Pascal Derrien

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Speaking Of Witch

A few things happened the last few weeks, for starter I think I read a few times that writers need to take risks. The second one which the French in me could not resist being impressed by, is the wonderful gesture of one the most famous rock band of his adopted country U2, inviting EODM on stage for a moving version of People Have The Power.

Finally the third one was that I have unexpectedly followed a very enjoyable and insightful corporate training on unconscious bias. We are now mid-December and I have been obsessively thinking about risks, people, perception, assumption, judgement and bias.  

‘’Bias is an inclination or outlook to present or hold a partial perspective, often accompanied by a refusal to consider the possible merits of alternative points of view. Biases are learned implicitly within cultural contexts. People may develop biases toward or against an individual, an ethnic group, a nation, a religion, a social class, a political party, theoretical paradigms and ideologies within academic domains, or a species. Biased means one-sided, lacking a neutral viewpoint, or not having an open mind. Bias can come in many forms and is related to prejudice and intuition’’’

43 days away from my 17th birthday on a very dark November evening, I got catapulted thru the windscreen of a German car. When I woke up I could not walk, I could not talk and surrounded by various tubes and noisy screens I realized within seconds that something very bad had happened.

The consultant mentioned I had spent more than a few hours in theater, the plastic surgeon who was an ace in his field had urgently been flown over by helicopter to look after me, so when the legendary doctor repeated with insistence that I was very lucky to be alive I suppose I agreed.

No internal organs had been touched and he stressed out he did not know how this was possible, the bicycle I was on had been pulverized on impact just seconds before my limbs flew thru the cold crisp air to the rear passenger seat. Antoine that was the name of the doctor was confident however that I would be able to walk relatively quickly but as he said due to the nature of the impact he had to focus on the cosmetic aspect of the injuries. 

It was a Wednesday morning I believe, I had been acting like a limping mummy for a few days already and today was the time picked to remove the bandages I had on my head. This happened a long time ago now but I still recall it was a slow and very painful process despite all the precautions taken. When that was finally over, an empathetic nurse asked me if I was OK.

Not sure I am I wanted to answer to be perfectly honest, I realized I actually could not articulate as I was about to discover later, the left hand side of my face was paralyzed so when she asked me again if I wanted a mirror I mumbled a sound that was as close as possible to a yes ma’am, not super assertive indeed but that all I could manage. 

My hair had been shaved on the left side of my head which funnily enough would make you think that the right side was looking like a bush on steroids. Starting behind my left ear and ending near my lip 123 stiches of various length had nicely invited themselves on an uneven demarcation line where used to be my left jaw.

I was trying to process the info when the head nurse indicated in non-equivocal terms that I should avoid any brusque movement, I guess that was her way to remind me I had a few other dozens of stiches over the rest of my body and that I was not in the clear just yet. This time my friend I thought to myself, you really have won one of the biggest jackpot in bad luck town. 

Well little I knew about what was ahead of me, I had been enjoying the anonymity of the crowd up to then but past that November night things would be different. From that time on I would have to sustain intent looks, stares or entertain awkward questions. On certain days I would not find the strength to engage with others and would avoid eye contact altogether.

When I was officially discharged from hospital I was very conscious I would have to confront a new reality. I was not quite sure how to go about it but while I was not looking forward to it I had to know and I had to know quickly. 

With this in mind, I asked two close friends to accompany me to the cinema the following week. In my mind there were no better place to test the new reality that an unknown crowd. We purchased the tickets and the process kicked off with the cashier who despite his best efforts could not hide his inquisitive eyes, on our way to the screen we  joined the queue. 

At that moment I must say the experience transformed itself into a hellish process. Some people were whispering, others were staring at me with horrifying eyes, I started to feel dizzy and wanted to run away I really felt like a freak especially when I overheard a few hurtful and tasteless jokes. I sarcastically engaged in a monologue thinking ‘’what a nightmare’’, the rest of my life is going to be like that and this ain’t gonna be an easy ride. 

But like anything else good sense and resilience prevailed and I convinced myself to go through this no matter what, I was a survivor after all.  I did not know why this had been thrown at me but I started to consider it as a bonus in a very weird kind of way, I was not meant to be alive after all. 

I won’t lie the following months were bloody hard and frankly I was very self-conscious that l looked like a mess and this for a long time. There were days that were easier and some others not so much. Some people meant well and some others… 

It forced me to develop strong defense mechanisms. One of them was inventing variations on the theme of the accident and ended up building different stories for one to spread, for example I had been caught in a gang fight, for another I had been bitten by a dog, for some they were given the story of a rare skin condition to play with. Once they realized they had been tricked I don’t know if they understood the lesson learnt but it does not really matter.  

It may sound inexplicable but if you ask me today I would probably tell you that in retrospective this destructive accident is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. As cliché as it sounds it has made me a better person even if I easily admit I could have passed on the opportunity.

I agree it was a defining moment but it does not define me. Yet I would like to think I am more accepting as an individual because of this experience. In a certain way I grew up quicker and It has certainly helped me to relate to people in a different way. 

This is just my story, just a small incline some people had bigger mountains to climb. Next to my me in the great trauma unit Marc was constantly moaning and complaining about the pain in his arm, we were both on a feast of morphine and other sedatives but I was the most conscious of the two, Marc on the other hand had not realized that his arm…. was gone.    

The journey had ups and downs but I am no victim, this was sometimes funny too, for example the time those two ladies told me I looked like a ‘’good damaged’’ (or was it ‘’damaged good’’) version of George Clooney (sorry George for lowering the standards :-) ), I also remember vividly a 5-year-old asking me without any malice if I was a pirate which of course I answered pensively adding that the rest of crew was parking the ship and would be with me shortly. 

We are reaching the part of the article where normally I am supposed to leave you with deep and profound thought such as you can’t wink with an eye patch or confirm that the practical way to enter into a car is to open its door first not what I did :-) however today I would like to end on a more serious note. 

Be aware and be wary of bias, it’s a witch can easily cast a spell on a 


To Marc

Sources & Triggers


Unconscious Bias Corporate Training

Car Crash

Hospital (S)

Doctor Antoine

Picture Credits

Shattered Glass By Mac Seam

Previously posted on a different platform

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Pascal Derrien

4 years ago #7

thank U Ian Weinberg for dropping by comment much appreciated ☺

Ian Weinberg

4 years ago #6

Still nothing more potent than damage and pain in oneself to create or renew sensitivity for the world at large. Thanks Pascal Derrien for the narrative and the awareness, lest we take things for granted!

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #5

@ Ken I think the quote is a fair reflection :-) many thanks for your comment

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #4

After reading this, Pascal, the thing that comes to mind is "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" Geez you must be really strong after that lot. Good on ya! Also, I love the wry, dry humour.

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #3

ah thank you Lisa Gallagher, there is only one way...... :-)

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #2

By Pascal Derrien

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #1

You triumphed Pascal Derrien, such a moving story!

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