Friday, 4 February 2011


Behind the familiar yellow sign stood a tree scarred by violence. The impact had been unforgiving, shattering bones and shredding skin, leaving Yvette barely conscious, moaning in pain. She lay on the ground, her head by the tree and feet stretched out into the road. Her bike a hundred paces further down the tarmac, collapsed on its side like a mortally wounded animal. We treated and packaged her gently, efficiently, whilst at the same time graciously waving off offers of help from well-meaning yet misguided passers by, each with something to say, yet nothing to offer.

I didn't witness the accident, only the aftermath. I had nothing to offer to the phone number on the sign. I was only a witness after the fact, to its immediate repercussions. Behind the sign stood a wall, tall, mercifully untouched by human tragedy, but bearing the weight of so many flowers and cards. The sight of these took me back, and left me reeling. Yvette seemed so alive, fighting so hard when we left her at the hospital. I knew that she'd made it to theatre the very same day, and knew nothing more now that the weeks and months had passed. I didn't expect the tributes to be there, but couldn't stop to read them, and hoped to get back to the distant hospital to find out more.

She had an unusual surname, one that for some reason stuck in my memory, even weeks later. When I finally got to the hospital, I asked the receptionist if she could find out what happened. As she typed in the surname and a range of dates, the sand-clock timer turned slowly on the screen making me even more anxious. I finished the paperwork for the patient I'd just delivered whilst I waited.

"Yvette," said the receptionist, making me look up quickly from what I was doing, "was taken to theatre, and admitted to one of the wards."

"And then what happened?"

"Exactly a month later, to the day, she was discharged home!"

I finally exhaled, the breath I'd been holding flying free as relief washed over me.

Instead of mourning a life lost, I left, celebrating a life saved. 

Yet I still wonder about the sign, the untouched wall, and all those flowers.

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