Over the years I have followed the trials and tribulations of young adventurers, be they attempting sea, air, mountain or land conquests. As an example, Lukas Haitzmann (18) rowed 3,000 miles in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, Anna Divya (30) became the youngest lady ever to pilot a Boeing 777, Mason Andrews (18) circumnavigated the globe one year after gaining his pilot’s license, and Lexie Alford (21) is currently being vetted by Guinness to verify her whole world visitor trip. All these trips are inspirational, and the more remarkable given the youth of the achievers. So this week we picked up an incredible survival story, an indirect lesson in hashgacha pratis. Stuart Bee (62) a seasoned American mariner, had ventured out on Friday for a day trip, only to be setback by mechanical problems. He fell asleep in his boat waiting for his rescuers, but then woke to find his 32ft motor boat – Stingray – taking on floodwater. Bee was forced to climb out of the hatch and drop into the ocean, holding on to the doomed vessel to stay afloat. By the time he was spotted on Sunday, he was 86 miles from land, and clutching on to the smallest visible part of the hull, itself only minutes from sinking to the ocean floor. Maritime legends often speak of guardian angels, and the container ship which rescued Mr Bee, was aptly named the Angeles. Two things struck me: 1) He held on, in freezing Atlantic waters, and total darkness, with absolute conviction that he would make it out of that horrific situation. 2) His friends, knowing he was only ever a day-tripper, called the coastguard promptly, thereby giving him the best chance of rescue. 3) I know I said two things, but the third is….. he obviously believed in G-d, and his prayers were answered. The first thing he did was to thank the Almighty. His is an incredible story of fortitude and resilience, and I urge readers to look online for the inspirational images of him just before he was rescued, alone and merely minutes away from sliding to a watery grave. In Europe a search is underway for missing British hiker Esther Dingle (37), who travelled across the world for many years, exploring both cities and remote locations, only to now suddenly disappear without trace on the border of France and Spain. We hope and pray – whatever misfortune has befallen her –  that she too has held on, and will be found alive.

In the small print this week was a story of mislabelling on a pharmacy item, which led to the death of a young man. Hamish Hardie (30) was prescribed oramorph, a powerful liquid narcotic, to take for pain, whilst waiting for surgery on 2 prolapsed discs. Now I have prolapsed discs amongst my repertoire of ailments, and have at various points been directed to take oramorph, but as stubborn as I am, I took it only once or twice, and returned the box to the cupboard, because I was aware how powerful it is, and I know how easy it is to take too much. In Mr Hardie’s case, the label said ‘use as directed,’ and as he then took increasing amounts to manage his pain, he inadvertently overdosed, dying 2 days later. The assistant coroner for West Sussex recorded a verdict of accidental overdose, due to a clinical error (on labelling), compounded by a lack of clarity. What a disaster, and so avoidable. 

There was a particularly sad story this week, that of Paul Dance (62), who ended his life six months after corrective eye surgery left him with unsatisfactory vision. One reason why I’m flagging this up is that 18 years ago I had corrective eye surgery myself and had the same post-surgical issues, which are indeed irreversible and catastrophic. You go from having perfectly corrected vision with glasses to something which is an approximation of perfect eyesight, without glasses. Although many will have unpleasant side effects {blurred vision, severe dry eye pain and intense halos which surround bright lights, particularly at night}, some will be unable to deal with these, so I totally understand the feeling that he felt he’d ‘made a major mistake.’ In fact as the laser beam approaches your exposed eyeball, it is far too late, impossible even, to shout stop. In my case they forced me to take a sedative to make me more compliant and less anxious, because they could see I had changed my mind. But go ahead, they did. When it was over, I remember for months being unable to see the faces of my children clearly, including my baby who was less than a year old. Across the street I could not distinguish any faces whatsoever. I was distraught and extremely depressed, additionally guilt ridden, as I had fallen for the hard sell, quick fix, and worst of all I didn’t act on my gut feeling to abort the whole procedure on the day, because I was persuaded that everything would be fine by the ‘experts.’ The net result was that I had one eye perfectly corrected (great for distance) and the other was left slightly short-sighted. The expert who saw me in his clinic at Moorfields said I had ‘a great outcome, because [you] can see distance [with one eye] and you can also read [with the other].’ I never considered the eventualities of squinting with one eye or t’other to be the outcome I desired. He had said before the procedure any adjustment would be easy, and after the event, said any adjustment would be experimental. Of course I didn’t go back, as I realised the undercorrected eye, could then be over corrected on a further attempt, or I might have had even worse halo experiences. I don’t think anybody aiming for fully corrected vision expects to have such inconsistencies following the surgery, so I completely understand the psychological and physical pain which led Mr Dance to give up. Campaigner Sasha Rodoy said she was aware of many people who suffered problems following eye surgery, stressing this procedure is ‘not cosmetic.’ In December 2018 Jessica Starr (35), a US TV presenter with Fox weather, took a similar course of action after also struggling with the side effects of laser eye surgery. To those readers who wear glasses, you might be asking ‘how bad is the procedure?’ My answer is that ‘it is even scarier than it  sounds.’ So, would I do it again today? Not in a million years – in my view, your eyes are something you should not tinker with. 

Tinkering in gender is something I mentioned last week, where a complainant felt cheated by not being seen promptly within an expected treatment window. Once more the topic is in the headlines, with a judgment recently pronounced on the case of Keira Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Bell has been through the slings and arrows of outrageous gender dabbling, and states unequivocally that at 13 and 16 she was ‘not equipped to make such life-changing decisions.’ She has had the full gamut of physical changes, which she loathes, all because she made a ‘brash decision’ as a teenager. Fenella Morris QC, for the Trust, said that young people were made fully aware of the impact of hormone blockers, given all necessary information, and considerable support to assist them. Bell replied, ‘when you’re that young, you don’t want to listen.’ More significantly, I think young people are hard-wired to rebel, whether it be at school, home, against conformity, by indulging in risky behaviours, or simply by bucking the trend. Bell has a whole life tariff to mull over her ‘informed’ choices. Celia Walden [Telegraph] asks pertinently, how did we get to a place where children as young as three are being encouraged to question their own gender? For every successful trans-gender journey, there will be many more, struggling with the quantum steps involved, and others who live to regret their decisions. I rather doubt Prince George – or his adorable little sister Charlotte – will be subjected to gender dysphoria dialogues at home or school, which is fine by me, as I am on the same wavelength when it comes to ‘information sharing’ for small and developing youngsters. They simply don’t need to know everything. The High Court has now ruled in favour of a judicial review, which means children and adolescents may not be able to consent to such hormone-blocking treatment in cases of gender dysphoria. The Trust is ‘disappointed’ and set to appeal. Walden rounds off her column by reminding us that the Ministry of Health recommends tattoo and piercing establishments require parental consent for Under 18s. More definitively those under 18 cannot gamble, get married, buy cigarettes, alcohol or fireworks. Why is it then okay to make a life-altering decision about your gender, without parental advice or support, before reaching the critical milestone of adulthood? I have witnessed  first hand the damage wrought on families by well meaning clinicians, exploring behind closed doors the ‘secret worlds’ of adolescent unhappiness, ultimately wreaking societal misery on the family who were bravely trying to unravel their youngster’s mental mess. 

Never mind the current (political) Eton mess, your seasonal roast may well be hovering in the balance, if you were thinking along the lines of turkey for the holidays. A temporary control zone has been imposed around a turkey farm near Northallerton after a highly pathogenic strain of H5N8 was found. Experts are concerned that 3 farms have been infected with the virus in the past fortnight, which suggests the virus is being transmitted by migrating waterfowl, and more than 10,000 turkeys in Yorkshire are to be culled after this outbreak of avian flu. Earlier this month 13,000 chickens were culled at a farm in Cheshire, while locals in Worcestershire reported seeing swans spinning in circles with blood running from their nostrils. Turkeys are at a particular risk of contracting avian flu because many are free-range and the virus can then spread. A Food Standards Agency spokesman said ‘properly cooked poultry’ and eggs were safe to eat. Still, trouble down on t’farm indicates more of a police cordon for the birds, than cookery cordon bleu for the adults.  I guess we’ll stick with traditional Friday night fare! 


Jacqueline x