Sunday 14 October 2012

Nine lives?

When it isn't your time to go, it just isn't your time.  I'm not sure how much I believe that, but there are only so many patients I can see who should be dead but aren't before I start believing it.

Imagine for a second that you have a beautiful, tall, old tree in your yard that unfortunately needs a branch at the top trimmed.  Now this is a huge tree, probably 35 or 40 meters high (around 100-120 feet), and the branch in question is near the very top.  What would you do?  Here, I'll give you some choices:

A) Call a tree expert to trim the branch
B) Ignore it and hope it doesn't fall on your house
C) Get several 5 meter (15 foot) ladders, strap the first one to the bottom of the tree trunk, and climb up the first 5 meters.  Then strap the next ladder to the tree trunk and climb up the next 5 meters.  Then tie the next ladder to the trunk and climb up the next 5 meters...

You see where I'm going with this, right?  My patient, a 50-ish year old man who had already beaten prostate cancer and lymphoma, decided to go for option C.  He evidently thought he could also beat  gravity.  But gravity isn't just a suggestion - it's the law. 

Now I know what you're thinking - there's no way the tree was actually 40 meters high!  Doc, surely you're exaggerating!  Really?  Am I?

Those ladders you see are numbers 3, 4, and 5.  Ladders 1 and 2 wouldn't fit in the bottom part of the picture.  After he ran out of ladders, he attached spikes to his shoes and climbed another 7 or 8 meters (20-25 feet) above the top of the highest ladder.  As he was trimming the branches, he cut the one on which he was standing (no, of COURSE he wasn't wearing a safety harness!), and down he went...the equivalent of jumping off the roof of a 9 storey building.  Now when you fall only 3 or 4 meters off a ladder, there's no time to think.  It's just "AAAAAAAAAH!" *thud*  But this guy had over 2 seconds to realise that what he had done was stupid before he hit the ground.  I have a feeling it was something like this:

Fortunately for him, he didn't land on his head.  He fractured his left femur, left foot, left wrist, and right ankle, and several bones in his pelvis.  He also broke a bone in the middle of his back, and he'll need surgery to fix all of his various fractures. 

But keep this in mind - 50% of people who fall 4 storeys die.  NINETY PERCENT of people who fall 7 storeys die.  This lucky guy fell from 9 stories and never even lost consciousness.  It just clearly wasn't his time to go.  So now he has beaten prostate cancer, lymphoma, and gravity.  By my count he only has 6 lives left. 

It makes me wonder what he'll try to defeat next.


  1. Wow. Just wow. I have followed your blog for a while, and I am amazed at all the wondrous interactions you have. So many stories, and there are many more im sure. This story reminds me of my late great grandfather. He, at ninety three years old, battled and bested three different types of cancer, type two diabetes, and a quadruple bypass surgery. He died of pneumonia a few years ago. I guess it was his time. Keep posting! I love the stories, and my mother does too.

    By the way, in between Wild E. Coyote and the tree, story is spelled storey. Not sure if you mind, but it bugs me to no end.

    1. Storey is absolutely correct. American English is the only version of English that uses "story" to indicate both a narrative and a building level. By the way, it is Wile E. Coyote, not "Wild"...which is clearly indicated on the sign that he is holding. I hope you don't mind, but it bugs me to no end when people try to be grammar nazis and fail so miserably!

    2. Well my apologies. I had no intention of coming off as a grammar nazi. In regards to storey/story, I am an american, with little contact with other forms of english, so I was unaware of this spelling difference. In reference to Wile E./Wild E. I never learned it like that, and was always told that it was Wild. So again, my apologies. Lastly, I know many people that hate being corrected, (I assume you are one of those people), and I know many people that do not mind or do not care. I simply wished to inform the author that there was, in my eyes and knowledge, a spelling error. Why you decided to mock my mistakes, I will never know, but I do not wish to start a public war over a comment thread.

    3. I had a feeling someone of the American persuasion would comment on that. Since I'm not perfect and I do make mistakes sometimes (despite proofreading several times before posting), I always appreciate when my mistakes are pointed out so I can correct them. If anyone notices any mistakes in the future, please email me rather than commenting about them. It will avoid exactly this sort of thing. :)

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  3. My dad defeated gravity too: he fell about 30m while mountain climbing and shattered his femur, no scratch otherwise. It wasn't his time to go then. Unfortunately he didn't manage to defeat lymphoma some years later. I still miss him.

  4. Is there anything left to defeat?

    1. Next, he'll cross an empty road in the desert and get flattened by a road-train that appeared from nowhere!

    2. Hopefully not a raging woman.

  5. It's amazing what some poeple will do rather than have a guy in to do it.

    We heard on day that my great uncle had been taken into hospital after a fall. He was 94 with one new hip and two new knees so it's not that unlikely that he would take a fall. Only he had fallen off the roof of the garage!

    The gutters needed clearing out and so rather than trouble one of his local relatives, or just get a man in, he decided to climb a ladder onto the garage roof and do it himself. He died last year aged 100.

  6. My grandfather at the age of 80 was recently 10 mtrs up a tree trimming branches with a chainsaw. No injurys but its simply amazing what some stouburn oldies will do

  7. He must be a Bondurant.


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