A ‘leg day’ like no other

Friday 27th September marked my first month in Guadeloupe. Having fully adjusted to this incredible island, I was having the time of my life. Happy, healthy and tanned, I made my way to the gym at 7am for a workout. It was “leg day”. Ironic.

Friday night brought spontaneous plans to go out with my friend Olivia, another English Language Assistant. This was my first night going “properly out” to a club and I was very excited. We drank some rum in Gosier Marina and we were having a great night. “Should we get a taxi home?” “No, there aren’t any taxis here.” My famous last words. We returned with the two boys in their car, having abandoned them for most of the night but needed to get back to Sainte-Rose.

The journey from Gosier to Sainte-Rose is a boring and winding drive. At approximately 6am on Saturday morning, i think I must have fallen asleep in the car. We were 3km from Sainte-Rose when we hit an electric pole, causing the car to tumble into a field. I woke up as the sun was rising, broken glass in my head as blood trickled down my face. It was difficult to breathe and there was a shooting pain in my side. I looked at my surroundings, we were in a field and the road was above us. The windows and windscreen were smashed, the doors were crushed. I couldn’t feel my right leg and I instantly thought it was missing. I was so confused, I didn’t know what had happened. I started to cry and lost consciousness as the fire brigade cut me out of the car.

In a hazy and very frightened state in hospital, I found out I had a broken femur and a ruptured liver. My leg required surgery to pin the bone back together. Attached to numerous drips and high on morphine after my operation, I told the nurses I was going to write about this because it would be a “bonne histoire”. The others in the car were not physically hurt, but we all have to deal with the trauma. I haven’t heard anything from the boys, but I don’t want to. By all means I am extremely lucky to be alive, which is a very overwhelming thought.

The attitude surrounding driving in Guadeloupe is complacent and relaxed. There isn’t the same road safety education as there is in the UK, and there is a lack of public transport and taxis.

The first week in hospital has been a whirlwind of emotions but I’m trying my best to manage it. I’ve gone through the anger, heartbreak, frustration, pain. I couldn’t help but think someone played a sick joke on me, just when I had settled and I was the happiest I could be. I feel guilty to find myself in this situation, and having caused undue pain and worry to my parents. It is difficult to deal with the psychological aspect of this trauma; I relive the turmoil of the accident every time I go to sleep. “Why me? It’s not fair!” isn’t going to achieve anything. I’m coming to terms with the accident, and I’m focusing on recovery now.

I’m not writing this article as a cry for attention, but as a means of communication, therapy, and dealing with this traumatic experience. It’s an incredibly personal story, but I wanted to share it.

Every day I set myself small goals to achieve. Three days ago I couldn’t get out of bed without fainting, now I can do a few steps with a Zimmer frame. I am finding the positives and an inner strength I didn’t think I possessed. Even listening to my dad’s stupid stories (apologies if you’re reading this!) is helping the time pass a little better in hospital. No one speaks English, my spoken French has improved significantly. The nurses are young and friendly and I am meeting new people. In an ironic way, I am achieving the goals of a year abroad. Every cloud has a silver lining. I am overwhelmed by everyone’s support, both from the UK and Guadeloupe. My pupils have FaceTimed me and all my visitors this week have shown the strength of friendships I have already established in Guadeloupe.

I am moving to a rehabilitation centre on Monday for intense physio treatment. I never thought I would say at age 20 I had a close to death experience. I also didn’t think I would be going to “rehab” but life has a funny way of panning out. What a dramatic year abroad this is turning out to be.

I don’t know the reason for this accident but some day it might become clear. I won’t let this set me back and I’m ready to tackle the next stage of recovery.

Vic xx