Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

A Good Idea At The Time MKIV

For many years I was employed in the security industry as a ‘doorman’ or bouncer. In that time among many lessons I learned that the world is full of dehydrated idiots, just add alcohol. The things otherwise sane, decent and sensible people will do once they get lubed up never ceases to amaze me. What is more amazing at times is how they get away with it as often as they do. Take this MENSA candidate for example…

A man left a Broome, Western Australia pub and decided it would be fun to sit on the back of ‘Fatso’. ‘Fatso’ is a 5m (16 feet 6inches) Estuarine or Saltwater crocodile. The same creatures that have been seen swimming hundreds of kilometres out to sea further north and even battling tiger sharks! And this doorknob figures he is going to sit on the back of a not too tiny one? Please, tell me he has had a vasectomy, surely he can’t be allowed to breed!

He escaped with a minor leg wound but that might be badly infected and he might even die from the wound. You see crocodiles have trouble flossing so there is a lot of rotting food matter between their teeth (of which they have a lot). He is in hospital, recovering from the wound but how do you recover from stupidity? Fortunately for him stupidity isn’t a criminal offense but he might get done for trespass.

I have been drunk a few times in my life when I was a teenage soldier, but I was never so drunk I would do anything this stupid. This mental midget is 35 years old! By the time I was in my twenties I had my enjoyment of alcohol well under control, but even when I get drunk I just laugh and fall asleep, I’m harmless. Nowadays I get a few under the belt once a year, sometime around my birthday (and usually under parental guidance) but still nothing that will make me feel wicked the next morning. I also drink a lot of water to rehydrate, a trick I learned while working in the liquor industry as a brand manager.

Moderation is the key, a lesson I was taught as a boy and one I have found to hold true. That’s not to say I have never done anything wild, spirited or risky. I have. Just not stupid. Stupid is as stupid does, right Forrest? This bloke in Broome was stupid! If the animal had killed him there might have been consequences including the destruction of the crocodile, increased insurance premiums for the crocodile park, traumatic memories for whoever found the remains and so on.

There was a media led public outcry when Steve Irwin carried his baby son while doing a show with a large croc a few years ago. While perhaps not the safest or the smartest thing to do given the cotton wool culture we seem to live in today, if anyone knew what they were doing around crocs it was Irwin. I think, despite his onscreen persona as something of a larrikin, Steve would look at this bloke, shake his head and say “Crikey he’s stupid!” And he’d be right.

Could You Do It?

A man in the USA attempted to amputate his own arm in order to free himself after being trapped while cleaning a furnace. He smelt dead flesh and feared the poison would no doubt spread, hence the drastic attempt at cutting himself free from the furnace. He was there from Sunday night until Wednesday when finally rescued. Why did it take so long to realise he was missing? He lived alone.

In the case of Aron Ralston in 2003, he had not told anyone of his plans to hike a canyon in Utah. When his arm was trapped by a falling boulder he hung on for five days before he took drastic action. He broke the bones in his forearm with another rock and then cut away the flesh and tendons with a cheap multi-tool. He then had to rappel down a cliff and walk out to his car. On the way he was met by a picknicking family who helped organise his medevac by helicopter. He plans to climb Mount Everest this September.

What will to live these two men have displayed, yet how unnecessary was their suffering? Simply by letting people know where you are going to be, you increase your chances of being missed and ultimately rescued long before chewing your arm off is a viable option. While we might take a trip to the basement to clean the furnace for granted, hiking a canyon in the desert without telling anyone where you are going and when you expect to return is nothing short of stupidity. Period. No matter how courageous Ralston was afterwards, he could have avoided the problem by taking someone with him and also telling people his plans.

So why do people fail to do this? Sometimes it is unintentional. One day I was out for a drive in my Land Rover and on the spur of the moment I took a 5km detour along a track I had travelled before. This time my vehicle became bogged and I was unable to self-recover. I left a note with the vehicle and walked out of the bush, hitched a lift to the nearest phone box and arranged help from my brother in law. If I had been hurt during the adventure I might have lain there for days before being found. I would have been missed within 24 hours but nobody knew where I had gone. It was not far from home and I had no intention of going off the main road at the outset but I had some time on my hands and that track was normally a pleasant interlude. In hindsight perhaps I too were stupid for not telling anyone where I was going or what I was possibly going to do.

I learnt my lesson and later, when I bought a small yacht I would make sure somebody knew I was off sailing that day and roughly where I would be, when I would be due back and so on. When I scuba dived I did the same thing although I was always with a group or at least one buddy.

Some might think it invades their privacy to tell anyone of their plans. Get over it. They are often the strong, silent, independent type. Loners. Losers more like it when things go wrong and they can and do. I like my personal space and quiet moments alone as much as most but I also like company at times. Too much of one or the other isn’t good and that is like everything in life, it has to be balanced. Get yourself in balance and life is not only safer, it is more enjoyable, too. We need to take risks from time to time. If we didn’t then we would remain static, never progressing. But like test pilots and adventurers that die of old age, we need those risks to be calculated.

Pointless Pit Bulls

Once again, those unnecessary animals, pit bulls, have struck. This time at Cable Beach, Broome. Tourists enjoying a sunset camel ride along the beach were hurt when uncontrolled pit bulls attacked the camels they were riding. One tourist fell off as the camel tried to escape the vicious dogs and was injured in the fall, including suffering fractured bones. Nice way to end your holiday. Of course the arrogant owner assured the camel train operator before the dogs went off that they were fine. Yeah, right!

Last month in the USA a baby was bitten by a pit bull while the parents of the baby and owners of the dog were in another room. Perhaps the parents were, as one pro-pit bull commenter stated, in the other room taking drugs but that doesn’t change the fact the dogs are dangerous. There is a lot of well deserved animosity against these dog breeds and their owners. The dogs are bred purely for fighting after all yet the owners are forever apologising or claiming it was the fault of the victim, not a pit bull and so on.

In Germany this past week two Staffordshire Bull Terriers tore apart a 3 year old toddler. When the great-grandmother of the child  came to her rescue the animals turned on her. The baby is dead, the great-grandmother is in a serious condition in hospital.  The two victims were visiting the toddler’s aunt who owned the dogs. She lived in a remote village and had not registered the animals on the dangerous breeds register.

If you Google ‘pit bulls baby’ you get hit after tragic hit about these animals and other similar breeds attacking people of all ages. The real reason owners want them is to make up for their own insecurities and feelings of inferiority. Like middle aged men and sports cars they are little more than a penis substitute. I owned Rottweilers for years and they are beautiful yet very powerful animals. I trained mine and never had a problem with them for the decade or so I owned them. The main reason I bought a Rotty was because I had been told they do need exercise but, if you live in an apartment as I did and don’t have a yard for them to run around in, they are happy to stay at your feet. Mine were, so much so that whenever the ‘phone rang my boy would spring up and hit the gas lever on my office chair and I would go hurtling down to just above floor level! So I know about big dogs.

In the Army I worked with German Shepherds and other large breeds as bomb detection dogs and security dogs (the two are very different animals and trained for different jobs). I personally like Staffies and such but the pure fighting breeds like American Pit Bulls and such have no place in a civilized society. Especially not an urban one.

Laid Low By Bacteria

This is how it started, it got considerably worse before it got better.

My recent trip to the Philippines ended with me in hospital for four days before staggering onto a plane home, then straight off to hospital for another four days. Then came two weeks of twice daily visits by the community nurse for IV antibiotics and dressing changes. Why? Well I contracted Cellulitis, an infection that made my left leg swell twice its size and give off more heat than a plasma television!

I think I was bitten by an insect and inadvertanly scratched the bite and that became infected. Next thing I know I am waking up with the chills then the sweats then a 41C temperature and a leg on fire. I made it to a hospital in Cebu but you have to pay up front to be looked at and then if you don’t keep paying they stop treating you but you can’t leave until you pay what you owe!

The medical treatment was fine but the hospital system there is very different to ours and without the dedication of my wife staying with me 24/7 and doing the job nurses in Australia do I would have been in a worse state. As it was our five kids and inlaws were stuck in a hotel room all the time we should have been shopping and having fun.

I had travel insurance but couldn’t get through to them on any number and when I returned home I had to try several times to get through. I gave up waiting for the promised claim form and downloaded one from the net. Who knows if 1Cover will actually pay the claim which came to $925.

My treatment at Mt Druitt and later Blacktown hospitals was excellent and I can’t complain about the PACC nurses and their home visits, they were great. We are so very fortunate we have the medical system we do in this country, it may have faults but it is far superior to many others.

What made my time in hospital in Cebu worse was I contracted amoebic dysentery. I think it was from a bottle of water purchased from a vendor across the street from the hospital. Of course the hospital doesn’t supply safe drinking water for free, you have to buy it aong with your toilet paper, extra sheet or pillow, towel and everything else! Even though this bottle had a sealed cap it is quite likely it was a refill… you can’t trust much in the Philippines. I suffered as you can well imagine and had to have ongoing injections for weeks to make sure the illness didn’t affect my liver or kidneys in the future.

The moral of the story is that any of us can be struck down when we least expect it and by the smallest of things, bacteria and amoebae. We had travel insurance because if you can’t afford that then you can’t afford to travel but when we needed to talk to someone and get some reassurance and advice I am afraid it never happened. What if we had needed a medevac flight? I worried about the flights home as we had three flights to get home and deep vein thrombosis was a very real threat to my life.

Keep in mind I had a wife, a baby, two toddlers and two primary school age kids to worry about as well as the leg infection and diminishing dysentery. It adds to the stress factor somewhat. I made the decision we were going to make that flight, we were going home and we would get our family back to Sydney no matter what. The trip back was a nightmare but we survived. Three weeks down the track I still have one leg bigger than the other, still very red and with a large scab but other than that life is back to normal.

We had contingency plans, we had family and friends who offered help and we had sufficient funds at hand to cover our expenses because we had to a large part planned for the possibility of things going wrong. I never envisioned cellulitis or amoebic dysentery but that is why you leave things fairly wide open just in case.

Workplace Deaths – Killer Whales And Tigers

In February a trainer at Florida’s Sea World was killed by a Killer Whale (Orca) after her show. Apparently she lay down too close to the whale and her pony tail fell into the water. Curious, the whale grabbed the ponytail in its teeth and started to play with it. She was dragged around by the whale and died before other trainers could rescue her. A simple mistake she paid for with her life. The Avenue of Harm? Nature. Yet it is also a case of workplace ‘violence’ and safety.

Not something we usually think of when it comes to workplace safety however the trainer was at work and she did lose her life. Just today there is a report of a zoo keeper in Shanghai killed by a tiger. Apparently he forgot to lock the cage. Simple mistakes like that do get you killed. Again, it happened in his place of work and it was via the Nature Avenue of Harm.

Where do you work? What do you do? How could you die at work today?

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