Mere shadows of ourselves

Sometimes accidents happen unexpectedly. It’s at moments like these that I truly appreciate the life I have. While in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo with my cousin Mara, her husband Enrique, and their children Daniel and Rebeca, we were enjoying ourselves until Becky was involved in a swimming accident with a boat’s outboard motor. We were there for a whole week. The accident became our reference point. Before Becky’s accident and after Becky’s accident. Everything happened so quickly!

We were sightseeing like typical tourists. We were having a lot of fun. We liked to talk and joke about whatever we were doing. As we walked down the main street, people were trying to sell us trips to beaches where we could snorkel, swim with dolphins, see alligators, and swim on the beach. We eventually found a good deal and went to Ixtapa Island where we snorkeled and then went to swim and tan at the beach. I was in the water a short while–I’m not much of a water person–and then went to talk to my cousin Mara while Enrique, Becky, and Daniel continued swimming. Becky had actually swum competitively so she was really swimming, unlike me who merely dog paddled awhile. I watched her swim and envied her swimming skills. How I wished I could swim like her.

Mara was asking me why I had come out of the water so soon and I told her that I been in the water long enough. We talked awhile when suddenly I heard some yelling in the water. I walked toward the water where I saw some people near a boat with an outboard motor. I could hear a female voice screaming for help, but I could barely see her head. A few men swam toward her to help her. She appeared to be caught up in the propeller of the outboard motor. One of the men asked for a knife–I assumed so he could cut of her clothing. One woman who was lying on the beach swam toward the boat yelling, “I’m a doctor!” Another woman went to the jet ski stand and told the man to call an ambulance on his cell phone. When they finally released the woman from the boat, I saw that it was Becky! She was holding the propeller against her abdomen, so I thought it was embedded into her body. She had blood on her shirt and I could see a gash on her arm. But she was walking with the help of her father who helped steady her as she walked. The doctor tried to stop the bleeding as Becky walked to another outboard boat that took her and her father to the ambulance.

Our tour guide told Mara, Daniel, and me to get all our things. He would take us to the hospital. When we finally got to the hospital, we learned that Becky had been slashed by the propeller on the wrist, abdomen, and leg. She didn’t have any life threatening injuries. A woman who looked vaguely familiar approached at the hospital and told us she was from the resort where the accident occurred. She had seen everything and she had witnesses, too. She explained that Becky had been swimming in the area where swimming was prohibited because of boat traffic. Becky was swimming underwater when the boat operator started up the boat. He then started moving slowly when he heard a thump near the front of the boat. He shut off the engine immediately, but the propeller kept spinning. He never saw Becky swimming. When he heard her screaming, he tried to free her from the propeller. Others then came to help her. The woman then explained that their company would pay all of Becky’s medical expenses if we agreed not to sue. I said that I was merely a cousin and that she should explain all this to Enrique, Becky’s father. But the woman insisted that I sign. I refused because I’m not familiar with Mexican law. I didn’t want to jeopardize anything to which they were entitled. The woman became more assertive, but I continued to refuse to sign.

I watched as she later tried to convince Enrique to write a statement that he agreed to her terms and sign it. He thought about it long and hard. I pulled him aside with Mara and he explained the situation to us. Yes, he could sue, but in Mexico it would take about eight years to settle the lawsuit and chances were slim to none that they would win any settlement, particularly since there were witnesses who had seen Becky swimming in the no swimming zone. Eventually, he agreed to their terms and they did reimburse him with cash for the medical expenses. They even sent a doctor to the hotel room to visit Becky.

After the accident, we were all shaken up. We were mere shadows of our former selves. Becky had to stay in bed the rest of the vacation. Driving in the car caused Becky great pain. We had to drive ten miles the next day to see a doctor to give her a tetanus shot because they didn’t have one at the hospital. That ride was extremely torturous for Becky because of all the bumps. We had to return in three days and we wondered how we would drive Becky home if every little bump caused her so much pain. Finally, Enrique announced that she would fly home with her mother. One of Becky’s friends would take her home from the airport.

However, we were all grateful that Becky was still alive! She was extremely lucky to be alive!