Bali Hospitals And My "Four Things" Theory

This isn’t my typical travel post. You won’t find any tips about the best waterfalls in Bali or street food in Taiwan and honestly, I hesitated to even publish this because it’s just such a departure from what I typically post. But heck, it’s my blog, so I guess I can post whatever I want to post and if you don’t want to read it then you probably haven’t even made it this far. And anyway, sometimes it’s just as useful to talk about real life as it is to talk about waterfalls and packing tips.

So anyway, here’s my September Bali story. It’s a doozy.

On September 21 I got hit by a truck.

Not like a metaphorical, “whoa didn’t see that life event coming” kind of truck. No, my friends. A real truck. A big, man-driven hunk of metal machinery that was probably driving too fast and certainly didn’t see little ole me passing through the intersection on my bike. The driver slammed straight into the left side of my bike, propelled me across the street, and exited his vehicle just long enough to stand over my limp body and scream more insults at me than I care to type here, and then speed off.

By the way, I was wearing a helmet, thank God.

My Four Bad Things Theory

I’ve never been superficial [insert Michael Scott from The Office quote here], but I can’t help but notice that bad things have always happened to me in fours. I know, the superstition is that bad things happen in threes, but for whatever reason, I always seem to get a fourth kick to the groin thrown in there for good measure.

I don’t just get broken up with by a boyfriend. I get the break up, followed by a neighbor’s midnight medical crisis and two highly unpleasant messages from long-lost exes all within a 36-hour period.

I don’t just get sick, I get a freak pink eye outbreak followed by bronchitis followed by a return of the pink eye followed by a UTI. All overlapping in such quick succession that the whole neighborhood knows to stay as far away as possible from my petri dish home for five weeks.

I’m not sure why this stuff happens in fours to me, but it’s just kind of my “thing.” Like that relative who always texts in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or the pet dog who can’t do its business with anyone watching.

Whatever. It’s my thing.

And for what it’s worth, those four bad things are usually followed by long bouts of really good things, so I’d like to think life just knocks through all the junk all at once. This way the bad stuff is finished with quickly, and sometimes by the time I get to the fourth thing it’s just so ridiculous that it’s actually comical.

Which leads me to my September in Bali.

 
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Wake Me Up When September Ends

During the first half of the month of September, I had three accidents on my bike, each with increasing severity and resulting number of battle wounds. The third involved what could have one day evolved into a story of epic, Jason Bourne-proportions but for the fact that I’m documenting the less impressive reality here on the internet right now.

En route down a particularly windy, steep road in north Bali, on the back of a friend’s motorbike, the brakes gave out. The road up ahead curved into a sharp turn as it evaded the edge of a steep cliff, and we realized we wouldn’t make it. So we decided to jump. My friend jumped right and I, along the with bike, jumped left-ish — straight into some brush and sharp rocks. My friend and I came out okay, but not nearly as suave and sure-footed as Jason Bourne. I unfortunately split open my knee and ended up screaming into a sweater at the local hospital as the doctors stitched up what they could find left of my skin. (My first real stitches! This is relevant later, I promise.)

 
 

The morning of my fourth bike accident, I had just finished breakfast with this same friend. He’d been having his own stint of Four Bad Things. I left the restaurant on my bike thinking I should have told him about my Four Things theory, I should have told him it would surely get better from here. It just crossed my mind that I had only knocked out Three Bad Things for myself, when — I kid you not — right at that moment, I was T-boned by a truck.

Like I said, Four Bad Things. It’s my thing.

Along with some unsightly road burns and a laundry list of cuts and bruises to add to my Around-The-World scar collection, I also managed to suffer my first broken bone. Ever. How I’ve gotten this far in life, as clumsy as I am, without breaking so much as a finger truly escapes me.

Thanks to the wonders of modern-day technology, I FaceTimed my doctor-friend back in America who assured me that my arm was, indeed, quite deformed, and I should probably go get an X-ray. Sure enough, I had broken that wrist clear in half. Later that night, I had an operation to get a bunch of metal hardware implanted in my wrist that *apparently* won’t beep in airport security. (I’m skeptical.)

I spent the next four days in the hospital and celebrated my 27th birthday in the ICU. But honestly, I only remember about 30% of it because, let me tell you, that combination of ketamine and morphine and oxycodone really just produces a human with the lucidity and memory retention of a potato chip.

It’s now been a week and a half since that accident and while I still hold to the fact that I am not superstitious, you can be sure I’m telling the world I’ve had my Four Things thankyouverymuch and I would like to please be left alone for a while now. *Arms on hips like I really really mean it, quoting Greenday lyrics in this blog post so you know I’m serious.*

 
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Making Lemonade

Okay okay, I’m really not superstitious, but maybe I’m a little ‘stitious. (Yeah, I did it.)

Here’s my Four Things Theory.

If life is going to throw four punches then I’m going to throw four little bombs of joy and glitter right back. I’m taking back the number four so it won’t touch me anymore (although really, I have no other issues with the number four. It’s a perfectly fine number other than that I stand by my opinion that absolutely nothing good can happen at 4:00 in the morning except sleep.)

So for each of the Four Bad Things that happened to me this month, I’m going to call out Four Good Things that came of it all.

1) Sometimes it takes getting hit by a truck to really open your eyes to how beautiful the people around you are.

There was the stranger who carried me off the road, cleaned my wounds, and abandoned his bike to drive me home on mine. He told me he had a little sister and hoped someone would do the same for her if she had an accident. I cried when he told me this, right there on the side of the road, and I get teary writing about it now. I never even got his name and he disappeared before I could thank him properly.

There was the new roommate who stayed with me every waking hour in the hospital those first two days, distracting me with stories and making me laugh and comforting me with flowers and chocolate cake and a candle we weren’t allowed to light (hospital fire hazard) on my birthday.

There were the friends who brought face masks and dry shampoo and books and healthy snacks and unhealthy snacks and prayer even though I don’t really remember most of it. The friends who snuck into the ICU past visiting hours and hid flowers for me even though they also weren’t allowed (ahem — most depressing ICU ever).

There were my parents (thank God for my parents, who happened to be visiting Bali at the time) who only left my side when I forced them to and who dressed me & bathed me & sorted my medications & did all the things a parent should never have to do for their grown adult daughter.

I hope it doesn’t take being hit by a truck for you to realize how loved you are, or to be challenged in how well you love others, or to learn how to be the kind of friend you’d hope to have by your side when life (literally) knocks you off your feet. But my truck did just that for me.

2) There is nothing like being forced to do absolutely nothing for ten days to really make you run a quick check on your life.

You might think post-op recovery would involve lots of movies and reading through a book list but actually, painkillers make it sort of difficult to do anything other than stare at the wall. My vision was blurred so I couldn’t read; I had pounding headaches so the thought of music or movies playing seemed miserable; and the fear of my wounds turning into Joker-like scars made me shy away from sunny afternoons at the beach.

So really, it was just my thoughts and me on a long overdue date for the past week and a half.

I know there are easier, less painful ways to do this in the future, but I now think I need to schedule a time like this every six months for the rest of my life.

One week to sit with my thoughts and think about my life, what I’ve accomplished, where I’d like to be headed, and if I’m on the right path to get there.

Why did I come to Bali in the first place, and what had I’d hoped to accomplish? Why hadn’t I been writing as much as I had intended? Why hadn’t I made more progress on my goal to write a book? How did I lose focus on this and how can I get back on track now?

It was also a time to check myself — I mean me, as a person — in deeper ways than the chaos of everyday life sometimes permits. Who do I want to be in life? What kind of friend do I want to be and what kind of friends do I want around me? What do I want to be remembered as and for and is that how I’d be described right now? Am I willing to fight for this better version of myself? How can I do things differently starting today?

It’s been just enough time to resist processing all these difficult things, and then succumb to them, and then be exhausted by them, and then find some renewed motivation to start kicking butt again. I’d recommend giving it a try, yourself sans hospitalization.

3) I finally did get to start a new book.

I have way too many books stacked on my nightstand right now without nearly enough dogeared or tea-stained pages. It’s a pity.

Although most of this little sabbatical has not been spent reading, toward the tail end of things I did finally crack open Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. It was sent all the way over from the United States by my girlfriends as birthday gift, so I knew it had to be good.

I have zero guilt about spending my entire afternoon and evening in bed reading it today because, well, I can’t do much else. But also because, Lord Jesus, did I need this book at this time in my life.

If any of you girls are needing to get out of a slump, or need some tough-but-tender-love life motivation, go pick up a copy of this book right now. Thank me later.

4) Sometimes bad things actually protect us from worse things.

I remember hearing a story, lots of years ago, that was supposed to be a metaphor for how God often loves us in painful ways.

The story was about a man who comes across a bear in the woods. The bear’s foot has been caught in one of those awful jagged claw-traps, and the man approaches the bear to try to help. But first, in order to release the latch on the bear trap, the man has to squeeze shut the metal claw even tighter. Of course, the bear doesn’t know what is happening and doesn’t speak English and is sure that the man is trying to harm him even more. But the man, knowing what’s best in the long-run, ignores the bear’s yelps and squeezes that bear trap shut as tightly as possible until the latch releases and the bear is free.

Maybe it’s cheesy but I like this story. God doesn’t trap us or hurt us for the sake of hurting us. But sometimes, in order to get us to a good place, he needs to do some painful things in the process.

One very practical example of this is that the doctors in north Bali, after my Jason Bourne incident, told me that the stitches they put in my knee would fall out on their own. For whatever reason — language barriers, poor aftercare in a rural area, whatever — this wasn’t accurate. I’d never had proper stitches before so I didn’t know the difference (see, I told you that was relevant). And if I hadn’t ended up in the hospital after that fourth accident, the surgeon would have never checked my knee wound and weeks or even months might have passed before anything was done about it. At which point I probably would’ve faced infection, horrible scarring, and a much more painful process getting those stitches out. Yikes.

I am confident that my accident was God’s way of accomplishing a whole slew of other good things in my life, or protecting me from bad things that I’ll never even know about. The stitches are just one small, tangible reminder of that.

 
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Final Thoughts & What’s Coming Next

My wrist is healing and my heart is healing up, too. Good things are coming.

I’ll be writing more, not just because it makes my soul happy but because I am reminded that as much as I value keeping commitments to other people & people keeping commitments to me, I should value the commitments I’ve made to myself. And I made a commitment to finish my book when I moved to Bali. So you’ll be getting the useful travel posts but also some real-life-around-the-world stories like this — I hope you enjoy these little musings in addition to the posts about waterfalls and street food.

I’ll be obnoxiously insisting to anyone who will listen that it is so so so important to wear a helmet when riding a bike, because trucks happen. Brake failures happen. Crazy freak accidents happen no matter how careful you are and even if you’re only going 100 yards away on a Tuesday morning. Others in the ER weren’t wearing helmets and absolutely were not walking out of there with just a broken wrist.

I’ll also be spreading the PSA that if you travel, please get travel health insurance. My little spill would’ve cost me over 15,000 USD if I didn’t have insurance. Also, be aware that although bicycle accidents are generally covered no matter what, if you’re driving a motorbike, most insurance policies require you to have a local or international motorcycle license in order to be covered (check your policy to see what you need to do to be covered).

I have a policy with GeoBlue and at least up until this point, they’ve been incredibly easy to work with and were responsive and helpful during this process, even when I called from the ER under the influence of heaps of painkillers.

Be careful out there friends, and keep fighting even when life kicks you in the face. Even when it kicks you four times in a row. Cry a bit a rest a bit and reevaluate some things, and then get back on that metaphorical (and literal) bike and go kick some butt.

 
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