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 A phone call that changed my life.

This is in response to the blog chatter weekly prompt from 17 to 23 October-- A Phone call that changed my life.   

Image of the blog hop post

I am going to scout around to a time in 2008.  It was a regular Friday morning in the summer month of January.  January is the harbinger of the feel-good sunny summer in South Africa ending in March.  We lived in Grahamstown then, in the Eastern Cape region. 

The daybreaks start with a jolly good sun capering over the distant hills.  A thousand golden threads diverge from its baby face, blushing our yard's dark green tree leaves into a pale yellow.  Summer was the most spiritful season there.   

Through the bedroom window, I watch the swimming pool inside the protected walls of red bricks.  The vast azur blue sky reflects on the wavelets titillated by the Kreepy Krauly in the waters.  The days were longer than the nights.  To let my creative mind ride over those images was a hobby of mine in those mornings. 

Some of the gratifying summer experiences I still savour inside the precious sleeves of my memories.  

But that Friday morning, nothing stimulated my imagination.   A flu infection exhausted me and made me take a day off.

My husband left for work at 7 a.m. after leaving a cup of coffee on the nightstand.  The aroma never tickled my taste buds, and I dozed off.  

The accident

By around 7:30, my phone rang.  

"Mrs. Raghavan," I heard an unfamiliar female voice coming from the other end.  Not offering me the luxury to make wild guesses regarding who that might be, it continued, "Your husband got into an accident."

"Accident?" I jumped out of the bed. 

"Don't worry, I'm alright," that was my husband.  At that moment, as I was chasing the wild possibilities of what would have happened, his voice put me at ease temporarily.  But an avalanche of how, where and what began to unsettle me.

"Where are you now?" 

"I'm in the ambulance.  They are taking me to the hospital."  The hospital he mentioned was near our home.  

"Mrs. Raghavan, I will accompany your husband to the hospital." I thanked his colleague for her kind assurance.

The adrenalin rush and the anxiety magically relieved my flu fatigue.  I drove to the hospital.  But I couldn't see him immediately until our GP completed his examination.   

It was a head-on collision, and the driver who hit my husband called for roadside assistance, who rushed to the site and called the ambulance.  His colleague briefed me.  On her way to work, she recognised our vehicle and joined the rescue team. 

When I saw him in the emergency room, I found no accident sign on him besides a heavy bandage around his head. 

Forty-eight-hour observation in the hospital

Before I could ask the GM anything about the details of his bandage, a specialist doctor stepped into the room.  It was a hospital practice for specialists from the regional headquarters to visit the hospitals in small towns. 

"Lucky you're; I passed the accident scene a minute after it happened and guessed no one had survived,"  I could read out the surprise on his face.   The district headquarters was at Port Elizabeth (PE), around 120 km from Grahamstown, and the accident happened on the highway connecting the two cities.

My husband has been waiting on the highway, signalling right for an oncoming Bakkie (a small van) to pass.  Then, what he remembers is that his car spun to the left, making a full circle covering a distance of a hundred meters in the opposite direction and landed across the road, facing a barricade of a gorge on the roadside, at the nick of the time arresting its plunge into the gorge's depth.  

While all this happened, the seat belt firmed him in the seat, and the flying glass splinters from the crashed windscreen found their path through his skull, displacing a considerable section of the flesh.  The mad rush of the car's wheel left a hardened mark on the highway tarmac.  That was the scene the specialist had witnessed.

He had a lengthy diagnosis of my husband and repeated that my husband had a miraculous escape.  He recommended that my husband remain in the hospital under GM's forty-eight-hour observation, and the medication would heal the wound in due course.

Was it telepathy or what?

My husband was shifted to the ward.  The hospital rule would not allow someone to stay with the patient but to visit them during the allocated visiting time, so I had to leave him.  As I reached our gate, my phone rang.  It was P1, our elder daughter.  (Both our daughters, P1 and P2, were living in Cape Town-P1, employed there, and P2, learning at the University of Cape Town.)

I was about to inform them about the accident after reaching home. 

"Amma, is everything OK?" I strung my words to lessen the emotional impact of what I would tell her. 

"Amma, since morning, I have a bad vibe about home, so I am calling now."

Oh My God!  I couldn't help but burst into sobbing.  How could she, from a thousand kilometres away, sense the uneasiness of the danger her father got into?  Is it telepathy?  Or what?  

Soon, P1 and P2 were getting ready to visit home, but their father disagreed as he was getting better. 

Twenty-four hours passed without having any problems with my husband's health.  On the second day, he should be discharged by noon after forty-eight hours.  But when I visited him by noon, he was getting uneasy, restless on the bed, stirring constantly and listless.   

"Don't worry, I am OK," he repeated, knowing he wasn't.

I called our G P (GP is our private doctor, not working in the hospital, caring for his patients during routine visits.  That is the system here.)  He rushed to the hospital and assured me it was just the fatigue after the accident.  

When I visited my husband in the evening, he wasn't better and undecided about getting discharged.   

I called the GP and let him know my concerns.  On arriving at the hospital, he asked me, "Do you want me to discharge him now?"  The man I thought would help me was asking me to decide.  And what decision should I make- leave my husband in the hospital or take him home.  Both were risky--brought him home, and his condition worsened.  The hospital had doctors and nurses, but what if they weren't alerted in such a case.  

And the time was against me.  In half an hour, during the visiting time, I should decide so that the office processes his discharge and the ambulance can take him home.

"At home, if his condition worsened?" I asked the GP.

"Call me."

"Yes, I want you to discharge him."

That call that changed my life.

Two young guys in the ambulance assisted my husband to the bed.   Before leaving, they dropped their name card with me.  

"In case you need it." (Later, they told me that they were sure I would need it.)

At home, he seemed calm.  I went to the kitchen to fix supper.  After a while, I heard him calling from the bathroom; he couldn't walk back to the bedroom. 

 "I think I am going to die.  I cannot breathe, am not in control of anything, and my chest is getting heavy and stuck," he told me when I helped him back to bed. 

I called GP.  He arrived home in five minutes.

After that, things were taking a turn for the worse.  The GP called the specialist who had visited my husband in the hospital at Grahamstown.  His call was received at the first ring.  

I called the ambulance.   They arrived home within minutes, shifted my husband to the ambulance, made him comfortable on the stretcher bed, and connected him to the machines.  My life would have been different if that had been delayed by minutes. 

When the ambulance hit the road to PE, it was past 8:30.  Port Elizabeth, the headquarters, was at a drive of 120 Km from home.  

A geographical map of South Africa
Image credit to IStock

The summer night was great, calm, and contented under the enormous sky.   One guy in the ambulance approached me and explained things.   My husband was put on an oxygen supply and had nothing to worry about.  He was processing the paperwork for my husband's hospital registration at PE.  I had to provide him with my husband's ID documents and medical aid card.   

 When the ambulance reached the hospital's e designated area, a team of doctors and medical staff were waiting for us.  My husband was lifted onto a stretcher in minutes and moved into the operation theatre. 

I was taken to the hospital reception, seated and offered a hot cup of tea and biscuits.  People were moving in and out of the reception, among whom I recognised the specialist I met the other day.  

The wait continued for more than an hour.  

"Your husband is alright," the specialist doctor came and sat with me.  "In medical terms, we call it hemothorax caused by the injury around one's chest area after a car accident.  The trauma can cause bleeding in the chest cavity.  If the treatment is delayed, it can be life-threatening."

I was about to ask him why he hadn't anticipated it, but he continued,   "I am sorry I should have referred him to this place then and there.  But not all accidents cause it."

"True," I consoled myself.

"Come," I followed him.  "We did a thoracostomy to drain the blood and fluid from his lungs,"  he told me on our way to the op.  Theatre.

My husband was lying on the bed, still under anaesthesia.  The doctor had inserted a tube into his chest cavity.  The liquid contents from his lungs were still collected under his bed in a container.  

The treatment in the hospital took two weeks before my husband was discharged. 

The post is part of the Blogchatter Blog hope.  It is in response to the weekly blog chatter prompt from 17 to 23 October: A phone call that changed my life. 


Hemothorax caused by car accidents has the potential to be life-threatening.  I know many cases that have turned tragic.  A close friend of mine lost her husband.  

Have you overcome any such life-threatening situations?  Please share them here.