The electric bike I ordered finally arrived Wednesday last week. I took it for a spin on my street, not even 50 meters from my house. On the way back, I lost my balance, fell and hit my face on the asphalt pavement.
It was quite a bump. I felt like I had been hit by Manny Pacquiao. I was not wearing a helmet since I did not have one and it was just a short test run I was doing. I was going to buy one the next day.
I know. Sometimes, I do stupid things.
I stood up from the fall feeling shocked and a bit disoriented. I went into the house, looked at the mirror, saw a small head wound. My teeth were intact and I decided it was nothing. But upon the insistence of my eight-year-old grandchild Ananda, who saw my head, arm and leg wounds, I went to the emergency room at Medical City to be looked over. My head was hurting and I felt a loss of sensation on the left side of my face.
After the doctors treated my wounds — which included six stitches to my face — I had to undergo a CT scan. The doctors saw around four or five fractures that looked worrisome but were not deemed to be life threatening or an emergency case. I was sent home with prescriptions and was told to come back on Monday.
Yesterday, I went to see two doctors: Benjie Cabrera who did my cataract lens replacement a few years ago; and Alfonso Bengzon, an ophthal-plastic surgeon who looked at my scans and explained my injuries to me. The good news is that my eyes are intact and unhurt. They then sent me to Dr. Rey Casile, head of EENT of St Luke’s, to get his opinion on whether or not I need surgery. He patiently confirmed the fractures to my facial bones and explained their implications.
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Rey Casile told me that I have two options: one is to leave things alone since it is not a life-threatening condition. However, he could not guarantee possible and unforeseen consequences as I age. The other is to opt for an operation where titanium plates will be used to repair parts of my cheekbones and left eye socket, which were damaged by my fall. He explained that when I heal, I will be close to being intact, good as new.
Lydia and I listened and after weighing the options, we told the doctor that we are opting for the operation. When you read this, the operation will be over and I will probably be sore, bruised and puffy in the face, but hopefully, recovering well.
It comforts me little to hear how simple this operation is as described by Dr. Casile. It is still a surgical intrusion. And the very thought of going through an operation is quite daunting. There is the fear factor of being cut up. But more than that, there is the inconvenience of recovering and the time that will take is a challenge, to say the least. I will need to muster courage, but more than that, I will need a lot of patience while I count the days and weeks until I am completely healed.
The accident and its consequences have made me realize a number of things. One is, it is difficult to be human — and fragile.
I am also reminded that I am aging. While I am healthy and fit, my reflexes are no longer what they used to be in my 20s. Even if I pride myself on being healthy, there are limitations to what the body can do at different times in one’s life. And the older one gets, the more limitations crop up.
How is it that when we were young, we wished we were a bit older because we wanted to enjoy the perks that older people seemed to have? The young envy those older because they see financial security, status, wisdom and “making it.” They hardly appreciate the time their elders spent acquiring all of the above.
I was quite amused when my grandchild expressed envy because I could watch movies for free, just by showing my senior citizen’s card. Truly, youth is wasted on the young. Thankfully, one gets wiser about this as one gets older.
Another important thing I learned from this accident is to be more awake, aware and conscious about what I am doing. I can’t be too casual about things anymore. As Jerry Perez de Tagle, a motivator, once put it, “Casualness produces casualties.” It is important to remember this. Applying it to my life at this stage, I must be more focused on how and where I use my energies. The clock is ticking. If I don’t want to go quietly and be one of the last people still standing at the age I go, I must be more careful about how I handle my body.
This accident happened so quickly. In one second, my life has been altered, and not in an insignificant way. I am lucky these are the only injuries I got. It could have been worse, much worse. I could have hit my head and suffered a brain injury. I think of those who, at the prime of health and their youthful power (e.g., soldiers in Afghanistan), suddenly lose a leg stepping on a landmine. It happens in a flash. Their lives get completely shaken and are irrevocably altered. Nothing is the same. These kinds of unexpected incidents happen more often than we realize.
I could milk this for all the pain, suffering and self-pity I can get out of it, or I could see it as an unexpected, undesired imposition that bears important, unexpected gifts meant to teach me something.
While I may have been generally lucky and blessed throughout my life so far, I realize that one can’t live life without some suffering. I am still in some pain right now because of the fall. There are reasons to whine and complain and be cantankerous. And it would be understandable. But I also know that while things can and do happen beyond our control, we are 100 percent in charge of what to make of it and how to deal with it.
In the end, things hinge on our ability to be able to distinguish between an event and an experience. Events are things that happen, many of which we can do little about. Experience is our definition of what an event in our lives was all about. This is where we have the fullest autonomy.