On Preparedness

Every once in a while, something happens that re-affirms your faith in what you believe in

By Scouter Mike "Manitou" Reid, December 11, 2003

I have three children, Lorelei (17), Wesley (20), and Dustin (23). They were all active Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, and Ventures. As Scouters, we have all hounded our Scouts to Be Prepared, work as a team, think for themselves. We give countless hours, but most of the time we see only glimmers of success for our efforts. Sometimes we see more.

My wife Barb, her mother, brother, myself, my children, and one significant other were celebrating my wife's birthday last night at a local eatery. While we were enjoying ourselves the weather turned ugly. We live in a country setting west of the Island of Montreal and weather is always more severe in the country.

My wife and I, along with our two youngest, were in my van leading the way home. The others were in the car behind us. Along a rainy black hole of a road, I noticed that the road was a virtual skating rink, as polished as if the second period were about to begin. I dropped my speed by about two-fifths.

Just then, I saw headlights rounding the curve ahead of us. I saw enough of a twitching of trajectory in the lights that I knew this guy was going to lose control and there would be trouble. Fortunately for me, the other driver passed me in the middle phase of his over-correction but crossed the line inches behind me to hit my brother-in-law's car head on at a closing speed that I estimate was 80 km/h. The road went black behind me but I saw one car spin and straddle the road and my brother-in-law's take the ditch.

I backed the van the 100 yards or so as quickly as I could, barking orders to my kids. The car wasn't stopped before the doors were open and they sprung to action. The gentleman who had initiated the fracas was out bleeding from a head wound and checking on my family in their car while talking to the emergency operator.

Then, another driver who was trying to weave through the scene lost control and centre-punched the car straddling the road just behind my van. My daughter and I were in harm's way during that slow-motion moment. Unable to run for lack of traction we were lucky that the t-boned car slid off to the ditch on the opposite side and the new car stopped feet away from me. Thankfully, there were no new injuries.

My two boys grabbed my flashlight and went up to the curve to stop traffic, while I searched for my flares (now on this weekend's shopping list).

I assessed that no one was gravely injured then went for the emergency kit in the van. My wife is a pathologist and, of course, was most concerned for her own family. As soon as I thrust the first aid kit into her hands and said, "Fix this guy," she was soon treating the bleeder. My van became the focal point for treatment. Shock victims and bleeders were staying warm and safe.

Once medics, police and firefighters were on scene, my kids wandered around helping wherever they could. They made their reports to the police, kept moral up, and made their Dad very, very proud.

Three went to the hospital. The other driver had a gashed forehead and eye, chest tenderness, and a suspect partial fracture to one leg. He was amazing to see on adrenaline. He checked on my family first, contacted emergency, called his friend who owned the car, called his boss to say he wouldn't be at work, and then his family. When the ambulance driver asked him how he was, he said "I'm good, how are you!". This guy must have been a Scout. As he was loaded into the ambulance he checked again with me, still concerned about my mother-in-law.

As for her, she was in shock and sore, having just been socked in the face and chest by an airbag. She was put on a backboard with neck brace for transport. At the hospital she was diagnosed with 3 broken ribs and a broken wrist. My son's girlfriend, Sarah, was in shock, and had neck and chest tenderness. She too was braced, boarded, and transported.

A few observations come to mind. It ain't over 'til it's over, as the second collision proved. You can't stop checking your gear for completeness: where were my flares? Emergency rooms in Quebec still suck (no X-rays in the middle of the night). People are amazing in a pinch and will generally rise to whatever is asked of them. And most importantly, I am so glad my kids were Scouts.

I write this between tears of happiness at a positive outcome and the lucidity that hindsight brings, I am thanking the Great Spirit for the safety of my family, good Samaritans, emergency personnel, and our founder, for creating the game we all still draw inspiration from and practice every day of our lives. This Christmas will indeed be a special one in the Reid household.