Accidents happen

We all know this: accidents happen. It’s part of life.

But in some areas, accidents aren’t okay. So we make systems and safeguards and policies and procedures and checks and balances and we educate to minimise human error. Sometimes, even that isn’t enough.

I know mistakes happen. This week I had my first ever car accident. I’ve had plenty of near misses and close calls in the fourteen years since I got my learner’s permit, but luck has always been on my side. I did have to run off the road once when someone stopped dead in front of me on a 100kmph road…but apart from having a panic attack from a massive surge of adrenaline after I finally pulled the car to a stop in an orchard, there was no harm, no foul!

This week what happened was that my left front tyre slipped on the soft edge of the road made up of leaf litter, and despite me pulling on the steering wheel and braking hard I slid off the road into the shallow ditch and hit the bank on the other side! It was sort of interesting to note that the wheels did turn; once I got out of the car and found that my knee was just bruised, I found that the wheels were in a slightly turned position but obviously I just skidded. Luck was still on my side though: the side of the road, the mini ditch and the wall of the ditch that I ran into were all so soft that there was almost no damage at all, and I wasn’t hurt. In fact when I eventually got off the wall, it was running water; there was practically a river of water running out of it! The unlucky part was that I “crashed” (a dramatic word for sliding off a road at slowish speed) in the back of beyond on a road very infrequently used with no internet or mobile reception and no GPS! Couldn’t call hubby, couldn’t call RACV, couldn’t call work to tell them I was a bit delayed; nothing! I couldn’t message through Viber, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail; nothing! No one could track my phone by GPS. So I had to sit there and wait. And wait. And wait! In the end I had to wait half an hour before the next car came along! Still, it could have been a lot worse.

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Doesn’t look too bad right? Just resting here…

 

I couldn’t leave the car to find better reception, even locked, because I was halfway between picking up a bucket load of drugs and delivering them to my pharmacy! Imagine: I’m a pharmacist in a new job, trusted for the first time with a pick up, and for the first time I have an actual car accident!! Not cool! Someone asked me if I told the boss…um no!! Sure I could get him to pay the repairs, but do I really want to start with that kind of problem two and a half months into my job? Please note this drug/medication transfer was a one-off event; my car is not usually filled with drugs!!

So I sat there. I yelled out loud at the top of my lungs a few times for no one to hear. Just expressing my frustration in a civil, calm manner. I tried slowly reversing back without spinning the wheels but the ground was too wet and the leaf litter was too deep; the front wheels gripped for a millisecond but slipped almost straight away. Pretty sure the back wheels didn’t budge…well of course they didn’t, its front wheel drive; duh!! My years of bumping around our block on the old Fergie tractor have finally come to some kind of use, especially that time I had to back myself out of an actual metre deep ditch! But it had better wheels more suited to this kind of situation; it could practically climb a wall! The leaf litter on the edge was so deep that when I stepped out of the car my foot went right down into it. I tried to push the car back out of the ditch from the drivers seat, I tried to push it from the back seat but it didn’t budge…oh whoops the hand brake is still on! Kind of redundant since I’m resting on a bank. But letting it off didn’t help, and whats that on my foot? EEEEK!!!! Screams at the top of her lungs!! A leech!! SWAT!! Thank goodness that’s gone. Oh no its on the steering wheel!! SWAT!! Now its on a different part of the steering wheel! ARGH this leech is a real sucker!! Who would have thought?! Jumps out of the car out of impulse trying to get away from the huge, enormous, blood sucking monster!! Almost as bad as a spider at close quarters!

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The exact view from my car window…so it wasn’t all bad!

 

 

Oh wait, what’s that?? A 4WD or ute or something big and heavy and revving is coming down the hill! Start waving, start waving!! Yes its a cab ute with 2 men and a towing engine thing on the front and a solid tow rope with a huge hook…oh yes, this is what I’ve been waiting for!! Waving, waving, getting out of the car, please help me!! It occurs to me belatedly…that I am in a deserted part of the world, with no mobile or internet reception, asking 2 men for help in a situation that I can’t help myself out of, and trusting to their good nature. When I was suffering anxiety, I would’ve been hiding in the boot of my car til sundown and my husband realised I was missing and sent out a search party!! Actually no, my boot was full of drugs…well maybe the back seat then. It just shows how far I’ve come, and that really most people you run into are good.

The driver’s reaction when he got out of the ute? “Oops!” Precisely, my good man! But he said he had the same accident on the next corner himself last year, so I felt better. Because of course up until this moment I had naturally assumed that this was the exact kind of idiotic, stupid thing that I always get myself into and no one else would ever do such a dumb thing and wasn’t I a prize numpty?! And that this was yet another episode of me damaging the car, because there have been many! Part of my reasoning for not telling my boss; assuming that I would be embarrassing myself! Not that I actually did anything, I just sat there while I slid in the mud. But I always insist to myself that I’m the one that stuffed up. So these 2 kind men dragged me off the bank backwards with tow ropes, but the back of the car was slipping into the ditch now, so we had to switch to dragging the front up onto the road and the rest of the car followed. Meanwhile whatever hound they had in the compartment on the tray of the ute was howling at me as loudly and as often as it could breathe!! Another piece of luck was going off the road while it was still bituminised; another 500 metres and it turned to packed dirt…pretty sure that would have hindered the towing process. So 45 minutes of my life and I’m back on the same bit of road I was before the accident.

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So I displaced the bank, and a bit of my bumper…not a bad result

As it turns out I shouldn’t have even been on that road! I turned 150 metres too soon, and should have been on Maroondah Highway where this would never have happened. Ahhh. But I definitely got the scenic route, although I probably would’ve been happier swapping a bit of scenery for a car trip with no accident. Only something that would’ve happened to me, or just an unfortunate happening that could happen to anyone? At least I didn’t have to get towed with all those meds on board!!! THAT would have been embarrassing to explain to the boss!

So with all this in mind, I’m still unhappy about an error that occurred today. I got several scripts dispensed at one of the pharmacies I routinely use near my GPs office and one of them was wrong. Not a little bit wrong like the price was out, or I was given the wrong quantity. I was given the wrong strength of lithium, 450mg instead of 250mg making it an overdose, and it was the slow release formulation instead of immediate release meaning it would hang around in my system longer after the overdose, and it had the usual twice daily directions that apply to the 250mg strength instead of daily which is how the 450mg slow release should be taken so the level of lithium in my system would accumulate quickly. My lithium level is already at the upper limit of okay, and my psychiatrist is thinking of reducing my dose; this would have found me in hospital within 3 days!!! It’s that serious, and potentially worse.

But I’m conflicted.

As a patient I’m outraged and think the pharmacist should be reported for this very serious error, that fortunately didn’t eventuate because I picked it up before taking it. I think that there should be some consequences for not taking the proper amount of care.

As a pharmacist I know how terrible I would feel if this were my error, but I also know that lithium is one of those medications that you should take extra care and attention with when dispensing. The error occurred because the pharmacist entered the wrong medication when typing, and so the scanning check wouldn’t pick this up. But there would have been a message saying that I previously had a different strength, which was ignored. And my history must not have been reviewed before dispensing, despite it popping up and having to be entered through before you can type in anything. Two checks ignored, besides the obvious check of visually comparing what is written on the script with what is typed before printing!! That’s three checks ignored. I’m not sure the the pharmacy board would see any reason for skipping any of these checks, especially as there were only two patients in the store at the time.

So this is my big beef with pharmacy at the moment, both in my workplace and in the pharmacies where I get my scripts dispensed. There IS a proper way to do pharmacy, and it’s not being done! For reasons which are specious and inadequate, and I believe, unacceptable! I miss hospital pharmacy for this reason: maybe we take more time but we do things as properly as we can, no shortcuts or conveniences. Of course the pharmacist felt terrible, its a natural reaction. But will it change her future practice? Will she do things properly next time? I really don’t want to report her, mostly out of colleague empathy. But is it something I should do, for the improvement of the profession? I probably won’t, but it’s still all milling around in my mind.

What’s an accident, and what’s an error? What’s okay and what’s not? Should I be pointing fingers when I make my own mistakes? I don’t know. What do you think?

Canberra Day Thirty Four

[Friday 14th October 2016]

Today was a great day! Not every moment, but wouldn’t that be asking a bit much in ordinary situations? But the not-so-great moments got turned around to become something good so all in all I’m stoked. I really enjoyed myself today! It started with a plan of what to do for the day. The last couple of days have been less than productive, which I don’t enjoy, and after all its day 34; time is cracking along! More than a month already, can you believe it? On days where I wake up and don’t have a plan for the day, they tend to be the days that I roll over and go back to sleep, because why not, and drift aimlessly through to early afternoon before making up my mind about what to do then having to rush about to do it, or missing the chance. So I decided Thursday night that before I went to bed I was making a plan, and when morning came I was sticking to it. The plan that Chester and I came up with was to wake up, get dressed in my cycling gear and ride my bike down to one of the streets in our new suburb that has a lot of eateries. I would go to Eighty Twenty café that hubby recommended and have breakfast, then check out the bike path that runs along Sullivan’s Creek, somewhere that I’d seen and wanted to check out, and that hubby has ridden part of, I think. And I did! Add in the bonus of remembering to call at the bike shop and get a bracket so I can attach my mobile phone to my handlebars for GPS on the go. Minus not actually navigating my way successfully to Sullivan’s Creek after my phone went flat and rendered my new bracket moot!! I haven’t really got my directions at this new place, and all the through roads around here have bends in them! What a crazy situation! So you just think you’ve gotten your bearings and the road take a 45 degree bend! Now where are you? But in the process I was in sensory heaven soaking up the lush green budding and leafy trees forming avenues over the roads, and the beautiful flowering gardens in all colours with some trees still blossoming, and well-kept front areas of houses in our neighbourhood, and probably the bordering suburbs as well; not really sure where I went! Eventually I hit Anzac Avenue which was somewhere well in the wrong direction from where I was meant to be, then my phone died, so I had a lovely meandering time trying to figure out how to get home! It was actually just so nice to dawdle around checking out the gardens and lawns, and taking detours wherever I wanted. Luckily I’d picked up some names of street nearby to ours already…remembering this is day 3 living in this new place!

I got home and felt like I could go for more so I did another street and luckily came around the block back again. All up about 9km but just a good amount to get going again. I haven’t ridden for a couple of weeks with rain, then wind, then pervasive disinterest! So it was good to feel like I can still do it, and still get that nice little spike of feel good from rolling around the suburbs on my bike. Plus the weather just turned any outdoor activity into sheer bliss! 20 degrees, chill breeze, blue skies making for great biking. That ride set me up for the rest of the day. Everything else good that happened after felt like it happened because of the ride.

I mentioned breakfast was at Eighty Twenty in Braddon on Lonsdale Street. Quite lovely, but I found the menu a bit challenging; not your standard egg and bacon! More your quinoa, nuts, almond milk, home baked granola type place, but in the end I did have their smashed avocado on toast with 2 eggs and 3 bits of asparagus on top and peas and feta around the plate. It was delicious actually, I’d have it again for sure. Just to show you can have eat-out breakfast without bacon! Sitting in the sun with my bike next to me did fill me with some feelings of accomplishment. Here I’d planned this thing that I’d been putting off really for the last week or two, and I was doing it! I can follow through. I’m not a wash out, a failure, useless. I can do it, and the proof is that I did do it! So nothing to stop me next time, hey? Except carrying my bike down the stairs from our level one apartment; that’s not an easy feat! I guess practice makes perfect.

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SO what else to do on a sunshiny day but tackle something I’ve been wanting to do: check out the Mount Ainslie lookout. I went once before you might remember but it was in a cloud and you couldn’t see a single thing! Today you could see forever or to the beautiful blue hills that border Canberra. Blue skies, sunshine, and the view is spectacular! Always worth the short drive up. I went planning on getting view photos only, but thought I’d walk along a short track back from the lookout itself, heard a bird and it was an hour and a half later when I looked up! Only two rows of trees, one on either side of me, one tree deep, but I got some spectacular birds! Great photos and extended views of a bird I’ve only seen once and got one muffled shot of that first time, a lifer in a Little Eagle soaring above (that was exciting, never forget to look up!), and other interesting birds being very conducive to photos! And I didn’t even have to try, they were all just there, going about their business. The best way to watch birds!

Went home for a nap, but was too excited to look at the photos from the morning. That was a task well worth doing because I found there were 2 different species of bird that I’d photographed but hadn’t realized what they were! Two more for the morning’s list! I knew they were something different but they were too far away; luckily my camera brings them closer J

It was all too exciting, so after a couple of hours I headed back to find the actual trail. Not the Kokoda trail near the lookout; that’s for mountain goats! So I headed down the hill looking for a trail. Not the old tip trail, it’s too rough and large gravel and steep; I’d do an ankle! Not the next one down; its appears to go into the shooting range from the back! So it turns out that the trail I did way back last year when we were here for our hosts wedding was the best one, and the one I should be doing. They need to make a brochure like they have for Black Mountain; it would save a lot of precious birding time, wandering all around everywhere. The first half of the walk was in the wrong direction really, but because there weren’t many/any birds other than the pesky Noisy Miners (!) I kept up a bit of pace and did a pretty nice 2km walk before (re) finding the best spot. So I had my eyes open to other things: rabbits, kangaroos, a cute echidna! And everlasting daisies, tons of them! They are all just about to open the buds; I’ve made a date to go back next week and check it out.

Two successes of my later birding walk were walking alone in the bush (although I have been building a tolerance to this with lots of walks lately, this one was a bit more removed from carparks and passersby) and walking alone in the bush at dusk approaching dark. My recent anxiety flare up has brought these closer to the front of my mind again which is a pest! I’d squashed them down nicely for quite a while. I’ve always been terrified of the monsters in the dark. We had an outside toilet as kids and whatever age I was I’d still wake one of my parents to go with me. But it didn’t stop me having to bite the bullet of the adrenaline rush that was running from the back door to the toilet door in the direct and utterly exposed lie of fire of those who waited at 2am on the other side of the green mesh wall to gun me down for some unapparent reason!! I was always terrified of gun men, and kidnappers, and rapists. I still am to a degree, but I’m more rational in questioning the reason: a) why anyone would want to shoot me, b) why they would wait in the cold all night right there near the toilet in case I needed to go to the toilet, c) how they would know the layout of our house and toilet, d) why they would shoot a child with a shot gun (the only gun I knew, and so assumed they had) and so on. If you start thinking like this it does all start to crumble, but you have to make that conscious switch to think like that, which is indeed the challenge. Anyhow, you’ll be pleased to hear that no thugs or bandits were crouched behind tree stumps in an enormous area populated by a whole 2 walkers waiting to loot us and so on. I returned to my car, by this time practically in the dark, unharmed, and with only a little adrenaline coursing through my veins. And so concluded my happy day! Exercise, the beautiful outdoors, challenging myself to eat outside my comfort zone, finding my way around new suburbs unaided, beauty and birds to be photographed; how lucky am I? A low key dinner and sitting on the couch to end a wonderful day.