AS I SEE IT! (a social comment) May 22nd 2011

Some people say that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it. In my opinion I think that is a pretty fair assessment of the situation.

I was recently reminded of the Raurimu massacre, where 14 years ago, Stephen Anderson gunned down ten innocent people, in the tiny little hollow at the doorstep of the mighty Ruapehu.

Anderson was found not guilty by reason of insanity, on six counts of murder and four attempted murders.

He now lives in the community and has turned to religion to seek inner peace.

Too bad about the victims families, those still grieving the loss of their loved ones. Yes, it has been said time is a great healer but how can a nation forget?

Can they? Sadly we do, ask the average person in the street who is Stephen Lawrence Anderson and I doubt you will get a second glance.

We read almost with daily monotony, another victim, another committed to a mental institution because of a heinous crime.

Mental Health services are overstretched under resourced and lack the funding to deal with the increasing number of people calling on their services for help.

We do all have a choice, in some sad twisted way; Anderson’s was a cry for help, sadly altogether too late. Certainly lessons have been learned from that tragedy, but as time has marched on, we see and hear more and more about our failing mental health system. Too little, too late.

People turn to bizarre cults and beliefs to find solace inside their tormented worlds.

We only have to look at the latest prediction, the world, according to American Preacher, Harold Camping should have ended by now. People quit their jobs, euthanized their pets and sold all their possessions to follow this crackpot.

Across the ditch, a couple who claim they are Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene have set up base in Queensland and are drawing in disciples from across the country. Cult watchers along with mental health agencies are watching with interest as people from both sides of the Tasman pack up to follow these eccentrics. Some of the facts behind his fledgling movement make for alarming reading. Vulnerable followers, worried relatives, busted relationships and doomsday predictions, form the backdrop to this group that has everyone talking.

In the uncertainty of today’s fast paced world, Life really is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it.

Live your own life, embrace it to the very best of your ability.

You only get one crack at it. Make it count.

AS I SEE IT! (a social comment) May 17th 2011

We live in a pluralistic society. In itself not an altogether bad thing, but when factions of society start to demand that we introduce their rules and laws into our way of life, that begins to disturb me.

I read recently where The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils wants Muslims to be able to marry, divorce and conduct financial transactions under the principles of sharia law. It argues that all Australians would benefit if Islamic laws were adopted as mainstream legislation.

Not a view I suspect shared by most reading this article. I’m all for the rights of any individual to be upheld, regardless of Race, Colour, Creed, Gender or Disability. Over the years many of us fought for the rights and oppression of men and women to be changed. It took conviction, courage and commitment but in the end we pretty much got there. Yes, there have been casualties along the way, this I am sure will continue.

Author Ida Lichter who has written on the lives of Muslim women in both the West and predominantly Islamic countries, writes “The members of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in Britain have drawn attention to these oppressive laws that they escaped by migrating to the West, and they’ve said that women are much better under legislation based on universal human rights,”

Not a day goes by it seems, that we don’t see, hear or read of our rights being intruded upon. National Anthems being translated into a particular language. Western traditions being challenged, Christmas, Easter, ANZAC Day, the list goes on. Our children are being taught in a way that would make our forefathers turn in their graves.

No more Ba Ba Black Sheep. Now, its Ba Ba Rainbow sheep. Traditional Western and Christian values being challenged. Is it any wonder we have a confused and angry society. I am in favour of living in a multicultural society, learning and embracing all cultures, but the old cliché still rings true. “When in Rome”

AS I SEE IT! (a social comment ) May 11 2011

A phrase I’ve been hearing a lot of lately is “it’s all good”. This really bothers me!

A cursory look around would indicate that “it” isn’t even remotely good.

The “Merry Month of May” was punctuated by an announcement that would change the world forever: “Osama bin Laden was dead”! As the news burst into our lives, people paused, reflected, and continued with their daily routines, while discussing the how’s and why’s of an event that may become clearer as more information is filtered from American Government Agencies.

Meanwhile, across the Tasman, there was a coup of a different kind playing out between Rodney Hide and Don Brash, again behind closed doors and in secret. Then, the announcement. Hide had decided to step down as the leader of ACT New Zealand for the good of the party. Joy in some quarters, sadness in others.

Of course, mixed in with all this were the ongoing trials and tribulations of Hone Harawira and his misguided comments about Bin Laden having been a “freedom fighter”.

So, what about you, the ordinary “man in the street”? When you stop for five minutes and reflect on the first five months of this year, the report card doesn’t look healthy.

Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and tornados for a start, all resulting in tragic loss of life. Most of us, in one way or another, have been affected by one of these “Acts of God”. To add fuel to the fire, the conspiracy theories jump up a few notches, playing on our minds. Perhaps in our own private moments, we reflect on past events and think about our future, our children, their children.

Looking at some statistics over the past few days, it’s interesting to note that church attendance this Easter was up right across the board, perhaps a reflection of the time upon us.

Whatever your reason, whatever your theory, right now, I find it hard to look at this mortal coil and pretend “it’s all good”.

“Life Without Limits” #3 (Adjusting)

Getting used to my new surroundings were going to take some time…and toll..

It was not easy, living in a tiny one bedroom flat, in a reasonably confined space.

It was a matter of trial and error, more error than trial.. not only did I have to get used to doing everything from a wheelchair, but I had to contend with neighbours wanting to “pop in” for a “cuppa” and a chat.. luckily this was mostly during the day whilst my wife was at the hospital. I was still feeling pretty washed out so didn’t care for too much conversation, but eventually we got into a routine and things were flowing along nicely.

Then along came Christmas, up went the tree and the gifts under it. I recall it being in the corner by the kitchen bench and a couple of times, went close to knocking it over, but.. thankfully that never happened. The wheelchair I had, was ancient by today’s standard and cumbersome and barely fitted through the doors, again..somehow we managed.

Getting in and out of the unit was tight, but the ramp installed at the front entrance worked and served the purpose just fine. This gave me the freedom to explore the surroundings and I did more and more as the days went by. I knew that the time was coming to start my rehabilitation process, something I was not looking forward to, as the stories that I had heard, were less than welcoming.

The day duly arrived and I was picked up by the ambulance. No hoists in those days, lifted in on the gurney and chair folded alongside. There were other people in this vehicle, none who spoke, they just glared!!

Yep! I just knew this was going to be an interesting and challenging time.

That it was, right from that first glance at the building, an old prefab army barrack with rotting timber, netting on the rafters to hold the pigeons at bay, and keep the rats and mice out..or in in this case.. Grey drab and downright degrading, is probably the politest way to describe this facility, the forgotten building, the one no one wanted to work in. Thankfully rehabilitation centres today are a far cry from this.. The depressed looks on the faces of staff, patients and anyone that had to visit this place, did nothing to make me feel great.

So, I decided I was going to change this! for starters, I could not abide by the fact that everyone was shouted at, talked over, and generally denigrated.

Not for me!! I rebelled.. the first orderly that shouted at me, I let fall on deaf ears. I totally ignored him.. He was starting to lose his patience and was becoming louder and more and more aggressive ! Then he lost it and I swear, if one of the social Workers had not been observing this interaction between us, he would have wacked me!

In a calm and collected voice, I quietly suggested he not should and raise his voice..he might just get a better response from people.

How dare I question his authority? well, I did.. I was taken into the office and read the riot act.. too bad, I will not be treated like a second class citizen.. Digging my toes in was not hard for me, again it comes down to that thing called “ATTITUDE”.

I started talking about the challenges that one would have to face, and how shouting was not going to get anyone anywhere, I suggested that patients be spoken to as the staff would want to be spoken to, not shouted at or talked across while they sat in the room. They too were real people and had the god given right to be treated with respect.

I really did not like the times that I had to endure their insults and at every opportunity, I questioned the methods being used. To be told that I had no idea what it was like to have no legs by someone who had two!! just made me more determined to dig in and rebut their every word.

My independence was not going to be taken from me by anyone and I guess it was about this time that I made a promise to myself, that I would never lose sight of two things, I had been given a second chance at life, and I would never lose my Attitude. Remaining positive and gaining more and more confidence as each day passed, I would not let anyone talk down to or over me and above all.. I would be their equal in every way.. I would just look different!

I guess over the years, this philosophy has paid dividends.

Sitting in meeting rooms, out and about with friends and family, in my daily life, people have never treated me any different.. I am just another person in their circle for what ever that reason.. so much so, that people who I met very quickly overcame their fear of looking at someone in a wheelchair with no legs. They were more embarrassed when inviting me to a function or after dinner speaking engagement for forgetting that I was this guy in the chair with no legs that might have needed a ramp to get into the building.

It never once bothered me….

“Life Without Limits” #2 (Going Home)

I guess adjusting to life without legs was never going to be easy..

But then hey.. I was “ALIVE!!”

I was married and just like any other young married couple in the 70?s had big plans.. buy a house, settle into a routine plan for a family and pursue a career.

My wife of 2 months was about to graduate as a registered nurse. This had not been easy, given the circumstances of recent weeks, but she did graduate.

I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Time had come for my discharge from the hospital, being the impatient person I was, I began counting down the hours about 3 days before hand.

In fairness, I would not consider myself as a “role model” patient!! I was pretty much over needles and enema’s! (nasty things back then, still nasty today!) Long rubber tubes thrust where no one should dare to venture, it was not human!! The procedure carried out with military precision. A team of stern-faced matron like nurses, all gowned up. Rubber gloves fitted, masks on and a stainless steel surgical trolley wheeled in ahead of its army of assistants and onlookers. The dish of hot soapy water and long stainless tube, like a metal apparatus that just seemed to magnify and glare at me like an animated character out of a Dr Evil comic-book! I fought them every inch of the way, but alas, it was to no avail!! Over powered and unable to kick and clench my cheeks, it was a lost cause. I just had to resign myself to the fact that this form of primitive water torture was going to happen..”ready or not”.

At long last, the time had come to depart my home of the last 8 weeks.. yes, just 8 weeks from the day of the accident to discharge, some said this was unheard of, never before had a person with a double above knee amputation been discharged so quickly.. (maybe they just wanted to get rid of me!!)

Or, maybe it was due to the brilliant young intern that had the foresight to pump pure oxygen through my entire body for a week. A method used regularly these days.. as I said in my earlier post, he wrote the book on this treatment and I for one, will be forever in his debt!

I guess, it would be fair to say at this point, that I won a special place in the hearts of the medical and nursing staff.. Young, fit, in the prime of his young adult life, cut down by a cruel twist of fate, about to be married and both legs crushed beyond repair. (Over the years, I have been asked many times to describe this accident to the many groups and organisations I have spoken to.. I simply put it like this, “If you give a young child an ice-cream in a cone and he or she crushes the cone, the ice-cream and cone meld together as one, it becomes a very sticky mess!) You get the picture!!

At this point, I will digress slightly.. At the accident scene, there was very little blood loss, simply because, being as fit as I was and having rather good solid thighs, the muscle and sinew twisted and formed their own natural tourniquet. This ultimately saved my life, this and many other contributing factors, the rescue teams involved, the incredible team of Doctors and nurses, and my will to live.

So, here I was ready to depart this hospital. I had lost a mountain of weight and was warned to take it very easy, as it would be a long slow adjustment. I needed to be careful as I raised myself in my wheelchair and to be mindful of the bandages still applied to my stumps.. all this advice really fell on deaf ears, as I was going to one of my old flatmates’ wedding and I had made a promise to him that I would be there, come hell or high water.

The ambulance officer arrived at the door of the day room in the ward ready to take me home. It was at this moment that the panic and the reality set in, I was no longer in a safe comfortable secure environment.. I was going out to a cruel uncertain future, for a fleeting moment it scared me!

Riding in the ambulance through the city streets to the church, allowed me time to reflect on the past, the present and the future. I had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead.. Here it was, Saturday December 7th 1973, just over 8 weeks from that fateful day. How would I manage in the tiny flat that we were to live in. How would I get in and out? what about the bathroom, the kitchen the bedroom?? all these thoughts raced through my mind like a missile being launched at a thousand feet a second.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and relaxed.. The adrenalin kicked in, along with the excitement of the wedding, seeing my wife and being comforted in the knowledge that I was “GOING HOME!”

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As I See It….A Social Comment