Thursday, December 24, 2009

Near Death Taxi Incident in Durban

Matt did a write-up from his point of view, you can read it here at the Geeky Traveler Blog

The Photograph

The Story

I never want to look at these pictures again, honestly. But this is a story that needs telling. A testament to many things: Never let the taxi drive away before you've checked for working seat belts, always wear your badge to dinner after the convention, read the fine print, and have a camera handy for the sake of documentation. I spoke briefly to my dad after we got back stateside, and having lost my voice, I didn't tell any tales. His closing words were "Glad your trip was uneventful". Little did he know....

After our second day of the International Convention our group of 7 made the decision to taxi to uShaka Marine World's Zulu themed restaurant, Moya. Three of our group went on ahead, sending their taxi back to pick up the remaining 4 of us afterward. It shouldn't have been a long wait for them seeing that the round trip between the restaurant lay a mere 1.9 kilometers (just over a mile) south of our hotel at the Garden Court South Beach, which should have taken all of 10 minutes round trip. Should have....

Christi, Judith, and myself slid across the back seat of the taxi while Matt took the left front seat (they drive on the opposite side of the road here), chatting with the taxi driver about his night so far, how many Rand the drive would cost, if his night was just beginning or just ending, how he liked his occupation, and what brought us to his corner of the globe. It had begun to rain again, as it had off and on all day. The air hung muggy around the windows but I had no trouble seeing a silver car off to the right speeding into the intersection ahead of us, racing into the space where we would be seconds later. Our driver was looking to the left. I made a sound that was supposed to be a "watch out!" but came out more like an urgent "uuuhhhhaa!" The driver turned his head back too late to make much difference, but he slowed some as our cars collided front passenger side to front passenger side. In my minds eye I can see us all float a little in the air on impact as gravity did it's thing and we all slammed back into our relative places.

When we were all still again, and a momentary silence passed, Christi and I both started asking if everyone was ok, and we all seemed to be in one piece. Matt was quiet, which scared me immensely, but I walked around to his side of the car, wrenched his door open and assured myself that he too was in one piece. Then I noticed the cracked windshield in front of him. But his head didn't look swollen, and there wasn't a cut to be seen, so I didn't know what to think. Just as the panic began to rise, paramedics appeared out of nowhere. They had heard the crash and came running from a nearby hospital. They assessed us all, and decided Matt and Judith should have x-rays to rule out possible concussion or compression fractures. Matt for his head and neck, and Judith for her shins which had smacked the console between the front seats. Minutes after the paramedics showed up, a couple from a local congregation happened upon us as if directed there, and seeing Christi's badge, came rushing over to our aid. The neighborhood wasn't the kind you could just walk home from without a care. Our vehicle had already been surrounded completely by 50 or so sketchy looking lurkers commenting on how nice my camera was. As if a personal guard, our kindly local friends whisked Christi safely off to the hotel where she could call her family that sat waiting at a table for us to arrive, and to notify the appropriate local brothers. After deciding we had travel insurance enough, we had to choose between going to: a) Government Hospital: cheap cheap cheap, b) semi-private hospital: so-so service, and c) private hospital: closer to the standards we'd be used to. So, private hospital it was. The ambulance arrived and swept us off to St. Augustine's hospital about 15 minutes away. Matt seemed chipper along the way, probably adrenalin induced, and our ambulance guy seemed comfortable enough with our well being to pull out his camera too (since Judith and I both had ours out documenting the process) interviewing us all to show his friends that he had Americans in his bus.

The next few hours went quickly for me, and tortuously for Matt mostly due to the trauma board they insisted he remain on until the x-rays came back. Our paramedics pushed Matt's gurney in to the room announcing with gusto that we came from the USA instead of saying things that I expected to hear like head trauma and car crash. Waiting for the x-ray results was difficult. If there was a fracture, trip over, then and there. If not, we could go on with the help of plenty of rest, and some pain killers. We had a pack of well wishers in the waiting room, one of the local brothers joking that Matt was an Israelite: Hard headed and stiff necked. The hospital staff worked quickly and efficiently despite having only one doctor and two nurses on staff at the time. Our physician's assistant assured us that it was slow right then, and wouldn't get backed up until after one am or so. That's when the local scene would kick up the drunks, the drug lord interactions, the stabbings, gun battles, and such. Our arriving between dinner and midnight was one more thing to be thankful for.

So, after donating one evening to getting to know St. Augustine's hospital and environs, we walked away relatively unscathed. We learned that we were hit by a drunk driver who ran a stop sign, and walked away unhurt. Our taxi man came to the hospital to make sure we were alright, which was very thoughtful of him seeing as how he'd lost his means of making a living, at least for the night. Thankful for so much; for our safety, for the organization that kept us in good care, for the love and dedication of the friends who came to our rescue, and for the good outcome to a bad night, we returned to our hotel and too deep deep, codeine assisted sleep.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy it turned out as well as it did. So scary. Glad you're back home.