While preparing to photograph along the river in Pisa, David duChemin fell what looks to be about ten meters onto hard concrete. He then rolled two thirds of the way along the concrete and nearly into the river. Looking over the wall to see him splayed out on the concrete far below was one of the scariest moments of my life. I honestly didn’t know if I would find him alive. I looked for steps down but couldn’t find any. I ran into the hotel to see if somebody had called an ambulance, and Wendy, one of the Tuscany Within The Frame participants, was already doing the same. The receptionist told me that the closest steps were 600-700 meters downriver. Those were a long and frustrating 600-700 meters, and then, of course, the same 600-700 meters back to him. (NB: it hurts one’s shins to run in Blundstones on concrete. A lot.) I found David in excruciating pain and going into shock. I’m really not sure which of the two of us was the more terrified. A young guy from Bangladesh, who had also come down, and I put our jackets on David to provide him with a little bit of heat–plus my bag and a scarf under his head to keep it off the cold concrete.
When the ambulance arrived they decided that it would be easier and quicker to attach a stretcher to a cherry picker and lower it with two (or maybe it was three) EMTs. They, the Bangladesh guy and I worked to get David situated and secured in the stretcher to be lifted up to the waiting ambulance (for my first ride in an ambulance), while hundreds if not more than a thousand looked on from above. Naturally, David chose a spot that seems to be party-central on a Saturday night. Lots of people. There are photos of all of this that I’m sure you will see within the next day or two. In fact, David was imploring me to take photos. I didn’t but others did. They kindly asked whether David would want to see them or not wish to have them. Of course, David wanted them. That’s David! He and I looked at Knut’s photos this afternoon, and, well, it also looks pretty frightening in pixels.
He is now in the trauma center of the local hospital. He has multiple fractures in his feet, hip and hand. The EMTs and doctor say that he’s lucky to be alive. He’s going to need surgery and a lot of time to recover. Corwin and I (mostly Corwin) are working to get him medically evacuated back to Canada as we think that he’ll be more comfortable there. Some hospital staff here speak a bit of English, and, of course, I interpret for him; however, he’ll be more comfortable where he can fully understand everything and have his family near him.
David is in a lot of pain, but he hasn’t lost his winning spirit, optimism and grace. When called by a friend who asked how he was doing, he mustered the strength to respond “living the dream man; living the dream.” Soon enough I suspect that he will be. And I can’t wait!