Had a short swim in Surin Beach with the surfers. Nice strong waves, clean waters but quite a lot of invisible jellyfish. Emerged from the water with quite a number of stings on the chest and back. After going ashore, there was a fleeting moment with the sun, sea, sky, sand and my kids and I count myself fortunate to be there with a camera to capture it.
Spotted in the urban jungle. All ready to go! Doubletree Phuket, Thailand
Came home to find this waiting atop my iPad. Such a sweet angel
February 11, 2012. The road was a side road, devoid of people. Cars, presumably driven by fitness enthusiasts and park goers, lined up every single free slot on one lane. Which meant I had almost 6 meters of road all to myself. I was riding on the leftmost lane maybe a couple of feet from the sidewalk as is my custom. It was around 9:30 am. Having just finished a 70km east coast ride with a cycling club, I was pleasantly tired and was spinning along at a leisurely pace. My thoughts turned to the Half Ironman race I would be having in exactly 5 weeks, my first. If we could have this nice cool February weather on that day, and I felt like this after 70km on the bike, it would probably turn out well for me.
After a few minutes on the same road, I saw a lady, a runner from her singlet & shorts, walking at the edge of the sidewalk away from me, on my side of the road. She was maybe 50 meters up the road so instinctively I moved away from the sidewalk and moved my hands from the aero bars to the drop bars where I had access to the brakes. She looked back, saw me and kept walking. Thinking nothing of it, I kept riding at leisurely pace, maybe doing around 27-28 kmh. But when I got to within 10 feet of the lady, for some reason, she suddenly stepped onto the road and proceeded to run across, directly into my path.
With no time to think, my body reacted without conscious instruction from my brain. Both hands squeezed the brakes so hard that my bike stopped on a dime, narrowly avoiding a collision. Unfortunately my body did not stop and flew heels-over-head over the handlebars, straight into a faceplant on the rough asphalt. My cycling glasses shattered into 3 pieces, my helmet cracked from the impact, I felt my right shoulder joint dislocate and searing white hot pain shot through my entire face as if I had dunked my head in a bowl of hot lava. I couldn’t open my eyes for a few seconds and when I raised my head, I saw the road beneath me with a large pool of blood where my face had hit it. My first thought was, ‘ I have to call my wife’. That was quickly qualified with ‘I have to call an ambulance’. Perversely, the third thought was, ‘I hope my bike is OK.’
All this time, the woman who had caused the accident was standing over me and asking, ‘Are you ok? Here’s my card.’ I was about to scream at her, ‘Call an ambulance you idiot!’ when I heard a couple of male voices come within earshot. The first guy came close and said to my ear, ‘Lie still. You’re bleeding from somewhere on your head, don’t move, we’re calling for help.’ Just then I became aware that my iPhone, which I had mounted on the handlebars of my bike, was still playing music. The song was Guns and Roses’ “Paradise City”. I asked the guy if he could get my phone, go to my Favorite contacts, and call my wife. He admonished me not to move and did what I asked. After a quick conversation with her, he told me not to worry and that my wife was coming.
In the next few minutes while I was lying there in pain, I could hear more people coming in, including the police. They took a statement from the pedestrian lady. I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t because of the blood that had caked on my eyes; I had difficulty breathing so one of the guys used a wet towel to wipe my face very carefully. I obviously couldn’t see myself so I asked the guy how bad it was; he didn’t say anything except, ‘Don’t worry the ambulance is on its way’, which I took to mean, ‘It’s very very bad’. While waiting, I systematically flexed each of my muscle groups, and they all seemed to be working. I even managed to pop my oft-dislocated right shoulder joint back in, while lying face down on the pavement (they hadn’t moved me for fear of any spinal injuries).
The ambulance arrived, and a team of 4 or 5 paramedics expertly immobilized my neck with a brace, slid an emergency stretcher under me, and lifted me to the vehicle. I asked after my bike, and the lead medic said, ‘Sorry sir, we don’t have space for that inside.’ Fortunately, one of the Good Samaritans heard me and told me not to worry, he had my address (from my wife) and would take the bike home. He put my iPhone in my left hand and I whispered thanks, and I was really grateful to have people around willing to help me. All this time, I still had the wet towel compressed on my face, (the medics advised to just hold on to it until we got to the hospital) so I couldn’t see anyone or anything. The blindness added to the anxiety. I didn’t even know if my eyes were actually OK or not.
As soon as the ambulance door closed, the medic leader kept talking to me, asking about the accident, how it happened, where had I come from, where I had ridden, (‘You rode 70km today?? That’s insane!’) etc. It was non-stop and in retrospect, I think that was deliberate, to keep me from worrying and to make the ride seem short.
The ambulance arrived at the hospital and the medic team transferred me to a gurney with their usual efficiency. The first thing the doctors did as soon as I was wheeled inside was to test if I could feel my extremities. I told them I could, but they did the test anyway. Once they ruled out the possibility of spinal damage, they started to work on my face. The nurses cleaned me up, and while waiting for the doctor, I used my iPhone to take a picture of my face. What I saw made my blood pressure go up a few notches, with the possibility that I would look like that for the rest of my life going through my mind… fortunately a plastic surgeon came in, took a quick look and assured me I was going to be OK. He stitched together the skin on my right eyebrow, right eyelid and upper lip. At that time it was painful as hell and seemed haphazard but in a couple of months I realized that the doc had been damned good at his job.
Soon after my wife arrived and even though she was shocked at my appearance, to her credit she held her tongue and just waited patiently as I went through another battery of tests for my dislocated arm, as well as some painkilling and antibiotic injections. After a few hours, the nurse-in-charge told me that I would not need to spend the night at the hospital and I could be discharged as soon as I felt ready to go. Having spent almost 16 hours in my sweaty cycle jersey, I was soo ready to finally make it home. There was one more thing though… the bill. As my wife went off to get it I felt my adrenalin and anxiety welling up again – had I been able to I would have definitely chosen ‘flight’ at that moment. My medical insurance only covered the first $500, and with the ambulance and all I was pretty sure it would cost at least 4 times that much. When my wife came back she asked, ‘did you already pay beforehand?’ because the bill was… drumroll… $99 Singapore dollars. I thought there had been a mistake, maybe that was just for the meds, but the nurse said that that was it. Score one for the Singapore Government’s healthcare program, they are getting my vote.
When I got home I immediately got the numbers of the Good Samaritans who had helped me from my wife’s phone and called each of them to thank them. I know it would have been a lot worse if they had not been there. Turned out they were Joyriders members who had ridden with me earlier in the day, but I had not known any of them personally. They just happened to be going by the same road home and had stopped to aid a fallen cyclist in need. Bless ’em.
In the aftermath, I had two weeks off from work but was back to cycling in a week, and made it a point to pass by the place where I had had the accident, just to clear any traumas out of my mind. After all I was racing there in less than a month. The scars on my face took around 2 months to heal, but now have done so well that nobody even notices unless I point them out. As a direct result of this accident I bought a bike trainer and now do the majority of my bike training at home.
The accident made me think of my priorities in life. A few more inches here and there and I could have been much more seriously hurt. General attitude and lack of infrastructure have made cycling one of the most dangerous sports in Singapore. Perhaps that is what makes it so thrilling and attractive. Nowadays, I take all possible safety measures, I stop at every single stop light. It’s not quite the same as before, my attitude towards training is different. And perhaps that is the way it should be.
風林火山, literally “Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain”
I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese Brush Calligraphy. It is perhaps one of the simplest art forms, but it takes a lifetime to master. Sometimes masters would spend hours looking at a blank piece of paper, then in a one smooth blur and stroke of the brush, produce a treasured work of art. Looking at exceptional pieces of Chinese Calligraphy, I always imagine a small piece of the master’s soul imprinted on the rice paper through his hand, brushstroke and ink.
My favorite individual piece of calligraphy is the Furinkazan logo by Koji Kakinuma, Japanese artist and calligrapher. The four characters represent 風林火山, literally “Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain”. Historically, this was the battle standard used by Takeda Shingen, one of the foremost daimyos of the Sengoku period in Japan. It was in turn taken from the original verses in Chapter 7 of Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’.
Orchard Road, being the number one tourist attraction in Singapore, transforms into a festival of lights and decorations in the two months before Christmas. We were walking up the street when we saw this ‘kaleidoscope platform’ where you could step in a box with faceted mirrors all around. Nice effect.
I’m thankful for my two beautiful angels and the time I get to spend with them while they’re young.