August 2011

Kangaroo with Joey, out the back of work.

The beginning of the month started OK, until Friday 12th, which started with a bang. Literally. Here’s the broadcast that went out to family and friends later that day:

We had a car accident on Friday. As far as I could see, we have probably totalled the XR6. And it wasn’t even my fault! Here’s the story:

On Thursday nights, I am again driving the Uni Pub Express, which is a shuttle bus between Canberra Uni and the Uni Pub in Civic. I get home on Friday morning somewhere around 2 to 3 am and sleep in until about 8:30. So on Friday, we drive in to work together, I drop Julie off in Kaleen and continue on to Deakin, arriving about 10am, having worked a bit extra on the previous 4 days to make up for the late start. We take the XR6 and go down through Sutton and onto the Federal Highway because it’s quicker and easier. We turn right onto the Barton Highway, then left and right into Kaleen via the back road.

This morning, we were sitting at the lights waiting to turn right from the Federal onto the Barton, facing a green light and a red arrow, joking about a speed camera infringement notice that I had received, which we had figured out was Julie driving at the time. I was going to show her where the camera is as we headed for Kaleen. To my right, I could see a car move forward from the Barton Highway against an obviously red light and into the flow of traffic coming towards us from Northbourne Avenue onto the Federal Highway. Apparently the lady was partially confused by the morning sun in her eyes and thought she had a green light. Meanwhile the car coming towards us (on a green light, doing probably about 70km/h) swerved to miss her (not sure whether they impacted or not) and came straight towards us. Her car mounted the median strip and became temporarily airborne, impacting us high on the front of our bonnet. I could see it unfolding and said, “Oh shit, this doesn’t look good”. Julie is hard of hearing and somehow heard that. She looked up and saw a flying car coming at her. And it all happened so fast that although I could see it coming, there was just nothing I could do!

We were hit at the front and spun around 90 degrees to the left. The airbags went off. We think Julie blacked out for a few seconds, as she doesn’t remember getting pushed around. Her next recollection is trying to escape the clutches of the airbag, followed by me at her door as she tried to open it. I had scrambled to get my airbag out of the way first, forced my way out of the drivers side door and went around to help her out. Within seconds, she was shaking really badly. I found out much later that this was her first serious accident. (And she needed a smoke!) Fortunately, we were quickly assisted by a lady who works at the vet clinic over the road and an off duty Police medic, who got us sitting down (before we fell down), until the Police, Fire and Ambos arrived. And then of course, with my prostate being what it is, I needed to pee! The medic helped me across the traffic lanes to the trees nearby.

To cut a long day shorter, we grabbed what we thought we might need and were transported to hospital in a one-person (small 4WD) Ambulance and spent a big chunk of the rest of the day in Emergency and got a ride home from my work colleague Frank. Apart from both of being severely shaken up, Julie has a minor fracture of her sternum, from her and her bra impacting on the seat belt, and we are both still alive. Thankfully, she has a high pain threshold and can handle most of it. We are also grateful that no-one was seriously injured. I’m thinking that I will put today down to another exit point for this lifetime that we both decided not to take.

We have decided that we definitely need to update our our wills. Several of my work colleagues, after today, have decided that if anything really disastrous would happen to us, their first priority would be to come and collect the dogs and look after them. Good to have friends with priorities like that.

Update: It’s a write-off. Here are the photos from the insurance assessor.

Actually, we took a couple of photos ourselves when we visited the car on Sunday to remove all of our personal stuff, before it goes off to wherever it goes. They will go up to the Photos page in due course. Meanwhile, enjoy the above link to a PDF file. The good news is that we are OK, although somewhat battered and bruised, and Julie has a minor fracture of the sternum, which although being “minor”, is still very painful, as it is the point where everything in the chest moves around it. We are both off work for at least this week, to be reviewed again on Monday.

Some notes: I was shocked by picture #5 on the PDF file, which shows a huge chunk missing from the right front of the car. And it’s amazing how an event like this shakes EVERYTHING up, like your view of your own mortality, and the aches and pains that come out of nowhere, and seem to change around to different parts of the body every day. I have a standing joke at work, that every day I wake up still breathing is a good day. It’s never been quite so true is it is now.

There have also been some funny snippets to take the doom and gloom off the month, and we’ll get to those soon.

Update: I have loaded the pictures that I took at the towing yard. The white stripe across the front (on the ground) is the concrete strip in the yard to stop oil and other fluids from escaping into the drains. However, the white stuff on the front of the car is the remains of the other car’s radiator fluid. As she mounted the median strip and became airborne, she took out her radiator and left a foamy white path from there to where she hit us.

When I took the rego plates in to cancel it, the lady at the counter grimaced and said, “Ooooh”. Specially the mangled front one.

Wednesday and we’re starting to show signs of cabin fever, as we are stuck inside because it’s raining outside. Julie is still in a lot of pain from her chest fracture. And you know her, she doesn’t slow down. Saturday and we did get out yesterday, for a quick stop at Pickles Auctions to get the lay of the land for buying another car, followed by some shopping for essentials at Costco. Even that short trip left us both exhausted.

I have now finally got around to putting up the movie of Angel playing with the awning strap in last month’s pictures. While on the subject of Angel, we told you last month that she follows sounds and likes to visit the frogs in the dam. OK, but the other day, it appears that the frogs in the river were louder or somehow more important than the ones in the dam. We looked up and saw her on the OTHER side of the dam. Panic!

Kelly has alerted us a couple of times now, when someone is in the shed. That someone turned out to be the property owner, who mentioned that in the circumstances, it had turned out for the better that we were onsite, as it seems that even out here in the country, when it becomes known that a property is empty, people come in and help themselves. OK, we’ll take that as a compliment, as well as an indication that we’ll be here for a while longer. Of course, we had to choose one of the coldest Winters the area has seen for many years. Over the months, he has mentioned to people needing to come onto the property that he has caretakers onsite, and of course we are keen to support that idea.

Funny, some of the things you have to do when living in a bus. There is just one roof leak that I still haven’t managed to fix, even after 3 attempts at caulking it up. If we are tilted slightly to the left, the drips land on a corner of the sink, and are fairly easily processed by putting a small towel in that spot, so that it drains into the sink. However, if not, the drips land in the passageway, or down the back of your neck as you walk past. In the recent rain, we had just that, so I needed to lift the right side a little. As it happens, this bus is equipped with airbags on the springs, which if set to the correct pressure, give us a smoother ride, but also allows to make minor adjustments to where the bus is sitting when stationary. But they run off the air pressure system which runs the brakes (air over hydraulic), and to bring the pressure up, we need to run the engine, which involves kicking the dog(s) out of the driver’s seat, rearranging that part of the cabin and hoping the engine will start (needs new 24V batteries in due course). Then we can push the pressure in the right side bags up to maximum, while dropping the pressure from the left side ones. The good news is that it works. All that now remains is to get the mats dry again.

End of August and both of us are still off work until our next visit to Dr Susan on 12 September. Meanwhile, we have found a new car, for a fixed price at Pickles Auctions. It’s a 2008 Holden Viva 5-door hatchback, 1.8 litre engine and auto transmission, with (wait for it) only 7,800km on the clock. It was owned by an Asian woman working at her Embassy and only traveled locally. It had been offered for auction earlier, but still had finance owing on it, so couldn’t be submitted. She had since cleared the finance and left the country, and just wanted it sold. Effectively, it’s a brand new car that happens to be 3 years old. Somewhat smaller than the Ford, but it will certainly do the job for us. We’re just waiting for the finance process to finish before I can collect it. But here’s the catch. It’s not just a simple drive down to Fyshwick and have Julie drive it home. No, she can’t drive yet. It would only take a situation to develop that requires a sudden movement of the wheel and she would blow away 3 weeks of recovery. So I’m arranging a lift into town with one of the locals on his way into work.

So it’s been days of paperwork and more paperwork, hospital bills to pass on to insurances companies, CT scans, weekly visits to the doctor, trips into town in the Zook, where we do 2 or 3 activities and come home, and we are totally stuffed for the rest of the day. I don’t think I’ve ever been as exhausted as I have been a few times lately. Not to mention the emotional toll of each of us dealing with our own mortality and analysing just how close we both came to not waking up. We’ve both been almost in tears a few times. Julie is in pain all of the time, with the level right up to 6.5 out of 10 one morning, but mostly now around the 2 to 3. It’s not a question of which pain killers she needs to take, but how many. She has finally learned to ASK for help instead of attempting to DO. I did eventually get through to her (backed up by the doctor) that EVERY time she does something that causes a twinge, she has just put her recovery back by 2-3 days.

The big miracle: We’re still here and still together and stronger than ever. And breathing! Breathing is good!

At the local deer farm on the road into Canberra.

Oh and the electricity bill has come in and we needed to pay the major portion of that, since we are the only ones on the property right now. We have, after all, been running a heater for most of the 24-hour period on most days, through some very cold temperatures outside. Thank goodness Spring is almost here and the days are warming up. Of course, it won’t be long before we’re complaining about the heat!