Reminiscing about A Motorcycle Crash in Ethiopia

I have recently discovered the existence of video footage of our 2008 motorcycle adventure from London to Cape Town. I had forgotten that we had done some video blogging along the way. Recently Tom found the video footage in his archives. I have edited a couple of entries together and and you can view it below. What you will see is a video blog entry of the aftermath of my crash in Ethiopia when I hit a dog just outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was actually my second crash in Ethiopia. I have previously blogged about my two crashes in Ethiopia. 

I had been trying to overtake a semi truck when a dog ran out in front of the semi truck right into my path. I didn’t have time to avoid hitting it. My front tire ran over it and it got wedged under my bash plate sending my bike (Rosa) flying upwards and then crashing down on her nose. I ended up getting thrown off the bike and getting pinned beneath it. It was a scary moment. Luckily I was not seriously injured. We managed to fix my bike at the side of the road to the point where I could continue to ride to the next hotel. Later that evening Jeremy would finish the repair job in the room surgeon style.

In the video you will first see Jeremy suturing my front cowling back together with zip ties. You can see that he was already a budding surgeon. Then follows my video blog account of the crash. Tom had already crashed earlier on the same day. He had attempted to overtake a semi truck in Addis Ababa and then got squeezed into a large cement pipe that was lying on the side of the road. The impact and subsequent crash knocked off both of his panniers. 

Above: Tom hit a cement pipe on the side of the road when he got squeezed trying to overtake a semi truck in the dense free-for-all congestion of the Ethiopian capitol, Addis Ababa. I ended up paying a local kid to ride with me on the back of my motorcycle to guide me to a place where I could buy some wire to reattach Tom’s panniers to his bike. However, because it was a Sunday, everything was closed.  We didn’t end up finding any open shops even though we rode around Addis for an hour. Eventually we must have found some wire because we did repair Tom’s bike on the side of the road.

Above: This photo was taken on the side of the road just outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I had just crashed because I hit a dog while trying to overtake a semi truck. I was lucky and only had some road rash on my elbow. We were able to repair my bike (Rosa) on the side of the road to the point that I could ride to the next hotel. While there, Jeremy repaired my broken front cowling with zip ties. The next morning we set off with my bike in working order – except for the return of electrical problems that had been plaguing me for most of the trip. They had been temporarily fixed in Gondor, Ethiopia. But from the time I crashed outside of Addis Ababa onwards, the only way to get my engine running was to bump start it. Often I could park it the top of a hill and use gravity to get it going. But Tom and Jeremy did their fair share of pushing my bike, even in the rough rocky roads of northern Kenya. It was finally repaired for good in Nairobi, Kenya.

Above: Video blog in which you will see Jeremy repairing my front fairing and me describing my reaction to my crash after hitting a dog in Ethiopia.

At the time the above video blog was recorded, Jeremy was still having significant knee pain from a crash of his own several weeks before in Egypt. Jeremy would feel the effects his injuries for the remainder of the trip, which we would later discover (months later back in Toronto) included a tibial plateau fracture.

Above: In Egypt, a few hours south of Cairo, Jeremy crashed his motorcycle at highway speed when he hit a speed bump that he had not seen until it was too late. It was covered with a fine layer of sand from the desert and we had just installed new knobbly tires in Cairo. When he reflexively tapped his brakes, it was like trying to brake on a patch of black ice. I was riding behind him. I saw every horrifying moment. I saw Jeremy and his bike go down. Jeremy was thrown from the bike and they both slid separately down the highway for a long distance. Jeremy had impacted his knee on the highway when the bike went down. After the crash, Jeremy was unable to weight-bear and had road-rash on his knee. Tom and I determined that he was not able to ride himself to the nearest town (despite his vehement protests), so we loaded his bike into the back of a pick-up truck and he rode in the cab (while we followed on our bikes) the one hour drive to Beni Suef. We didn’t actually seek medical attention until the next day when Jeremy’s leg swelled up and turned purple. Our medical school minds jumped to the conclusion that it was compartment syndrome. The English-speaking Egyptian doctor laughed at us (rightly), ordered an X-ray (which was normal), and sent us on our way. The whole thing cost $10. We felt bad that we were treated as VIPs and bypassed the people who had been waiting for hours, including a guy bleeding into his gauze covered axe wound. Jeremy would go on to successfully cross the deep sands of the Sahara unable to really put any weight on that leg.

Above: Google map showing the location of the small city Beni Suef, Egypt.

Above: Jeremy on a riverboat tour of the Nile near Luxor, Egypt, en route to visit the Temple of Seti. You can see the ugly bruising that was still evident on Jeremy’s left leg about two weeks after his original crash near Beni Suef. 

On a personal note, I am recovering nicely from my spine surgery, although I did have a minor setback. Two days after my discharge I had increasing pain and discovered that I had developed cellulitis. I have therefore remained in Calgary (instead of going to Lethbridge as originally planned) to keep an eye on my wound. I have been on a 7 day course of antibiotics. It is still red, but the pain is decreasing and it looks way less angry. I have also been persistently anemic. My parents have moved in to my place in Calgary and have been feeding me roast after roast. They don’t want me more than 7 minutes away from the Foothills hospital despite my protests. The pampering is nice, but I am getting restless and tempted to do more than I should. They rightly try to keep me in check. 

Despite the protestations of my parents, I did a full neurological exam on a family member yesterday. My back was killing me by the end, but I was happy to find that I could do everything except the power exam. I still have significant proximal upper limb weakness, especially on the right. I think there has been a slight improvement, but it is difficult to know for sure. However, being able to do an almost complete exam gives me hope that I may be able to still practice Neurology one day.

Above: Yesterday the mercury soared to +9 degrees Celcius here in Calgary after plunging as low as -30 last week (-44 with the wind chill). I took the opportunity to barbecue up some juicy ribeye steaks. This is me devouring one. It didn’t last long. Steak is medically indicated for my anemia, right?

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