Have you ever visited a tropical rainforest? A rain forest like Kakum National Park in Ghana, West Africa? They’ve got a canopy walkway high above the forest floor. So one day while we lived in Ghana, we went across its wobbly structure to see what it was all about. It was interesting, yet also disappointing because I didn’t see that much fascinating wildlife up there in the trees. We should have come earlier, I expect, but getting up at 4 am is . . . well, you know what that means.
Photo © stof enzo
Things got a lot more
fascinating terrifying after I got solid ground under my feet again. We were four. My prince, and our younger daughter and her boyfriend, who were visiting us in Africa and lusting after adventure. Which they got, if not quite what they had expected.
So, after the canopy walk we were hiking along the rubbly jungle trail enjoying the scenery and listening to the birds. We were the only visitors there and all was peaceful. Not a dangerous animal in sight.
“Have a look to your right,” my man said. “There’s a great view.”
I took a quick step to my right. My foot hit a pebble, which rolled loose and I lost my balance. You know how that goes. The smallest little misstep can sometimes make you unsteady. Usually you right yourself and keep going. Or you fall and you pick yourself up and keep going. I was not able to right myself.
My leg turned under and I crashed down on top of it with the full force of my 56 kilos (123 pounds).
There was a loud crack. It reverberated through the forest.
Time stood still. The birds stopped chirping. The breeze stopped whispering. All was primordially quiet. Not a dangerous animal in sight.
My butt rolled off my right leg. I stretched it out in front of me. It was not straight. It sported a 90 degree angle right above the ankle. Not an angle Mother Nature had intended my leg to have.
Primitive animal instinct took over. I reached down, took my foot in both hands and straightened out my leg. It looked better that way.
Then my Inner Animal gave way to my conscious rational Dutch mind and I had two thoughts.
One: I broke my leg. Two: I am not going to die. (And as you now know, I didn’t.)
My daughter, who’d been walking in front of me, had turned around and watched me straightening my leg. “Oh, my God!” she shrieked. “Oh, my God, Mama!”
“I broke my leg,” I said.
“I heard it!” she wailed. “I heard it crack!”
They gathered around me in horror. Here we were, alone in the jungle, about a kilometer (2/3 of a mile) from the entrance of the forest and our car. On a narrow, steep, rough trail (but not a dangerous animal in sight).
My prince and the boyfriend decided to carry me and start down the path, while my daughter would go ahead and get help from the park office.
With helpless me suspended between the guys, my arms around their necks, we started down the path. I was not in pain. I was not hysterical. Possibly I was in shock. I was simply dangling between them like a rag doll with Nikes. Some time later two strong park guards came to relieve the men, which was a good thing because it was not easy going. So with my arms round the necks of two macho Ghanaian guys, I dangled on. I’d never had my arms around the necks of two young sexy African dudes, so this was an adventure. Unfortunately I was not in a state of mind to fully appreciate it. I had hoped for a stretcher. But there was no stretcher. Later I heard the park people acquired one the next day, but it was a bit late for me.
We were a four-hour drive away from the capital Accra where we lived our expat life. But would you believe, there was a regional hospital about half an hour drive away. And not just any old little decrepit African hospital, mind you. No! A brand-new one, equipped with the best and the latest equipment from the Philips company. You’d think I’m writing fiction, but no, it was true.
They moved me onto the X-ray table and the technician tried to position my leg. My Inner Animal took over again and I howled in pain. But never mind, let’s get on with it: I’d broken both big bones as well as chipped my ankle bone. I got drugs, and a nice young doctor set my leg and gave me a temporary cast up to mid thigh, immobilizing my knee. We then got in the car and drove the four hours back to Accra.
We arrived home late that afternoon. The gates were opened and the welcome committee greeted us, as they always did when we’d come back from a trip. The welcome committee consisted of the gardener, the guard, our cleaning lady, her French-trained chef husband who worked at the Canadian embassy’s lunch restaurant, and their toddler-daughter Emilia. Smiles all around, hands at the ready to help us with our luggage.
Everybody but me piled out of the car. Jerome, the chef, opened the car door for me. His face froze as he saw my cast. He turned around, walked off into his family’s quarters and returned moments later tying on his white chef’s apron.
“Madame,” he said solemnly, “I will cook for you.”
And he did. For weeks on end. While I hibernated on the sofa, then learned to walk again, and finally became a normal functioning person again. Every night my man and I dined splendidly on French cuisine. It was fabulous. I felt so spoiled. It was worth breaking my leg for.
Okay, that’s a really big lie. There’s no cuisine haute enough.
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Have you ever had a jungle adventure? Or a medical adventure? Worse than mine? Do tell!