The Kindness of Strangers, Part II

Yesterday morning, walking back from tennis on Mexico City’s uneven streets, I saw a dog crossing the street just as a taxi accelerated. Fearing a collision, I impulsively put my hands over my eyes. At that very moment, the pavement suddenly dipped and down I crashed. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as I twisted this way and that trying to regain my balance. As I fell I heard snapping sounds that made me think: “There goes my trip to Taxco” and “there goes tennis”. I landed on my back, my rucksack breaking my fall, but with excruciating pain shooting up and down my right leg. I must have screamed as I hit the ground. I was dimly aware of people rushing towards me. I saw stars and lay there not wanting to move. Suddenly I saw faces hovering over mine and someone started trying to lift me up. I managed to groan a “no!” New faces appeared and suddenly a young woman in a white lab coat knelt beside me gabbling away in Spanish, of which I could understand little. She gently felt my leg, still poised in mid-air, and gradually massaged it so that it released and lay flat.

An old woman appeared at the gate of the house where I had fallen. She looked cross at finding this mangled heap outside her home and wanted to know what was going on. Eventually, she softened and brought a blanket and cushion. For a long while I lay there, really not wanting to move. The woman next to me gradually coaxed me into an upright position, with the help of two men who had been watching from the other side of the road. I managed to dial Jaime’s number and gave her the phone to explain what had happened as I could barely talk. The woman told me that she was a student doctor, on her way back home from University. She lived in the green house opposite. Lucky for me. She started gently massaging my joints and instructed her younger sister - who had just arrived on the scene - to fetch ice. She stayed with me the whole time, together with her sister and the granddaughter of the old lady, who spoke a little English and was eager to know what I thought of Harry Potter! The talk distracted me from my pain as I lay in the street for almost an hour.

Jaime eventually arrived in a taxi and I was lifted inside. We thanked everyone profusely, but it was only when we were half way to the hospital that I realised that I did not know the names of my three guardian angels. I had ascertained that one was a student doctor, her sister wanted to be a lawyer and the young girl was a Harry Potter fan, with two dogs named Rocky and Cayote. Nothing else.

They saw me immediately in Emergency and took all the relevant x-rays. Satisfied that there were no broken bones, I was discharged two hours later with pain killers, muscle relaxant and £250 lighter. A public hospital would not have seen me unless my condition had been life-threatening; in Mexico if you want the sort of treatment we take for granted on the NHS you have to go private. These hospitals are pristine and, from my limited experience, the care is wonderful. This particular hospital is like a hotel (I stayed overnight on a previous visit) and actually shares a restaurant with the luxury Camino Real! Rather than calling an ambulance, taxis are by far the cheaper and more reliable option; however sick you are. Thankfully I have travel insurance so most of my diagnosis and treatment should be covered. I am under strict instructions not to exercise for at least a week. I can barely walk, so this comes as no surprise.

Although I do not know the girls’ names, I know where they live. So the first thing I shall do when I am walking again is to take them baskets of fruit to thank them for their kindness. If they are the future for Mexico, and I believe they are, then the future is indeed bright.

Last month, in London, I tripped and fell on the street. Not one person offered me help.