Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
We were on a day trip with a bunch of middle aged to elderly people to Ensenada. My friend Kathy and I had gotten up early on a Saturday morning and headed for the Elks Lodge in Campo where the bus would pick us up and deliver us back after the tour. Highlights of the days schedule included the border fence, the Tijuana bull ring, a lookout that sat on a cliff above the pacific, 2 hours of free time for shopping in Ensenada, and a lunch. Beer at additional charge. A young Australian girl, married to a marine who was deployed overseas was sitting behind us on the bus and asked if she could hang out with us for the day.
When we finally arrived in Ensenada, we quickly headed down the main street towards Hussong's, a place we had haunted every holiday weekend almost 30 years ago. As the three of us chattered away and walked our eyes were also scanning the shops we passed for hidden treasures, making mental notes so we could shop efficiently if the cocktails got the better of us. We only had two hours till lunch after all.
It was ten o’clock in the morning on a gorgeous day. You could feel the moisture from the harbor and the slightly metallic smell of fresh fish from the market just a few blocks away. Vendors were still setting up the street, and the hawkers were ready to pull you into the girlie bars or the discos or to talk you into getting your picture taken wearing a giant gaudy sombrero on a Tijuana zebra- a burro painted with stripes.
We were laughing at a story, when I went down. Sidewalks in Baja have always been a hazard, but I’d forgotten that in the excitement of the moment. A piece of plywood had been placed over a utility housing box that was missing its lid, and I had inadvertently kicked it out of place. My other foot landed hard in a void that was at least 12 inches deep. I felt something sharp pierce my calf just to the left of the bone, below my knee. My body collapsed on the sidewalk, and it seemed like dozens of people circled around me at the same time. I saw stars, yes, I found out that you really do see stars when your body is going into shock. Everything got really quiet and light.
Then I heard them. The cruise ship tourists had come into port and were standing in a circle on the sidewalk around the spot where I lay. It’s broken, one guy said, she’s going to have to get a cast, I played sports I know what that looks like” “That’s scary looking, I don’t know if you should let them take you to a clinic here, if I were you I’d take a cab back to the border and go to the emergency room” “Ohhh that’s gross, is he going to pop it?”
A taxi driver jumped out of his cab and helped me up and into a chair being dragged over from one of the street vendor’s tables by a tiny withered old woman with a long braid. I saw my friends looking pale and scared, and heard new arrivals expressing their opinions about what I should do as someone called an ambulance.
I motioned to my friends and told them to go back to our group and let them know I would find my own way back across the border. Kathy insisted on staying with me, so we compromised by sending the Aussie girl back to the bus.
The ambulance arrived seconds later. I remember a young guy in a uniform taking my pulse, and then telling me he was going to bandage it up and they were taking me to the Red Cross clinic. Since he didn’t speak English, someone in the crowd was doing the translating. I was scared, but still in shock and unable to make sense of any of this. They loaded me into the ambulance and we drove off.
We had intentionally not brought credit cards and not much cash with us so that we wouldn't overspend. I remember wondering how in the world I was going to pay for medical care and an ambulance, but I was in no position to question anything. When we arrived, they took me in the emergency entrance and told my friend to go to the patient entrance. No one spoke English. We were way off the main street of Ensenada and had no idea which direction we had gone.
I was lying in a room inside the clinic wondering what was going to happen. By this time the area around the puncture had swelled up to the size of a tennis ball. I didn’t know what to think. Within a few minutes one of the workers brought an old man into the room, who sat down on a stool next to my bed. He said I speak a little English I am a volunteer so I will stay with you until the doctor comes.