It is 2 AM as I am on my way back from a travel assignment, sleeping at the back seat of the car. Suddenly, I can feel the front seats’ back with my body. I wake up when my father steps on the break and steers left. The motion slows down when I raise my head to see what is happening. We drive past an entirely flipped huge vehicle. My brain can’t process this reality, I feel like I am watching a movie that is played on an infinite screen. ‘Stop,’ I shout. ‘We have to go back and help!’
We are the first people to witness the accident. I rush out of the car when my parents stop me, ‘Call 112 first!’ I dial the number with shaky fingers. The scene fast-forwards, small pieces fly my way as cars pass by. I realize the danger but I have to help, it is an instinct I can’t ignore. The woman who is on the other side of the phone asks me too many questions – where exactly on the highway are we, is the driver alive, which country is the truck coming from. I have no idea but I promise to check. The motion slows down again. I go around the tilted truck, quickly passing through the fast lane and praying that no one else crashes here. I can see that the other side of the big machine is smashed. Imagining there is a person inside makes me lose control over the situation. The truck makes puffing sounds, its engine is still on. It looks like a sighing ghost. I can see fluid leaking from it, probably fuel. The woman on the others side of the phone keeps asking her questions – how big it is, do we need a bigger machine to remove the vehicle. I start to stutter and she gets it that it is time to stop digging.
The opposite lane is lit by all the cars and trucks that stop to signal other drivers and avoid more fatal incidents. Then I see another smashed vehicle, a black car, or whatever is left of it. The film’s motion reverts to normal, it is me who freezes. I see a person inside. ‘Hey! Hey! Are you alive?’ I run to help. All four passengers inside the car are alive. Three of them go out to help the person inside the truck and I decide to stay with the car driver who seems confused, although he still remembers his name when I ask him. I advise him to sit down as he doesn’t seem adequate. After making sure he is safe, I join my father and the group that gathers to find the cabin and the man inside. My imagination paints a picture of the crushed body that is inside. We can’t even see where the cabin is. I feel like an ant that wants to lift a brick. The only thing I can do now is hope for a miracle for this person.
I had co-organized a blood donation campaign and it was happening in few hours. But I didn’t sign up to be a donor as giving blood makes me weak for at least a month after that, even when all prior medical tests are fine. But seeing this giant metal coffin on the highway made me reevaluate my situation as if it is a sign. I am blessed with perfect health. Feeling bad for a month is nothing compared to saving up to 4 lives. In this moment, I appreciate all the things I have but don’t posses – strong mind and body, life in a peaceful country, loving family and friends, the most amazing job in the world, education and lots of travel opportunities. I travel, I write, I meet people, I take pictures and this is what makes me happy. But traveling has its hazards. Accidents happen as we go. In some countries like Bulgaria, they occur way too often. I don’t know if the person inside the truck is still alive or if he had a companion with him. I can’t do anything now. But when the morning comes, I can go and give something that can make a difference for a stranger in a similar situation. Most of the voluntarily donated blood is used in emergencies, such as road accidents or blood loss when giving birth. Enjoying what I do and keeping that to myself would make me a meaningless, selfish being who doesn’t add any value to the world. I can’t fall asleep when I finally arrive home. I wait for the sun to rise and rush through the door.
‘Sign me up. I’m donating today.’ I promise myself not to look when the needle gets inside my vain. I might peek at the bank as it fills with blood. I will sleep more and eat plenty of chocolate after the procedure. But I won’t give up on the idea to overcome my fears. My body will replace the blood in 24 hours. But these 400 ml could mean everything for someone. I don’t care where or to whom it goes. I just hope it arrives fast, wherever it is needed.
Unfortunately, the next day after the crash I learn from the news that the 48-year old truck driver and his travel companion had experienced sudden death. May their souls rest in peace and let their death remind us to appreciate what we have and what we can give. Whether it is first aid, blood, clothes, some food or just a helping hand, our small actions can make a big difference.
With thanks to Bulgarian Organization of Voluntary Blood Donation.
Featured photo: public domain by Yanko Peyanko.