Monday, 3 October 2011

Oil Spill

Monday morning. 


As the world begins its weekly ritual, a few tired night workers are preparing for their midweek weekend. Empty milk floats head back to their depots, their early morning rounds completed, many a front doorstep adorned with their goods. Autumnal sunrise greets the early risers, the sun shedding plenty of light but not yet enough warmth to clear the dew from the grass and the roads. 

Mike is one of the masses, joining the rat-race and heading into work. In an effort to make his journey easier and quicker, he abandoned his car in favour of two wheels. For months, he'd enjoyed the fact that he could cut through London's standstill rush hour, leave home a little later, arrive back a little earlier, adding a few precious extra minutes with his family every day. 

The call on the screen brings back memories, ones that I'm not keen to relive. Motorcycle under a van, status of patient unknown. When the call comes in, I'd just finished dealing with an acute case of probable paediatric schoolitis, a common childhood ailment, regularly apparent on Monday mornings. There were twenty minutes left of the shift. The call was some five miles away, and would take me straight past the front door of the station, frustratingly close, yet so desperately far. My relief was probably already there drinking coffee and awaiting my return. A few minutes later, Mike and I meet for the first time. 

Unlike the call I'd feared, Mike's head was visible, and he was actually sitting up, helmet off, and talking quite happily. His right leg, however, is wedged between the two back wheels of the van. His bike is lying on its side in front of the van, smashed shards of shimmering glass mingling on the road and glistening in the sunlight. Just in front of that is a small pile of powder covering what we presume is some oil on the road. 

"I don't really remember what happened, I just lost it on the wet road I think. Next thing I know, there's a van on top of me!" 

A quick conversation with the van driver gives us a few more clues and leads us to believe that Mike's had his leg run over by both the front and the first of the back wheels, with the van coming to a halt before the third wheel added insult to injury. 

Unsure of the exact circumstances, Mike's neck is immobilised in a collar and he's laid flat. The fire brigade, having arrived a few minutes later, have secured the van and lifted it high enough for us to get to see Mike's leg. His leathers are intact with only a few scuff marks, but his foot is lying at an unnatural angle, giving away the secret hidden beneath the leathers. As we cut the trouser leg away, the damage is obvious. Several breaks, the worst at the ankle. 

As usual, several things happen at once. A cannula is placed in Mike's arm, giving easy access for some pain relief. A scoop stretcher is placed under him, ready to move as soon as he is secured. Some bandages and a splint are applied to his leg. All while someone else checks for any other injuries, and luckily, finds none.

In the ambulance, once Mike was settled and his pain controlled enough, there are a few moments for a quick conversation.  

"I think you might have slipped on some oil, or diesel. There's a patch already covered up with some gravel, just by where you came off your bike!" 

"You talking about the white grit-like stuff?" 

"Yeah, that's it. Someone must have put it there not long before, it still looked quite clean." 

"Ah. That's not grit or gravel." 

"How do you know that?"

"Well, I work for a pet shop." 


"Well, I was on my way to work with a big bag of cat litter hanging off the handlebar..." 

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