…on a banana skin!

Some time after the motorbike accident in which I lost my right leg our church asked for volunteers to pick up a family from Perth Airport. This family was moving to the Bunbury area from Holland, and needed transport from the airport to Bunbury. Because I had a decent size car, but had not yet gone back to work after my motorbike accident, I volunteered to collect some of them. Other church members also volunteered to pick up the rest. It was blended family of 10 children, plus the mum and dad.

Discussing this with my brother-in-law to be, Marten, it turned out that he had a specialist doctor’s appointment in Perth that same day, but earlier in the day. So we decided that a visit to the relatively new lions park at Wanneroo, a northern suburb of Perth, would be a good way to spend the day before picking up the family later in the evening.

The Lions Park was interesting. It was a place where you drove through the park and the lions just roamed wherever they liked. You just had to keep your windows shut! After we had completed the drive through we decided to go to the kiosk and buy an ice-cream before we left. Walking back to the car Marten was a few steps ahead of me, walking on a sloping concrete path, when I placed my right foot – the one at the end of my artificial leg, the result of the accident described in another chapter – on a banana skin that someone had dropped! This sounds like a line from a comedy skit, but it actually happened this way. My foot slipped, I fell, and landed heavily on my right side. It was pretty obvious that my right leg had broken again. My right arm was also broken.

Marten had reached the car. He turned. ‘Come on’ he said, ‘we need to get moving!’. ‘I can’t’, I said, ‘I’ve broken my leg!’. He wouldn’t believe me! Eventually he had to and came over to where I lay. He went up to the kiosk, and they called an ambulance. This was way before mobile phones. Marten came back to me and gently helped me to remove my artificial leg.

The ambulance came and trundled me off to Royal Perth Hospital. Marten took my car and helped transport the family from the airport to Bunbury.

I didn’t really like it at the hospital in Perth. No family and friends close by. They all lived in the Harvey and Bunbury areas 160 + kilometres away. I also had developed kidney stones, and that hurts!

A few days before this happened another patient, Frank M, had been admitted to the bed next to me, in a two bed ward. He was from the town of Forrest, which was out on the Trans Australian Railway line, on the Nullarbor, east of Kalgoorlie. Frank was complaining bitterly because the staff had confiscated his large bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky. I told him not to worry, they would give it back when he left. They just didn’t want patients drinking alcohol in hospital.

The doctor visited me because of my kidney stones. He said it was probably caused by me not drinking enough. Which was probably true. I hadn’t been eating enough, either. He said to me that one of the best things to get kidneys moving again was beer. So he prescribed beer for me as a medication. I had to drink at least one 750 ml bottle of beer a day.

Well, did Frank have things to say about that! They had taken his whisky away, but had prescribed me beer? That was discrimination! That was not fair! That was just wrong!! But it didn’t make any difference. I still had to drink beer – which I found hard – and he still didn’t get his whisky.

One day my brother John was visiting me, and he volunteered to drive me to the Bunbury Regional Hospital. His car was an EJ Holden panel van. His idea was to put a mattress in the back, and I could lie on the mattress for the drive. I thought this was a good idea. I had no money to pay for an ambulance to take me.

So we drove from Perth to Bunbury, with me on a mattress in the back of a panel van! After delivering me to some rather surprised staff at the Bunbury Regional Hospital, John went home.

Some time later, while I was in the craft centre at the hospital – I was in the process of creating a chess board that we still have – I had a visitor. A young lady, the eldest daughter of the family who we went to Perth to pick up from the airport. She was intrigued by this young man who had come to pick up her family but hadn’t made it. She wanted to find out more of him, and to thank him for coming to pick them up from the airport.

We had a long talk about many things. I invited her to visit me again, and she said she would…

© Copyright Willem Schultink