Empathy

I often want to relate to what a particular patient is going through when they’re in pain, but the most sentiment I can recruit is: “I can imagine what you’re going through”. On Saturday, August 11, 2018, that changed. That day I was propelled – no pun intended – right into it.

During my residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, I saw countless traumas. Often bike related accidents. They were often grotesque. They were often visually painful. You saw so many traumas, you became, well, “fearless” (to quote the ever-humorous Dr Bob Wood). It has been a tragic period in Toronto in terms of Bike related accidents, even deaths. I am an avid cyclist. I often bicycle to work and brag about beating the subway there. I am a passive advocate and might even go as far as supporting a ban on cars downtown during certain hours, some sort of a ban, or tolling incoming cars. Einstein has proclaimed the bicycle to be the ultimate human invention. He said “Life is like a bicylcle, to stay balanced you got to keep going”.

On that Saturday, I was struck by a car while I was biking near my office in Yorkville. It happened so fast, and it was terrifying. For that instant, you don’t realize what happened, and you have no idea what sort of condition you will end up after. There was a kind woman, whom I never got to thank, who called 911 and kept the driver at hand. After I settled from the initial shock, I was helped up by the paramedic and was able to bear my own weight; I thought to myself “thank goodness, this is a good sign”. I had a lot of pain in my Left Lumbar quadrant.  Thankfully, the car struck me below the rib cage and above the pelvis. I suffered muscle contusions and moderate abrasions. I was really lucky. I remember as soon as I pulled myself to the curb, I checked if my hands were okay. My hands are my livelihood. In the aftermath of it, I realized how vulnerable I am, and how quickly my life could have changed dramatically. I was very grateful. I spent the week limping around and could not sleep well given the hematoma and pain on my left abdomen. I was disgruntled and bitter but I kept reminding myself how lucky I was.

I can now commiserate with those of us who have been victims of bicycle accidents. The second thing I checked after my hands were my teeth. I am happy to report they are all intact.

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