Dec 01, 2008 News
By Michael Jordan
The pain in her legs and hips is excruciating; but, for- Guyana Times reporter Ravina Gildharie, the nightmares and the memories are much worse.
A heavy object dropped on the floor can bring the memories back with terrifying clarity. A vehicle driving by in the city can leave her trembling.
And even without these things, the memories of blood, screams and crushing metal can still jump out at her unawares.
“I was conscious through it all,” recalls Ravina, who remains bedridden with broken hips after surviving last October’s accident at Ituni, which claimed the life of her colleague, NCN reporter Akila Jacobs.
“I remember terrible scenes. I remember seeing the driver’s blood on the left side of my face.
“Every day, I try not to think of it. Every time somebody drops something, I relive the moment. I think it will be with me for the rest of my life.”
As a journalist who had developed a cynicism synonymous with the profession, Ravina now understands the agony of being on the other side of a news story, the victim rather than the observer.
On October 18 last, Ravina and other media personnel made a fateful trip by bus to Ituni to cover an assignment for the GT&T.
On the return journey, Ravina sat in the front seat next to the driver.
But her close friend, NCN reporter Akila Jacobs, begged to switch seats, since she, Akila, was unwell.
“I said ‘no’ but then eventually agreed.”
Ravina then occupied the seat behind the driver, 60-year-old Terrence Tappin.
Everything was fine until they reached Amelia’s Ward, Linden.
It was then that the bus driver lost control and slammed into the back of a truck.
Jacobs and Tappin bore the brunt of the impact. Tappin died almost instantly, while Jacobs, 23, succumbed as she was being rushed to the city by ambulance.
Serena Knights, a supervisor at GT&T’s Linden branch, NCN camera operator June Ann Amsterdam, and NCN cameraman Mohammed Nazim were also injured.
Ravina recalled that she was sitting with her feet up. The impact pushed the driver’s seat back towards her, crushing the bones in her hips.
At first, there was no pain.
“There was a loud impact, a horrible noise that I can’t get out of my head.”
“There was no pain, but I couldn’t breathe. My knees were pinned to my chest. I thought that I was fine, so I tried to move my feet, and then I felt the pain. I started yelling for people to pull me out.”
Conscious but pinned in her seat, Ravina had a close-up view of the horror in front of her.
“I could see the driver a few inches from me. His head was thrown back and full of blood. I knew that he had to be dead, because I could feel his blood on my face.”
“Akila was slumped in her seat. Her right hand was outstretched, but I could not see her face. I started screaming, “Somebody help me…Akila get up! People were at the scene but they did not know how to get us out.”
“Eventually, somebody ripped out my seat and hauled me out and put me to sit on the ground, but I kept falling down.
“I heard somebody say: ‘The driver done dead, doan worry wid he; the girl still alive. A man took me to a car and then gave me a cell phone for me to call my relatives.”
She was taken to the Mackenzie Hospital, where, in the treatment room, she finally saw Akila’s true state.
“The doctors were trying to stabalise her… she was still breathing when we left for Georgetown.”
Once at the GPHC, Ravina was X-rayed, and this revealed that her left hip was fractured.
Hospital staffers applied a local anaesthetic to her left leg and then drilled a steel pin through the limb, just above the knee. They would later discover that the other hip was also broken and drill another steel pin through the right leg as well.
She was then admitted to the institution, and learned the following day that the friend with whom she had exchanged seats had died.
“I couldn’t believe it. I remember she was telling me about her daughter (during the trip) and about getting married next year.”
Ravina, however, had her own agony to deal with.
To pull the hip bones back in place, doctors had attached weights to the steel pins in her legs. She spent four weeks in hospital, and the pain was almost unbearable.
“It was hell. It was torture. Then my hands
became swollen and black and blue, while the back of my head was swollen.”
And she was tormented by memories of the accident.
After four weeks, she eventually left the hospital, but the journey home by car was also an emotional ordeal.
“They put me in the back seat, and that was the first time since the accident that I sat up. Coming down Church Street, hearing the vehicle and the noises brought out in me a fear that I did not know that I had.”
She says that the memories are most intense on Saturday evenings, since it was at around that time that the crash occurred.
“I pray a lot. I try not to think of it. People say not to think of it, but how can you not think of it? Every time I look at myself (and see my injuries) I remember. I can’t do anything for myself; my mom has to bathe me.”
If there is one positive thing that has come out of the ordeal, it is that Ravina now has a greater appreciation for the trauma accident survivors endure, and the sense of loss their families feel.
“I’ve travelled all over the country, but I never thought that this could happen to me, to us. This is not the kind of thing that happens to us journalists.”
“We go and cover assignments and forget people. I remember going and talking to relatives (of victims) but never wondered what they were going through. We just say ‘another one dead or two dead’. It awoke awareness in me that this could happen to anyone.”
And Ravina is also aware that, despite her injuries, she is extremely fortunate to have survived.
“I will spend Christmas in bed. But every day I thank God for being alive. That’s what helps me through the day. People tell me that my life was spared for a purpose.”
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