Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Have the Worst Luck with Cars, Part IV: I Got Burned

Now, I'm going to veer slightly off topic here since, well, for starters, the next vehicle is actually a motorcycle. Secondly, there were some pretty serious injuries, of which I will not show you images. Because they are gross.  To be completely honest, I have been pretty lucky, at least as far as personal harm goes, when dealing with cars. I guess one's luck is bound to run out eventually?

So, January 21, 2007, is a day that will live in infamy. Why, do you ask? Well, because that is the day I decided it would be a good idea to ride my brand new Harley-Davidson Sportster 883L down to Murfreesboro to 1) show it off and 2) see some good friends of mine that I'd hadn't seen since I graduated.

First things first. I was unemployed at the time I made this decision to go to Murfreesboro. I had purchased the bike when I was still gainfully employed as a temp worker for DirectBuy. And yes, I mean that sarcastically. So I had this newly purchased motorcycle (on fucking credit, nonetheless) and they tell me they're eliminating my position, of course, on my damned birthday. Honestly, I have made some very, very dumb decisions, but I think this one just takes the cake.

Okay, so, I go down to Murfreesboro around noon or so. It's a little cold, but not too bad. Plus, I have on my cold weather riding gear, like a boss. But then I decide to have a few drinks and can't legally drive for a bit, so I don't leave until around 11:45P. Now, the temperature has dropped significantly since noon. We're talking it is now 29 degrees. That's fucking cold. I should have just stayed the night at a friend's place, but ... sigh. Hindsight, right?

For those of you not familiar with Middle Tennessee, Murfreesboro is about 30 - 45 minutes away from Nashville, depending on where you're going and which route you take. I could have taken I-24, but then I would have been going 70mph in 29 degree weather. I opted for what I thought would be a saner route: highway 96. I'd be going about 55mph and, while I might have to travel a little bit longer, at least the wind wouldn't be as brutal.

Ha, I don't even get to highway 96 when I look down, feeling something weird on my right side, only to find that my right leg is engulfed in flames.

Well. That's just great.

I pull the bike over, prop it up on the kickstand, and jump into the field next to the road, doing that stop, drop, and roll bit you learn in 1st grade but never think you will use. It was just the trick. The flames go out, and I think, "Meh, flesh wound. I can probably just take some Advil or something to ease the inevitable swelling later." Nevermind that my jeans' right leg is now capri length. And my long underwear looks somewhat fused to my leg. Whatever.

I can honestly say that I don't know why I didn't just call the ambulance. Possibly, it was because I knew I didn't have any type of health insurance. Except for COBRA, which ha. Okay. Fuck COBRA. It's the last giant middle finger from your former place of employment. The other possibility is because I honestly thought I was okay. It's weird, being a doctor's kid. Both of my parents were in the medical field (surgeon and nurse practitioner), and you kind of learn things by osmosis, in a way. You just remember what they say when certain things happen, and at this point in my life, I might have been looking at my leg and thinking, "Well, it can't be worse than first degree, so I should hop back on and go about my merry way!" Or maybe, you know, shock.

Either way, I get back on the bike and continued down highway 96, which is little more than a two-lane country back road. And when it's 29 degrees outside and the only thing keeping you warm is a what might as well be just an expensive windbreaker, well, that back road just seems to keep getting longer. I eventually reach the highway intersection with I-65, which turned out to be a godsend. I see a little Mapco Express on the right hand side and think, "Hey, coffee and Advil! Just what the doctor in my head ordered!" I go inside and the guy behind the counter looks at me kind of strangely, probably because one leg of my pants is burned off, but he doesn't say anything to me. I pay for the coffee and Advil, chug down coffee (burning my lip on the way, because, seriously, what the hell? Why not?)

My leg starts to feel off and I hesitate to ask where the nearest hospital, thinking I'm going to have to drive all the way to Nashville, which is another thirty minutes away - going my speed, anyway. And, anyway, I rationalize, it couldn't hurt to just get checked out. It may be more serious than I think it is. Hahahah, oh, past self, you are just so stupid. I ask the clerk, who graciously points me in the direction of the nearest hospital, which is a grand 20 seconds drive away. I thank him profusely and head over to the hospital, park the bike, and walk into the ER.

The nurse at the entrance looks at me like, "Um, why are you here?"

I point to my leg. "I got burned."

That's all I really have to say. She gets this flabbergasted look on her face and leads me into a room with a pink curtain. After giving me a brief introduction and draping one of those hospital gowns on the edge of the counter, she instructs me to remove my clothes and wait for the doctor.

Really, all of this should have been easy. But when I get to the leg that was injured, I can't manage to force myself to remove the pant leg. So I'm sitting there, with a hospital gown on and one leg still inside what's left of my jeans, kind of confused and starting to get this really bad feeling in my stomach.

Then it hits me: the shock. It had been about five to ten minutes since I'd come into the ER, and apparently, my body had thawed out. It was the strangest sensation: my body started shaking uncontrollably and I was crying, but I felt no pain. And then I was freaking out, because I couldn't figure out why all of this was happening. From outside the door, I heard the nurses whispering, "Oh, she's crying. We should probably help her."

Um, yeah? Probably. I'm convulsing. And bawling. And completely detached from it all. So, yeah. Help would be nice.

One nurse shuffles in and notices with a slight furrowed brow that my pants are halfway off, but she quickly dismisses it and asks me to lay back on the examination table. I was introduced to the wonderful thing that is intravenous morphine. Within a few seconds, I was pretty much feeling nothing, which was when another nurse took off the other pants leg.

It's a bizarre experience, staring at your leg and watching several layers of your skin come off with your pants, leggings, and tights. It's even more bizarre to not feel anything, and even more so when you notice that, hey, your skin is neon green? I'd never heard of such a thing before and was very fascinated. And also very, very high.

Well, after all that, my boyfriend at the time (he had arrived about ten minutes before) kind of took over, since I probably wasn't making too much sense due to the morphine, but I kind of remember them saying something about possibly having third degree burns. According to the ER doctor, though, he couldn't say for sure, but he still referred me to go to the burn center at Vanderbilt the following day, where I learned I would have to go under twice to repair the damage. It was all pretty traumatic, and I remember just crying in the bathtub later on, wishing I'd never bought that damned bike. Two surgeries, four months of round-the-clock narcotics, and plenty of physical labor later, I was $60,000 in medical bill debt and, hahaha, still unemployed. I spent ... God, almost a damned year trying to work with the hospital on paying them. Well, actually, I was dealing with a debt collector company after about six months of not paying, but essentially, still the same thing.

And here's the kicker. Nearly one year exactly, on January 18, 2008, I get a letter from Harley-Davidson: it's a recall notice for my particular model. Apparently, the heat shield for the exhaust was not designed to be long enough, which "could cause the pant leg to char or burn ... [and] could lead to the possibility of injury to the rider." Why, yes. Yes, it totally COULD.

I'm not even going to bad mouth H-D here. They were pretty awesome with this entire thing. I called up the lawyer on the notice the next business day and explained what had happened. Luckily for me, my injuries were heavily documented, since one of the surgeries I had was an experimental one. It had before and after pictures, and I had kept every single bill that I owed. And Harley stood behind me, probably out of self-interest, but still. They paid my medical bills, which is all I really wanted. I could have sued for more, most likely, but meh. What's the point?

Plus, I have a fucking awesome story to tell. But I'm kinda motorcycled out for now. I'd say that I'll just stick with cars, but based on the fact that we're already on Part IV of this series? Yeah, I should probably just stay with taking the bus or riding a non-motor-driven bike.

Which reminds me, Mom? WHERE IS MY BIKE.

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