Unlike last time, this is a great story.
After a few days in Quito we were ready to get back to the country. With five days left in Ecuador, we decided to take a 2 hour shuttle to The Secret Garden Cotopaxi. After the noise of the Quito hostel, this place was a much needed break. Four more days without wi-fi and phone service in a beautiful rural setting was wonderful, too bad my time also included two visits to the ER.
On our first full day we signed up for the Cotopaxi glacier hike followed by biking down the volcano.
Living in Colorado for the last two months seems to have paid off with respect to elevation acclimation and unlike my last high elevation hike to Mount Holy Cross in Colorado, I barely felt out of breath.
The hike up to the refugio was beautiful and most of our group beat our “guide”.
At right around 5,000 meters (or 16,400 feet) this is currently the highest I’ve ever been! At this point Ben and I were both a little sad we’d decided against the full summit. But because the refugio was closed, the trek required an hour longer and $150 more.
The bike ride down is when things got interesting. As soon as I began riding down I had a bad feeling, and even thought of chickening out. The road was extremely bumpy and the volcanic ash mixed with rocks made it soft and gave me the feeling that the front tire was going to slip through each turn.
I began to lose my confidence as I hit a washboard turn and the constant bumps made me feelas though I would lose control. But I didn’t lose control, not then at least.
As I inched into the next straightaway I noticed the truck carrying our group from the hostel gaining on me. “Don’t be a p*ssy, go faster” I told myself, channeling my inner Trevor Marsh. After all I couldn’t let the rickety truck driving 10 mphs down the dirt road beat me.
And they didn’t beat me, I won! I guess I’d hardly call a two hour ride to the Machachi Emergency Room winning. As I hit the next turn and began to hit the brakes my front tire lost grip, and I was sent flying over the handle bars.
Although I don’t recall, I was told by several people that my tumble was amazing. Because it was completely unexpected, I flailed through the air and completed a barrel roll on the ground, missing my head. As I landed I heard the muffled engine of the truck behind me. Jumping off the ground with lightning speed to avoid being run over I noticed Ben running towards me, pink bike in tow.
Suddenly I’m surrounded by 8 people asking if I’m okay, and that’s when I notice the sharp pain radiating from my pelvic region. As I hobbled to the backseat of the truck with Ben standing next to me we notice the blood soaking the front of my black lycra workout pants.
I could feel the panic set in and I looked under my waistband and saw the deep 4 inch gash in the fatty tissue of my pelvis. Although there was a Pediatric Doctor sitting in the back of the truck, I was hesitant to show him my wound given the sensitive region in was in.
“Necesitamos ir al hospital” Ben barks at our guide Carlos. When I heard the hospital was two hours away my head began to fill with questions.
Do I have internal damage?
Am I going to bleed out in the back of a truck in the middle of nowhere Ecuador?
Is this the end?
After showing the wound to a sweet Canadian girl with medic training, I wad given a scarf and told to keep pressure on it. After I instructing Ben to watch for signs of shock, she started asking me personal questions to attempt to keep my mind off the injury, which of course made me worry more.
About 30 minutes into the flinch-inducing bumpy road the adrenaline finally wore off. Although the gash was painful, I wasn’t feeling the intense amount of pain that I’d expect from an internal injury. As I noticed that the bleeding had slowed my head began to clear and I hummed my happy song “Float On” by Modest Mouse.
I’m going to be OK!
Everyone in the truck sprang into action as we pulled into the hostel. Ben gathered our bags, one person was on ice duty, another got our lunches to-go, and another stayed with me.
An hour later I was back to my old self, talking and giggling, as we pulled into the Machachi Hospital. Ben and Carlos carried me into the waiting room and they immediately admit me into the 3 bed Emergency Room. The female ER resident instructs me to pull down my pants, so I spend the next hour bare assed on an old ripped table.
After exposing my vagina to everyone in the ER, the nurse pulls out the largest needle I’ve ever seen. Panic sets in she brings it closer to my wound and out of instinct I swat her hand away. After being scoled in Spanish I throw my jacket over my face and curse aloud in English as she repeatedly jabs me with it. Finally after about the 5th poke the numbness sets in.
Although I don’t feel pain, there’s something about the feeling of someone shoving gauze inside of your wound that just made me cringe. I continue wriggling in discomfort as she sews me up, and as I look around the room for distractions I notice things that intensify my discomfort. Not only are my pants pulled down to my knees and there’s no sanitary paper between the bed but there’s also a rectal thermometer taped to the wall. As an overwhelmingly disgusting fectal smells wafts from the bed next to me, a male doctor walks over towering at the foot of the bed smirking as he just stares at my vagina. Now I know uncomfortable.
After a mystery shot in the bum, Ben brings in clean pants and I’m told I can leave. I left the ER without paying a cent and only hand written instructions for the medications I received.
As we rode the hour back to the hostel I felt overhelmed with emotion. Two inches to the left and I would have hit an artery, and a two hour ride to the hospital wouldn’t have worked.
Today we’re back in Colombia, and in 4 days when my stitches are removed I’ll have to go through the embarrassment of showcasing my pelvic region yet again. I’m just glad I’m safe and can laugh about it all now.