The event occurred sometime late in the summer. I’m not exactly sure when, or where for that matter; my 9-year-old brain chose not to bother preserving such petty details in light of the circumstances. What I do recall is that it was warm, and getting close to the upcoming school year, grade 4 in my case. My family was on PEI for a get-together of some kind, and my dad decided to take advantage of the lovely weather spending some time on the motorcycle. I couldn’t tell you any details of the make, model, or technical specs of the bike (Honda?), but I loved to ride, so when he offered me the opportunity to come along I eagerly accepted.
For nearly two hours Dad and I cruised around the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island, enjoying every moment of the wind against our bodies and the rumble of the engine. We stopped once or twice to stretch, but even with the breaks I found my legs getting a bit cramped from being propped up on the foot stands. Along a pretty ordinary stretch of highway not far from the relatively new Queen Elizabeth Hospital, I lifted my legs once again, stretching them out and then letting them dangle for a moment before pulling them back up to rest. This time, my left leg rose smoothly into place as expected, but my right leg seemed to get snagged on something, and I immediately knew something was amiss.
When most people see my scars, and my misshapen right heel, they cringe and remark that it must have been so painful, but oddly enough it wasn’t. I now know about endorphins, but in that moment I was perplexed by the fact that my entire lower right leg had just instantly fallen asleep. My dad, noting a sudden loss of power from the bike, was attempting to change gears and apply more throttle when he heard me yelling out, “Dad! My foot’s stuck!”. At this point he realised something else was going on, and he needed to pull over.
I already had a strong sense that something was wrong, but when my dad climbed off the bike, took one glance at the rear wheel and then immediately jumped onto the highway, frantically waving his arms for help, I knew it was serious. I managed to arch my body around far enough to see my foot, and that’s probably when I began to go into shock. I couldn’t tell exactly what had happened, but my foot was lodged into the spoke of the rear wheel, which was itself clearly driven through my heel, having cut a rough slice through my sneaker from the base of my foot through to the back, just below where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel. Blood was pulsing out of the wound and running down the wheel, pooling on the pavement below. My memory is a bit fuzzy on the details, but I know I began to gasp for air and I’m sure I was panicking.
Then something quite incredible happened.
It didn’t take long for the first car to pull over, or the second (there may have been more, but I only remember the first two distinctly). The first belonged to an orthopedic surgeon from Montreal who just happened to be on vacation in PEI. He also just happened to have a bag of ice he’d just purchased, as well as clean rags in his back seat. In case you don’t know, orthopedic surgeons specialise in the treatment of trauma to muscles and bones, both of which I was in the midst of experiencing! The orthopod immediately began the delicate work of undoing the close bond recently formed between my heel and the spoke, during which time the driver of the second car approached.
The second good Samaritan on the scene was a cowboy, from what I recall. He was wearing a cowboy hat anyway, and he had a massive beast of a cellular telephone. I remember it folding open, and the antenna being drawn out, and the wonder of it all temporarily superseding the trauma. He phoned for an ambulance while the good doctor, having freed me from my unlikely captor, transferred me to his vehicle and began cleaning the wound of the worst of the particulate matter. Satisfied that I was stable, he then drove partway to meet the ambulance along the highway.
They rushed me into the hospital through the emergency area, and they cut my new jeans right off my legs! I was horrified! My mom had just bought those jeans, and the last thing I remember feeling before succumbing to the anesthetic was a mixture of sorrow and guilt at being somehow responsible for their ruin.
And that’s the best of the story, really. They cleaned up my foot, stapled me up, I healed, and now I walk and run just like a normal human being. During the remainder of my growing years, while the rest of me grew, my heel did not; this is a result of having lost the growth plate of my heel, and the reason why my heel now looks rather pointy. I’m a 27 year old man with a 9 year old’s heel – how embarrassing! Nah, I think it’s cool.
A couple other details: we never did find out who that doctor was, despite some searching (Montreal is a big city!). My mom speculates he was an angel, and maybe so – the circumstances did turn out rather miraculously.
I hope you enjoyed the story, whether it’s the first time you’ve heard it or one of many (I’m looking at you, former roommates). If you’re interested, I may just write a similar one for my Grade 12 broken arm incident! It’s almost as bloody, and definitely funnier.