The doc looked me over, lifting my elbow, peering into the blood-red hole just above the bone.
“Need stitches,” he said.
I looked at it. I hadn’t realised it was so deep that you could see China on the other side. I was surprised there was very little blood. Of course, most of my blood was on the road where scooter-met-sand just a few hours earlier.
“How much?” I asked, bracing myself (and not cause of the cleaning alcohol being prepared).
The doc looked me over and seemed to calculate accordingly with the amount of injuries I had sustained.
It had all happened just that morning as I was heading out on the scooter to visit Baz at the Shiralea Backpacker’s Resort on the north side of Koh Phangan. I took a curve at a safe pace and hit the camouflaged beach sand that had gathered on it. Luckily, I wasn’t going fast as the bike slid and I lost control and went asphalt surfing on my right side.
The good news? I’m alive minus a few layers less of skin on my waist, right arm, right and left hand and on my right calf. And a hole just above the right elbow bone where blood had dripped from, leaving a splatter of my DNA on the road.
The bike’s motor was still running as I looked behind at its sprawled form. There was no one about. I slowly checked myself for anything broken and got up. I lifted the bike and saw that the right indicator had broken off.
Shit, I thought. Then I saw the whole right side, scratched like a record at an amateur DJ’s night.
I picked up my sunnies and phone, the back of it cracked.
My sunnies didn’t survive either.
Shit and fuck.
I threw them to the side of the road, picked up the bike, hopped on and rode back to the Morning Star Resort where I was staying with Yingying, my couchsurfer host. It was her rented bike that I had introduced to the asphalt.
“Do you have first aid?” I asked at the reception. The lady gave me a bag with Band-Aids, cotton balls, cleaning alcohol and Betadine.
“Thanks,” I said, “I’ll go to my bathroom and clean myself up. I’ll bring it back.”
“Just careful of the Betadine,” she said. “Not wash off bed sheets.”
With set priorities I promised her I wouldn’t stain the bed sheets. Yingying didn’t move in the bed as I crept to the bathroom, grabbing my personal first aid kit which had gauze pads and a tube of anti-bacterial cream.
I washed off the sand and gravel and cleaned my wounds with the alcohol. The slight burn had me wincing lightly. I applied the Betadine to the gauze pads and stuck them on with an adhesive tape that wouldn’t stick.
What’s the point of making an adhesive tape that won’t stick?
I crept back through the room after cleaning up the CSI scene. Yingying stirred to wake in the bed, hungover from last night’s floating party we went too.
“Hey,” she murmured softly.
“Good morning,” I said cheerfully. And then decided it was as good a time as any to let her know that, “I, er, slid with the scooter,” I said, her eyes opening up.
“Are you OK?” she asked worryingly, looking over my wounds.
“I’m fine,” I assured her.
“And the bike?”
Well, here’s the thing… I relayed the damage report promising to pay for it. “I’m going to visit Bazza at the backpacker’s resort. They might have a better first aid kit.”
“OK, drive carefully,” she said as she returned to the pillow.
Oh, I will.
I headed out through the jungle-filled hills overlooking the turquoise crystal-clear waters surrounding the island. A little rattled from my spill, I was flying at 40 K’s an hour and looking out for sand on every corner. I reached the backpacker’s only to learn that Baz was out.
“Motorbike accident?” asked Brendan at the bar, indicating to my battlefield wound dressings.
“Yeah,” I said, relaying my brave tales of the morning.
“There’s a hospital down the road, in Thong Sala,” he suggested. “You don’t want that getting infected or you’ll end up worse off than a couple of scratches.”
He was right. So I rode down to the hospital, passing Baz on the way.
“I’ll come see ya after I get cleaned up,” I said.
The hospital was a small clinic. So small that the entire staff came to see the ‘falang’ that had become a part of the motorbike accident statistics of Koh Phangan, obtaining what is locally known as the ‘Koh Phangan Tattoo’. Three nurses and two doctors came to have a look. Even the administrative nurse had a peek.
So the doc looked me over and off the top of his head said, “5,000 Baht.” Or $168 AUD.
I burst into laughter. “You’re kidding right?”
“No. You not have insurance?”
“OK, so we can clean for you and then you go to government hospital. Much cheaper.”
That works. I thanked them and headed off after a swab of alcohol.
“Go information window,” instructed the administrative nurse at the Koh Phangan Hospital.
I filled out the card with my details and handed it back.
“Your father name and mother name,” she pointed to the space I had left empty, right after ‘Religion’ and ‘Race’.
“Really?” It didn’t make sense. “You need my parents’ name?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said and waited patiently while I filled out the requirements.
“OK, go to emergency room next door,” she pointed to her left.
I went in and said a cheerful, “Sa-wa-dee-khap,” to the attending nurses.
A local kid was balling his eyes out as the nurses attended to some scratches on him. I was directed to lie on a bed with a plastic cover on the sheets. I removed my shirt and pulled my pants half way down to expose the strategically placed grinding of skin that had been removed from my waist.
The nurse set up a small silver platter, like the kind you get when dining in an Indian restaurant. Cotton swabs were piled; a clear liquid poured into one holding and Betadine into the other. She began to wipe away at the gravel and sand, cutting away the torn skin on my hands. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt (except when the metal of the scissors touched raw skin).
Fuckin’ lucky, was all I could think of as it could have been a lot worse.
The nurse dabbed Betadine on my leg wounds. The burn was sensational. Like taking a bite of the hottest chilli in the market place. It would be worse on my right hand, the first two layers of skin on the lower part of my palm having being ripped away. I was distracting myself by looking away as Nurse Ratchet wrestled with a pair of tweezers to get a stubborn piece of gravel out of my hand.
Again, no pain.
I was caught off-guard when it came to introducing the Betadine to my raw skin. I didn’t see her dab the cotton swab into the Betadine. I didn’t see her swipe it into my open wound. I didn’t see her step back and wait as it hit me like a Mike Tyson knockout punch in the third round.
I sucked in all the air in the room and had to bite the back of my left hand as the burn slowly subsided.
“Wooh!” I grinned as though I had just jumped out of a plane. “What a rush.”
The nurse did her magic on my elbow, administrating a local anesthetic and then sewing up the hole with two stitches after cleaning it out.
“OK,” she said. “Finish.”
“Sweet,” I said with a positive demeanour. “How much?”
“You go to information room,” she said as she packed up and invited the next patient in.
I went to the information window and was presented with a bill of 935 Baht. Or $32 AUD. That included the full treatment I had just undergone and the medicine.
The nurse laughed. “You go pay at window number 2, take medicine at window number 3.”
Medicine? I thought. I hate medicine.
“Anti-biotic,” said the pharmacist.
“Why do I need anti-biotic?” I asked.
“You have open wound. It help to fight any infection.”
I declined the offer of painkillers and headed back out to Bazza’s backpackers where I caught up with him and Jill and realised that my first full moon party would be sober as I wouldn’t be drinking. Maybe it’s for the better. It must be a sign that if I got stupid drunk at the full moon party it would not end well.
Now the other issue was finding work to pay off the damage to the bike and the hospital bill. Yingying, being connected around the island was going to help as I offered services of bar tendering, playing acoustic sets in bars and doing whatever it takes to pay off the bike (about 15,000 Baht in damages. Or $600 AUD) before my potential ride to Africa from Phuket in November.
Everything happens for a reason.
Now, to avoid my mother panicking about this I just have to remember not to click the ‘Publish’ button –