Sep 14, 2010
"As I drove round the bend, a horse trotted across the road," Dr J said as he started eating the nuts and melon seeds. We were attending the wake of my god-daughter who had a car accident on Sep 3, 2010. He wanted to attend the wake and phoned me. My god-daughter had worked in his veterinary surgery for around one year before embarking on a second degree to become a veterinarian. She had worked as an intern in his practice around 2 months ago. She was 5 weeks before graduation and a car accident happened.
"What happened to the horse?" I asked. Kangaroos and deer do cross the road suddenly in Australia causing car accidents. I recalled an incident when a deer crossed the road suddenly in Scotland where I had studied veterinary medicine but the vet braked in time. This was the first time I heard about a horse.
"The horse slid up my car bonnet and smashed the wind screen," Dr J said. "You know that the bonnet usually has a curved front. After the accident, the bonnet was as flat as a pancake. The bonnet then sprung upwards."
"So what happened to the horse?" I was glad he lived to tell the tale. A draught horse would weigh over 600 kg. I imagined that the huge body of the horse would have killed Dr J if he had driven the usual small car.
"The horse had to be put down later," Dr J said. "My face was pock-marked with glass shards. The doctor had to extract the pieces. When Nellie (a vet student in the 3rd year while Dr J was in the 5th year in Queensland University in the 1960s) saw my face, she burst out laughing."
"What make of car were you driviing?" I was surprised that he did not suffer more serious injuries.
"A Holden" Dr J said. "A big solid car which is common in Australia but too expensive to be sold in Singapore". This explained why he was not killed in the accident as it seemed that the impact sent the horse's side body shooting towards him crashing into the windscreen. In Australia, the minimum speed for expressway is said to be 100 km/hr unlike lower speed in Singapore. So, drink-driving daccidents are common every weekend such that the trauma nurses in the Perth's hospital know exactly what to do when the helicopter flies in the accident victims.
"These trauma nurses would literally run towards the helipad when the announcement was made of the arrival of the helicopter," my god-daughter's mum told me when I visited her yesterday to comfort her. She had been hospitalised in Perth's major trauma hospital before her return to Singapore. "Is it like the TV show 'ER'" I had asked her. "Yes, very much like that."
As for Dr J, he was fortunate to be alive today as he had driven a big car. The car was around 8 years old but it protected him as it had a longer bonnet than the usual Japanese car.
"Did you get compensation?" I asked Dr J. "The laws said that in this accident, nobody is at fault. Nobody gets compensation. It was around 3 months before the final year examination. I had to go to various farms to do internship. So, I rushed to buy another car."
"Why would a horse be wandering around at 9 pm?" I asked Dr J.
"The farmer said that his horse had escaped." This was plausible. "When you are young, you tend to take risks. I was driving a motorcycle everywhere in Brisbane and up and down the expressways as a student."
"A young man thinks that he is invincible." I remarked. The testosterone surge in young men in their early 20s had led to a large number of fatal accidents in Singapore and all over the world. When I was a young man, I tested my Mini-Clubman on the Malaysian expressways, overtaking big lorries as much as possible driving from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur at night. I sped till the Clubman rattled at 120 mph and I thought it would split open. Fortunately the Clubman returned to normal status when I slowed down or I would not have lived to write this story.
As for Dr J, he went to Brisbane recently. "I looked at the GPS navigation system as I drove," he said to me. I had to hold the handset close to see the map and to drive as well. There is no need to check the map anymore."
Fortunately he lived again as this is a very risky way of driving in Australia. The country side roads are full of gravel and some expressways have pot-holes. "Drink-drivers are common," Dr J said to me. "You may need to be alert as they may hit you even though you are careful. As the expressway is long, you can fall asleep while driving."