A Bad Hair Day

I flipped my bike and landed on my face. Knocked me unconscious. I woke up on the side of the road, people standing around me, some guy pushing Subway napkins into the side of my face to stop the bleeding, an ambulance screaming down the highway to pick me up.

I’d been going down the road minding my own business when a branch fell off a tree and jammed into the spokes of my front tire. One second I’m riding down the road. The next instant I’m lying there in a pool of my own blood. And it really was an instant — I blinked, and the next thing I knew I was on the side of the road. It was just like that. There was no sense of the passage of time.

I was awake during the crash because I put my arm out to break my fall. I could tell because my arm was severely sprained and half the skin was scraped off from the palm of my hand to my elbow. But to this day I have no memory of the actual crash. It’s been completely blocked out, probably by the physical force of the trauma. If my arm hadn’t taken the brunt of the fall, who knows, I could have blinked off into eternity without knowing what hit me.

The whole left side of my face was ground into the pavement. My left ear was half torn off. Thankfully I was in shock — though perfectly lucid and calm — and I couldn’t feel a thing. After the ambulance took me to the hospital, I was laid on a stretcher where a nurse put a heavy warm blanket over me. The blanket was so warm it felt like they just took it out of an oven. It was extremely comforting. Eventually a grey-haired surgeon came by, stuck a bunch of needles in my face and sewed me up. Whenever he tightened the knot of a stitch, I could feel my flesh being tugged and stretched. It felt like rubber.

After putting 22 stitches in my face, the surgeon began to sew my left ear back onto the side of my head. My ear had been torn from inside the ear canal and out. Another 12 stitches. This part was a bit painful. He practically had to sew into cartilage. I still have a pebble from the pavement lodged in my earlobe. I can squeeze my earlobe and feel the rock inside, which has since become calcified.

After getting sewed up, I was allowed to go to the washroom where I saw myself in the mirror for the first time and said, “Holy fuck.” The whole left side of my head and face were black and so swollen I looked like the Elephant Man. My left eye was completely swollen shut. My teeth, when I touched them through my fat lips, were loose. I thought, “I’m going be deformed for the rest of my life.” Within a month, though, it was healed. I now have only a small discoloured scar below my eye and my ear that people often mistake for a pen mark.

I got sent home with a large bandage wrapped around the top of my head and the left side of my face. I couldn’t take a regular shower for a week. When I eventually had the bandages taken off, I’m telling you, man, it was horrible: My hair was a mess.

All this happened a little over 10 years ago. I was reminded of it from looking at this photo.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

8 Replies to “A Bad Hair Day”

  1. Nice (true) story.

    My wife and I nearly killed ourselves when we flipped an ATV in the middle of nowhere in Newfoundland. We went flying head-over-heel. The machine ended up on my back, so I was pinned to the ground. I couldn’t budge, which panicked me, thinking I was seriously hurt, but my wife rolled it off and we just shook it off.

  2. I didn’t. I don’t think Dawn did. I get the shivers thinking about it sometimes, how we would’ve been killed if we didn’t have helmets ons.

  3. It’s funny how I can remember it better than you, and it didn’t even happen to me. The two of you went down the dirt road from the cabin and I stayed to light the wood stove. When you came back you told me about the accident, that you were pinned by the ATV and that once you got up, Dawn said, “I think I’m going to faint,” and then she fainted.

  4. Dawn’s done that before: warns me when she’s about to faint. Very useful.

    You were at the cabin?! I have no memory of you at all, but that’s not unusual.

  5. I was knocked out during a soccer game a couple of years ago. I was about to take a shot when someone blocked the shot the same time I struck the ball causing me to flip and fall on my back with my head bounced off the ground. I had a concussion and had to have someone drive me home. I couldn’t remember where my family was, I was confused. Worst feeling I have ever had. The concussion symptoms only lasted a couple of days so I was lucky.

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