“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

South Island Surprises (part 1)

Labour Day weekend, Darin and I did a road trip. What an outstanding trip we had! Over 5 days, we drove 1500 kilometers across two islands. We flew Air New Zealand from Auckland to Christchurch Wednesday evening, and picked up our rental car the next morning. Our first stop was to be the Simpson's Movie donut in Springfield, but we discovered it was gone. We had a good breakfast at this cafe instead. Moving on toward Arthur's Pass, heading into the mountains, we were surprised by these lovely large boulders. The weather was fine, so we went exploring. This was one of the highlights of the road trip. This place is called Castle Hill, and is popular with climbers. Not on this day; we basically had the place to ourselves.

Continuing on through the mountains, we stopped in Arthur's Pass, where we had ice cream cones for lunch (hey, we're on vacation!) and met the local Keas (photo on the previous post). They are very entertaining. When one jumped up to the water fountain, I turned it on and the parrot drank water. Afterward, we walked up to the base of the Devil's Punchbowl waterfall. We carried on to Greymouth. We had the brewery tour at Monteith's (140 years old!), and discovered that beer tastes so much better when freshly made.
Have I mentioned how expensive beer is here? The Monteith's range is typically $13.00 for a 6-pack. So this was a special treat, because we just don't drink it that much due to cost. We stayed at the Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast a few kilometers south of Greymouth, and it was really good. The hostess seved us port in crystal glasses and visited with us. We went to visit her sheep in the morning, and they were very friendly.
Leaving Greymouth, heading north along the West coast, we were awed by the scenery. It reminded us of the norther California coast, except more green and tree ferns. We saw a sign for penguins, but didn't stop to look for them. We were on our way to the Pancake Rocks, which are best at high tide. We were really impressed. I love the picture below:
I'll post more about this trip in my next update.
Before we left for this trip, our Rottweiler puppy, Ruby, now 10 months old, came into her first estrous cycle. She and Fargo were booked into the kennel, so I called to tell them about it. I was told to not bring her, she would be too disruptive. The trip was not-cancellable, and I there was little chance of another kennel being available to take her, even if they would accept her. I rang her breeder, and she fortunately agreed to take Ruby.
I finishedthe book Persepolis, and really liked it. I needed something else to read, so picked up State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I really disliked it. It was totally predictable and the story had massive holes in it. The characters are shallow, the dialog is laughable, and you feel like you are being lectured to. I still hadn't gotten anything off my request list at the library, so I picked up a book that's been on my shelf for awhile, that I started and never finished. The book is Complications, and it's a collection of essays about medicine. I enjoyed reading about decision making and intuition. Now I'm reading Pitcairn: Paradise Lost. This is about the island where Fletcher Christian escaped the British navy and scuttled the Bounty after he and the crew mutinied. What started with an alleged rape of a 12 year old Australian girl became an inquiry into widespread sexual abuse. It was written by one of only 6 reporters allowed on the island to cover the trial. So far, very engaging and interesting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lucky to be alive

My brother, Bill, was in Fargo visiting my parents. My eldest sister, Teresa, was also there, watching football on tv after dinner. When Dad appeared to be experiencing a heart attack, Bill gave him CPR and someone called 911 (emergency). The police arrived quickly, and hooked him up to the defibrillator. The machine shocked him, and got his pulse back. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Amazingly, after four radial artery grafts, Dad is fine. He has a steady golf habit, and likes to keep fit, so I am sure that helped him survive. Here are some statistics from my brother, who happens to be a cardiac pharmacist at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester (sister to the Mayo):

I looked up some information on out of hospital cardiac arrests. 90% of events are due to ventricular fibrillation. CPR (chest compressions and rescue breathing) typically have little benefit in improving outcomes. Only 2-5% of patients survive out of hospital arrests. Early defibrillation is the key. If more than 8 minutes have past - survival is almost zero. Of the patients who are resuscitated only 30-40% have no neurological damage. Source: New England Journal of Medicine. Wow! Dad is so, so lucky.

The police officer who put the defibrillator on my father said that usually the machine won't shock the person because it's too late. This was the first time he got to save someone.

Of course, when I got the news about Dad's heart attack, I was so upset. I had never expected something like this to happen. I looked into costs to fly home on short notice, and found it to be impossibly high. That just made the situation worse. I had always thought that if something bad happened, I would fly home, no second thoughts, but I really had to control myself. I have never wanted to go home so badly before.

Now that the crisis is past, I am planning on a trip home in June, for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. We were hoping for a family holiday in Hawaii, but I think the cost will be to high for everyone to do that.

I am incredibly thankful to Bill and Teresa for being there for Mom and Dad.
The bird at the top of the blog is a Kea, the New Zealand mountain parrot. They too are lucky to be alive, because the government drops a poison to kill possums, 1080, that has recently been shown to be killing these endagered birds. I am writing this from Greymouth, on the South Island on NZ, where we're having a holiday. More awesome photos to come, check back soon!