube, and who knows: it might even be about him...