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.

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