My very good friend who we will call Sam from home came to visit. He was armed with gifts of CD’s and butterfingers and peanut butter M&Ms (only my favourite ever sweet fresh from the USA!) We quickly got into the Ouzo drinking, had some local cuisine then ventured out to the bars, many of which had buy one get one free offers on. We quickly got into the taste of red vodka and redbull and within a few hours were very drunk and dancing our bums off in one of the local clubs. Eventually we decided to call it a night and stopped off at the all night bakery to sample some yummy spinach and cheese pies. I mentioned the great rooftop I have and how you get a lovely view at night so we went up there to enjoy our supper.
The stars were out and it was indeed an incredible view to end a good night on and I really wish this was where we then trod off to bed, but it was not to be. We were both alchohol fuelled. I cant remember how it all come about but Sam ended up walking onto a glassed section of the roof to get a better view. It was dark and we were perhaps initially unaware of the surface.What happened next I will remember for the rest of my life.
Suddenly I heard a crack and shouted over to him to come off it, he walked towards me but the glass gave way and he fell through. It was like the scene from a movie, I screamed and instantly started running down the stairs shouting his name, I thought he must have landed in one of the rooms the floor below but no one came out so I continued to run down the stairs, dreading what I was going to be faced with. Finally I started to hear him groggily; I finally reached him as a group of Irish friends who lived on the ground floor had also come out to see what all the noise was. He had fallen seven stories through a lift shaft. One of the guys I knew climbed in a window to sit with him and another went to get help. I was stunned, speechless and could only watch it all. He had dragged a water pipe on his way down so the place was a mess but his head was bleeding heavily and a leg bone had burst straight through his skin. Time was running in slow motion but I knew we needed help so after what seemed like a long wait with no help I got the power to run out into the road and luckily someone we knew stopped, I begged for help and he came to assist.
Next thing I remember was the ambulance arriving and the medics looking lost like they’d no clue how to get him out, it was frustrating and I remember someone shouting for them to hurry up. Finally Sam was placed on a stretcher and I followed him into the ambulance and we were on route to the hospital. Suddenly I believe he became unconscious and then the medics looked worried and started speaking very loudly to each other in Greek. Suddenly the defibrillator appeared whilst they tried to resuscitate him, I could not believe this was happening. Then he opened his eyes, he was back in the land of living. I told myself then to keep talking through this never ending journey to the hospital.
On arrival we were rushed around floors for his various injuries to be seen to, worried I would lose him in this enormous hospital I clung to his bed. Sam was saying he really needed to wee and the doctor was saying he could not and being very abrupt with him, annoyed with how he was being treated I told him to wee on her. He laughed then and for a second I could forget where we were and what was happening. We were just two drunk friends talking nonsense.
When he was taken for an MIR scan I was told to wait outside the room. I sat on a plastic chair with cocktail sticks in my hair and bawled my heart out, the events of the past few hours were just too much to take in and I had no clue how this would end.
As night turned into day the hospital became incredibly busy and I was now sitting on a cold tiled floor in a packed waiting room. The Greeks are incredibly family orientated and the large groups only emphasised the fact that I was alone, had no mobile, no money with me and was miles away from where I was living with no news on my close friend. Time passed incredibly slowly, I saw numerous people come and go, new born twins passed through but there was nothing I could do but wait. I cried so much in those hours, it was quite possibly one of the most terrifying times of my life, hours passed and I still had no news on Sam.
The kindness of three strangers is what helped me get through this day (please see my The Kindness of Strangers Blog also). I got a fresh pastry and an orange juice handed to me by an old Greek man with nothing but a smile and a nod as an acknowledgement, I devoured them both within seconds. Another man came to talk to me and tell me how good the hospital was and that my friend was in the best place. Many hours later when I was starting to think I may be spending another night sitting on the hospital floor, a younger man sat down next to me and asked me my story, disgusted at the length of time I had been left waiting with no news he marched me into the main doctor office demanding answers. If it was not for him I have no idea how much longer I would have been left to sit there.
The doctor looked at me with the face that tells you this is not going to be what I want to hear. Sam was in a coma, the extent of his injuries was unclear at this time, it was likely he would spend his life in a wheelchair and suffer severe brain damage due to the fall. She then said it was crucial his family were informed. I was stunned, shocked and bemused.
I left her office, ensured the doctor I would contact his family.. I was allowed to quickly visit Sam, there was drips and all sort of monitors attached to him as well as a metal frames around his pelvis area. I was terrified, overwhelmed but grateful to see him alive.
I wandered the hospital halls in a daze but with no idea how I would get home or how to contact anyone. Then through a multiple of glass doors down the corridor I could see Cody and one of our other friends. I cried, and cried and cried. They brought me a Butterfinger and gave me a hug. He had got up that morning unaware and just assumed we had gone off early to the beach; it was not until he saw the Irish group downstairs that he learned of what had happened.
We rode home on their scooters and all I could think of was sleep. Unfortunately that was not going to happen just yet. When we arrived home the owner of our accommodation told me the police wanted to talk to me about what happened. Aware I also had to contact Sam’s family I thought I should see the police first then search through Sam’s belongings for contact details for someone.
Cody took me to the police station on his scooter, they had me waiting and I was anxious to find details on Sam’s family so I asked them if I could come back later on explaining my reasons for this. They then told me I was not allowed to leave. Fear rose inside of me, what were they saying? They then said they needed to take my passport and they would go with me to collect it from the apartments and bring me back to the station for an interview.
Tiredness, fear and an anxiety to help Sam led to me running out and jumping on the back of Sam’s bike. Technically I was now on the run from the law but at the time it felt like there was no other choice. At home I raided Sam’s backpack for details of family I could contact, I found insurance details and a passport but no emergency details were entered at the back. (Please check your passports to ensure you have emergency contacts in them.)I could only see one solution, I contacted his place of work, I was a previous employee and it was known he was coming to visit me so thankfully they were able to disclose this information.(if we had not had this link, I still do not know to this day what I would have done).
I went to a callbox armed with Sam’s sisters number, I waiting in the queue while numerous happy tourists called home to brag of their adventures and could not think up a way to make the conversation I was about to have possible. Finally I got my turn on the payphone, this part is a bit blurry to me now and I only remember feeling not prepared to ever have that conversation.
After I hung up the phone I went to find Cody who was dumbfounded staring at a television in a bar across the road. I turned to see what was so interesting to him and could not quite place what I was seeing; it was like a mid-air explosion. Cody had been told by another tourist when I was on the phone that there had been a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. The world was in crisis, one of the most tragic event s of recent history was unfolding at the same time.
We returned to the apartments no longer aware of our emotions, my body craved sleep but how could I possibly relax enough to let it. The police had been looking for me and Cody went round to speak to them whilst I had a drink in the hope it would help me to relax. Regrettably things did not go so well at the police station and soon a police wagon filled with Cretan police in military style uniform with numerous weapons entered our building.
By now I had no fight left in me, fear was beyond my capability and I had to relive the events of the previous night through gruelling questioning that was rewritten in Greek. I was asked to sign a statement that had not a word of English on it and my protest was not accepted well. Luckily a waiter from a local restaurant assisted to reread it to me in English and I could only hope he was being honest on what was written.
Finally sleep and the preceding nightmares were permitted to me. Sam’s family arrived within days, I visited the hospital daily, asking everyone I possibly could to take turns in driving me the long distance. Finally he woke up and was flown home in air ambulance to a hospital in Scotland where he remained for a year. I am overjoyed to report that the long term effects were not as severe as initially diagnosed but the incident has certainly had an impact on Sam’s life. I have nicknamed him 007 as only an Icon could survive such a fall and we remain solid friends to this day. He has even been to visit me whilst I was working on other Greek Islands, and yes I was a bag of nerves worried for his safety but that holiday had a much happier ending for all concerned.
Greece really is like my best friend. We have been through the good, the bad and the tragic, yet I still love it after it has shown me the worst there is to offer. Some people may never return to a country after such a tragic event, for me it only empathises the bond we share.