It was seeming like a bit of a wasted afternoon. After a pleasant Saturday lunch (in Belvès), we had driven all the way to Monpazier for an appointment with a photographer, so he could take a passport photo for my wife. He wasn’t there; we waited; he still wasn’t there; we left. But then on the way home, our long drive turned out to have a real purpose.
As we neared the hamlet of Prats-du-Périgord, about 16 kilometres from our home base of Daglan, a cyclist came racing toward us on the D60, heading straight into our path with an arm extended. At first I thought he was signalling so he could turn left, but then it became clear he wanted us to pull over. We did, and he told us that someone in his cycling group had had a serious accident — could we use our mobile phone to call for emergency services?
We tried, of course, but there was no phone service out in the country. So we drove on to the scene of the accident, and sure enough it was pretty bad. In the centre of a group of riders, an older man — possibly in his late 60s or even early 70s — was seated against a stone wall, his face pale, with a deep cut above his left eye and blood all over his shirt. He looked like he was in shock.
So we told the group that we would drive on to Prats-du-Périgord and call for help using a land line. And off we went. First, the small bar where we often stop for coffee when we’re cycling was closed. Then there was no one home at the first house we approached. Finally, we spotted a house with smoke coming out of the chimney, and my wife Jan knocked on the door and explained the problem to the woman who answered. Very quickly, Madame got on her phone, called les sapeurs-pompiers (the firefighters, who perform emergency services), and explained that an ambulance was needed on the D60 about a kilometre from the hamlet. My wife then thought that an ice pack might help the cyclist, so Madame kindly gave us some ice cubes in a cloth. We thanked her, and drove quickly back to the accident scene to let the group know that help was on the way, and to give them the ice pack.
It seemed to take forever, but it was probably just 10 or 15 minutes before the red van of the health and medical rescue service (le Service de Santé et de Secours Médical) came flying down the road, its siren wailing, followed closely by a jeep (which appeared to be driven by the supervisor, or perhaps a doctor). The men in the van jumped out, and immediately put a neck brace on the poor fellow who was injured.
Once they helped him into the van, and we knew he was safely on his way to the hospital, we waved goodbye to the cyclists and headed for home. We were glad to have helped, but were a bit shaken, to be honest, because all cyclists know how easy it is to have an accident — and a potentially serious one. Just ask our friend Ray in Toronto. Or our friend Donna.