In the past few weeks, I’ve had some very near misses with some very bad things.
(Almost) Bike Death
Seymour Avenue winds down a very steep hill as it approaches Franklin Avenue. At the intersection between the two, there’s a blind intersection controlled by a stoplight. In the winter, I come down this hill on my bike and turn left onto Franklin. 99% of the time, the light is red and I slow to a stop, but I’ve made it through on a couple of green lights in the past.
A few weeks ago, I came down the hill toward a red light. When I was about 20 feet from the blind intersection, the light changed to green. I stopped braking and started to pedal; from the blind spot to my right, a car raced through the intersection against the light. Had I come down the hill 2 seconds earlier, I would have seen the green light, kept my speed up, and been killed by that car running their red light.
I cleaned the teeth of a patient, and then accidentally poked my right tricep on the tip of a Cavitron, one of the instruments I had just finished using on them. I realized this after I had dismissed the patient; the ache in my arm was similar to what you feel after getting an immunization shot. From this feeling, I knew the tip had gone through to my muscle.
Read the patient history; lots of “No” answers for diseases. But then… “Stopped using cocaine in 2002.”
I got myself to Boynton Health Services, and they drew my blood and put me on a multi-antiretroviral drug, Combivir. I was at risk for AIDS and Hep C. As I had JUST been informed the day before by an abrupt surgeon: AIDS can be managed; “Hep C will kill you in about 10-15 years.” The stats were not in my favor:
An estimated 60% to 80% of intravenous recreational drug users in the United States have been infected with Hepatitis C virus.
“So, did you have your source come in?” they asked at Boynton.
“I noticed my injury after the patient was checked-out.”
“You’ll have to call them and ask them to come in for tests.”
“I’ll tell them I strongly recommend they come in.”
“No; you beg them to come in.”
I raced back to the school and sat down at one of the phones. I dialed my patient’s home phone number wrong 3 times in a row. Finally, I heard phone ring.
Pick-up pick-up pick-up pick-up.
They picked up.
I explained the situation, how protocol dictated the patient come in and get tested.
“Let me go get a piece of paper,” my patient said.
It was then that I knew I had a chance of getting them to come in.
Three days later I got the phone call I had been hoping for: they had come in to get tested. They were negative. I could discontinue the drugs I’d been put on. I let out the longest sigh of relief of my life.
(Almost) Ice Crash
Mykala and I had an awesome time visiting Matt, Shayla, Kellie, and John in Woodbury. While we were enjoying our evening, an ice storm later described as “one for the ages” coated the streets in GLARE ice. You could’ve skated on the streets. The six of us teamed up to get the ice off two cars, then we departed.
“I have absolutely no traction,” Mykala said, as she backed out of John’s driveway. A few blocks later, and we saw a plow salting the roads. We continued to the interstate, and the road was fine.
Then, just past White Bear Avenue on westbound I94, we saw something strange: a man was piloting an SUV while simultaneously emptying what appeared to be a 50 pound bag of Morton salt onto the road. Now, why would he do that? Because there was absolutely no salt on the freeway.
A Pioneer Press truck passed us, likely loaded down the morning papers. At least that’s what we guessed by the manner in which it slid sideways down the freeway in front of us, swerving from one guardrail to another. It took so long to come to a stop that I had time to get out my cell phone, ready to call 911 if the driver never regained control.
We pulled over.
“Alex, look at the other side of the freeway.”
It was almost four in the morning, but there was a traffic jam on the other side of I94: no one had enough traction to get up the hill. We saw cars stuck in one place on the hill, gently swaying back and forth, making precious little forward progress. Then, they started to slide backwards.
“What if we exited the freeway?” Mykala asked, looking to our right where a ramp curled down to Highway 61. We watched cars pass us by, hit their brakes, and slide out of view. We wouldn’t be exiting the freeway.
After talking it over for about 10 minutes, we started off again. Cars were abandoned in the ditches about every 50 feet. We became more and more frightened with each empty, ditched car we passed. The Pioneer Press truck was ahead of us, stuck trying to get off the freeway. We pulled over again, this time on the left side of the interstate. Mykala was ready to ditch the car and get out. I almost agreed, but I was scared we’d get run over by sliding cars as we made our way across lanes of traffic to the shoulder.
We were both shaking, but made good time (20-25 miles an hour) to our exit in Minneapolis. Franklin Avenue. Almost home. Uh oh. More glare ice! With no input from Mykala, our Jetta gently, silently, glided from the middle of the road to the curb, which provided enough friction to stop it. We were 20 feet from our street, and when Mykala hit the gas, the car slowly and uncontrollably rotated 180°. Hmm. It took another 10 minutes to go those 20 feet, rotate the car, and back it in neutral into the first spot we found.
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