Last Saturday I was in a terrible car accident.† I was going to Malang with Pak Agus and his family.† We borrowed a van from the university and hired a driver (a local teacher, Pak Ibrahim, who earns extra money as a driver).† We were on the road for only about 1 hour when the accident happened.† I didnít see it because I was reading a book.† No one really knows whose fault it was, but that doesnít matter either.† All I know is that we hit a very large truck as we were driving full speed.† The same second or the milliseconds before the impact, I remember Bu Agus scream.† All I felt was the crunch of metal on metal and our bones cushioning the blow.† When I opened my eyes, first I saw the blood gushing out of my face.† It was already all over my book, my shirt and pants.† I glanced up and saw the driver who was in front of me.† His body totally crushed by the front end of the van.† I thought he was dead.† Pak Agus, sitting in the front passenger seat, was unconscious and I didnít know if he was alive or dead.† At the same time, we were rolling backwards into a ditch and we were totally helpless.† Once we made it into the ditch, I knew we had to get out.† I reached for the door, which was stuck.† I felt absolutely powerless to open the door, like my body had lost all strength.† I think I remember seeing smoke rising from the bottom of the car and for the first moment in my life I felt that I might really die.† Then I saw men from the nearby village, who had seen the accident, running toward us.† They were able to get the door open and get everyone out, including Pak Ibrahim, who was unconscious but breathing.† I was in total shock.† Pak Agusí daughters were all crying and I tried to comfort them.† I had no tears.† I was relieved to see Pak Agus walking after the men helped him get out.† Only a minute or two after everyone was out of the van, it was in flames.†††
Pak Ibrahim was carefully set into another van that had the front bench seat removed.† I went to the village hospital with him, Lukman (my student who lives with Pak Agus), Argya (Pak Agusí 6 year old son) and Mut (She is part of the Agus family, but sort of a maid.† She lost her father at a young age and her mother couldnít afford to raise her, so she lives with the Agusí and helps with the chores and taking care of the children.) I hugged and rocked her, but she was inconsolable.† Argya would not touch anyone.† At the village hospital, which was more like a clinic, they moved Pak Ibrahim onto a doctorís table and Lukman and I sat opposite him.† Mut and Argya refused to come in.† The doctor wanted to look at my nose, still bleeding profusely, which I had been covering with a towel.† I refused him.† The tears finally came.† ďFirst look at him,Ē I said pointing to Pak Ibrahim who looked as if he would surely die.† My tears persuaded him.† That village hospital had not the means to help him.† They bandaged him and put a splint on his contorted leg and left him lying on the table.† I kept waiting for someone to take him to another hospital, but no one came.† I wanted to break down and let my tears catch up with the othersí but I knew that everyone was very worried about me and the children were already upset by my broken face.† I couldnít upset them anymore.† The welling tears added pain to my pounding face.† I tried instead to focus on my breath.†
The doctor wanted to look at me next.† He stitched up my nose, but could not do anything about the bone.† The blood did not stop.† After I filled probably 10 tampons with blood in an hour of being there, Pak Agusí brother picked some of us up to take us to the hospital in Tuban, which has an x-ray.† I left Pak Ibrahim there and they said they would take him to the nearest public hospital in Surabaya (over an hourís drive away).† I had little hope that he would make it.†
In Tuban, everything moved in slow motion.† For the longest time, I lay on the table my head still pounding.† I was rolled into a room with an x-ray where the doctors found that I had a fracture.† The bone needed to be reset.† They could not set the bone themselves, so I waited.† I was not sure why everything took so long.† Later I found, and this does not surprise me, that it was a matter of money.† Which hospital would they take me to?† No one asked me if I had insurance or what I wanted to do.† It is rather infuriating actually.† Some of the faculty of the school had already heard about the accident and had come to the hospital.† They wanted to make sure I was alright but they were also worried about the school having to pay the expenses.† Is this why no one had taken Pak Ibrahim right away?† Pak Agus arrived sometime later.† I was finally given an IV with pain reliever.† Everyone wanted me to sleep, but I could not.† People who I did not remember came to see me.† One woman in particular just started weeping over me.† I told her that I was alright and I only wanted Pak Ibrahim and everyone else to be alright.† This only made her cry more.† I knew I must look terrible and the prick of vanity shamefully made me wonder if I would look the same, or if my face would be totally wrecked.† And anxiety crept in as I speculated about the sanitation of the hospitals.† I asked more than once for them to use a new needle.† They assured me it was new and that they always use new needles.† However, I did not see them open the package, so I had my doubts.† But I could only put up so much protest in my state.† At about 8 pm, 7 hours after the accident, I left in an ambulance to Surabaya International Hospital.† I was checked in at about 10 pm.† The hospital is like one in the US.† I was given ample pain relief and finally went to sleep.
On Monday afternoon I had surgery on my nose.† The nurses joked about giving me an Indonesian style nose.† I have a cast on my forehead and nose.† It will be removed this coming Monday.† I am fine.† I was thankful to finally make it home last night (Thursday).† Pak Ibrahim regained consciousness on Tuesday.† My tears returned with the news.† Only this time, they were tears of joy and relief.† His head and arms were stitched.† His contorted leg was set with large metal pins.†
Initially, I felt only happiness that everyone was alive.† I felt that the experience would only strengthen my vitality.† But, yesterday, when I left the hospital, other emotions came.† First, I realized that I was scared to get back into a car.† Iíll get over that, I think.† It will just take time.† I wanted to visit Pak Ibrahim before leaving Surabaya.† So, we left the International Hospital and drove to the Public Hospital.† I canít begin to describe to you the differences in medical care.† The hospital is old and teaming with sick and broken people.† Family members bring mats blankets and sleep outside in the corridors and hallways.† I still feel sick from the smell.† Patients are crammed together, probably 30 or more in a room.† Their families provide sheets, blankets, pillows, etc.† Families are also expected to bring food.† I see a cart with dirty utensils and bottles of unidentified liquids.† I see Pak Ibrahim and I tell him how happy I am that he is alive.† He feels so sorry for my broken face.† I tell him it doesnít matter, that we are alive.† In his arm is an IV of questionable cleanliness.† I can see a clot of blood inside the apparatus, but he says itís OK.† His leg was set in such a strange way.† The large metal pins were held in place by a pink rubbery substance on top of his leg.† I wondered what was the next step.† I left in a state of shock and some depression.†
How is it that I have the luxury of being a volunteer in another country?† If I am honest with myself and with all of you, I have to say that part of the reason I chose this was as some sort of therapy.† I wanted to remove myself from an unhealthy relationship, clear my head and do something that would make me feel good about myself.† In addition, I left all financial responsibility on , even though we are in debt.† My desire to volunteer and do something good for people is just pride.† Yes, I think it is important to do work that benefits people in some way, but Iím not really convinced that that is what I am doing.† After seeing that hospital, I felt sick with myself and my privileged life.† Why did I deserve to go to a good hospital with a broken nose while someone in much more critical condition was sent to a poor public hospital?† The reason - I am an American and I am rich.†
So, now I am rather depressed.† After a scary ride from the hospital during which I asked the driver why he was in such a hurry, I made it home in one piece.† But I did not feel calm and, in fact, I started to feel afraid.† Everyone came over to my house to welcome me back and distracted me from my fears for a while.† I was so happy to see the Agus family again.† Everyone is recovering from bumps, bruises and/or stitches, but nothing more.† Mut and I embraced in a way that made me feel we are eternally connected.† Argya was a little frightened by my cast.
I know if I am patient, I will start to feel better.† But right now, I have a new fear of death.† I know that I am not prepared to die.† I must really not even believe in God anymore because the moment that I thought I might die, no prayers came to my mind.† The first and only instinct was survival.† And now that I have survived, I feel that I have been given too much in life and that I have done so little to give it back.†† As I went to sleep last night, I tried to focus on things that inspire me.† As I tried, I kept being pulled down by thoughts of destruction and death.†
Now that I have confessed my deepest feelings and have probably frightened each and every one of you, I ask you not to worry about me.† Even though I am frightened at the moment, I am sure that it will fade.† It is impossible for me not to see beauty in this world, right along with the pain and sadness.† So, I will wait patiently, knowing that I cannot solve even my own problems, much less the worldís, and will write you again soon.
As always, I hope you are all safe and sound and are appreciating every moment of your precious life.† Thanks for listening.†