So Kathleen and I are in the GSA heading towards the Dennehotso clinic this morning, and just out of town a white station wagon with Texas plates passes us going about 85 mph. We make a snotty comment and then I fall asleep in the car. About 20 minutes into this very nice nap, Kathleen suddenly says, “Why are all those trucks pulled over?” And then, “Oh, no, look at that.”
And there’s the station wagon, upside down on the right shoulder of the road, and a crowd of people around it. Kathleen says, “Should I pull over?” and I say, “Yes,” and I’m pretty much out of the van before it’s completely stopped.
Sitting outside the car on the dirt is a young mother and her three children. She is surrounded by truckers and locals trying desperately to get a cell phone signal, which is an entirely futile endeavour outside of Dennehotso; there’s no reception for anything. I send Kathleen on to the clinic to call EMS.
The mother is bleeding a little from her knees, but otherwise shows no signs of any obvious injury. I drop to the ground in front of her.
“I’m a nurse from the clinic in town. Is there anyone else in the car?”
“Are you hurt?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I blew a tire.”
And the left rear tire is completely, totally gone, blown off the wheel (we found the tire about 200 feet beyond the car down the road).
“Were you wearing a seat belt?”
“Yes, but – ” and she starts crying hysterically, “my babies were asleep in the back seat when it happened.”
The children are about 2, 4 and 5, and they are all silent and looking around nervously. I look at the 5 year old. “Do you have any ouchies?” He shakes his head.
“Were they thrown from the car?”
“The boys weren’t, I don’t know about my daughter; I couldn’t see her until I was out of the car.” She’s visibly shaking and can’t stop crying.
One of the truckers pipes up. “I saw the little girl climb out; I don’t think she was thrown out of the car.”
The youngest ones don’t speak any English, and they are too scared to interact with me. Another local woman pulls up in her pickup truck; she heard the EMS call go out on the radio and was scared that it was a family member she knew; she sits with me and we clean off the mother’s legs with wet wipes until Kathleen and Nora drive back from satellite clinic.
I keep an eye on everyone, but everyone is moving all right, have no visible injuries, no neck or spinal pain, and other than being very frightened and crying a lot, they’re OK. We lay belly down in the goatsheads and pull whatever we can out of the flattened car; we try to get her purse out of the car but it’s too far under the front seat and we can’t reach it.
So we try to comfort her and the kids as we wait for EMS. It’s 30 miles from town to the accident scene. The wait feels like hours.
30 minutes later, the police come, start the scene investigation. Navajo EMS comes, along with my favorite paramedic, and Biz starts a calm, competent assessment that puts everyone at ease. I give the mother my phone number; she’s from Texas and knows no one in town and doesn’t know what to do next. She was on her way from Washington State home to Austin. And now her car is totalled. At the very least, I reassure her, I can help you with the locals to get all your stuff from the tow yard. They are notoriously difficult about surrendering items.
And then we go back to work. I wipe the blood off my pants, wipe the dirt off my pants, sit down at my desk, sweat in the heat of the clinic with a broken air condiitoner in 90 degree desert heat, and listen to the provider fight with the pharmacy tech over something foolish.