On this day 10 years ago (July 31, 2003), I was in Victoria, BC, living in a great, one-bedroom apartment on McKenzie Avenue (on the corner of McKenzie and Shelbourne), not far from, and an easy walk to, the University of Victoria – which I was attending to do my Master’s in Public Administration. I had a class that afternoon. A lot of my classes were three hours and I think this one started at four o’clock, ending at seven. It was a hot and dry summer in B.C, the mainland interior of which was dealing with copious, tremendously hot forest fires. Vancouver Island was no different, and while most of the fires on the island were farther north, Victoria has a lot of trees and wooded areas, and a forested area, next to a lake in Victoria (well, Saanich I guess) had caught fire. I went back to my apartment and ordered a pizza – Not that there was anything so amazing about this pizza that made me remember that dinner, but my parents found its remains in the pizza box in my oven when they got to Victoria. Then I probably read, watched TV and looked for where I might live in Ottawa when I moved there in a few weeks for my co-op work term with the Auditor General of Canada. I went to bed listening to the radio and any news about that forest fire. That fire was in the forested park of Thetis Lake. That lake was where my early Friday morning swim practice was. They hadn’t announced that the park was closed yet, but when I went to sleep, it was more or less assumed.
Nevertheless, the next morning my alarm went off at 5:45 or 6am or something like that, I got out of bed, turned on the radio again and got ready for my bike ride to swim practice (about a 20 minute ride). I think the President of our triathlon club called to make sure I knew that swim practice was cancelled. I then called John, who I assumed would be up getting ready for the same practice, and talked about what time we would be going on our usual Friday bike ride. I must’ve gone back to bed after that and got up in time to bike to the nearby Starbucks to meet John. We then biked to a gas station where we picked up Dawn (and maybe her twin, Tanya), turned down the road to pick up Alain, then headed onto one of the phenomenal Victoria bike paths. We took that out to Victoria General Hospital (I guess in act of cruel or ironic serendipity), turned off the path and headed out on a new route. Going down a hill, the road made a fairly hard right turn. It’s by no means a sudden turn and I had time to prepare for it. I went into it quickly, trying to take it wide, maintain my speed, and cut the corner. Other traffic didn’t come into my calculations, and I had to swerve, or change my line, to avoid a cyclist coming up the hill. Interesting, as I think about it. That little change of course in my ride, ultimately resulted in a huge change of course in my life. Anyway, that caused me to skid (I’ve still got a small road rash scar on right arm), fly off my bike, slamming my head (and helmet!) into a tree.
The next thing I remember was being wheeled, in a wheelchair, by my dad to a small waiting area overlooking a forest. No that’s not it! I remember Ian, Aureleo, Roy, and I watching Family Guy on a laptop in my hospital room. No that’s not it either! I remember looking at a surfing magazine, again in a hospital bed. Still not it! I remember being lifted out of my bed by some machine or something, and being placed in a wheelchair. That’s still not right. Truth be told, I don’t know what the “next” thing I remember was. Those things, and more, happened, but I couldn’t tell you the order. It was definitely at least two weeks later, because I was in a coma until then, but the chronological order of events is a mystery. For seven months (from January-July 31), I was awake, conscious, and enjoying Victoria. For the last month I was often sleep, barely conscious or unconscious, and frankly, didn’t know if I was enjoying or disliking anything.
That was 10 years ago, and that’s why I write this blog. Do I wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t gone on that ride that day? No. It’s just one thing that happened in my life.