Archive for the ‘Vacation Risks’ Category

Trust Me, I’m An Expert

A woman is in a critical condition in a South African hospital after she was gored by a rhino. The tour guide advised her, it is alleged, to stand closer to the rhino and she did. The animal attacked and now she is fighting for her life. Moral of the story, don’t trust ‘experts’ with your life just because they are claiming they are an expert. Also, never trust a wild animal. Look up ‘wild’ in the dictionary and there is nothing about peaceful, calm, safe, trustworthy to be read. Now check the thesaurus… still nothing akin to ‘you’ll be right, mate’ is there?

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.

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.

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