Friday I left a bit earlier. I was on call for two days, and was a beautiful afternoon. We went to an outdoor garden centre, bought some Italian pale terracotta plant pots, deep green climbers, stunning bedding plants, combust. On the way home it was already around eight but it was a warm July evening, the sun was still high, light traffic on the motorway. All of a sudden the traffic slowed down, cars were changing lanes. I suddenly saw three-four people coming out of their stopped cars, jumping over the motorway metal barriers and rushing down to a cliff. The drivers of rest of the cars were turning their heads to
check out what was going on and then were slowly overtaking. No ambulance or
police cars. There must have been an accident, no doubt, time for me to stop.
All this rushed through my mind in less than a second, was more of a reflex
rather than conscious thought. The mind can put thousand pieces of a puzzle
together in less than a second, even if has never ever seen the composite image
Got out of the car, the motorway side metal barrier was run over, flush with the asphalt, I started walking down the steep cliff. Suddenly I felt a sting down my feet, I looked down: the cliff was covered with thorny bushes. I was wearing shorts and flip flops, not the right dress code for the occasion but there was no going back. Thirty meters down, at the bottom of the cliff a blue Toyota was upside down. No other cars. While approaching I saw four people standing by. A woman was at the driver’s seat, head down, ponytail, nothing was moving, it was quite a jump, I thought that’s it, she didn’t make it.
But when I got close I saw a bystander talking to her. I got on my knees, almost lying on my front. Her head was facing the bottom of the cliff, she couldn’t see me. “Hi, my name is George, I am a surgeon”, said calmly, and thought that she was in such a difficult position. “Hi George” said back, surprising calmly. Her left arm was trapped under the dashboard, but there was no blood, no open injuries. I checked her pulse, was OK, she could
move her right arm and legs, no sign of spinal cord injury. Thoughts rushed
through my mind. When helping in emergency cases I am usually surrounded by a whole team of people with the best conditions and kit worth of millions. Now, I am standing at the bottom of a cliff having nothing material. But I can talk to her. Reassure her. Give her a
bit of confidence that everything will be fine, although I am a bit concerned
for her left arm. Her name is Sam, she is 26.
In about fifteen minutes the fire brigade arrived. Fire fighters started running down, throwing hoses, offloading cutters and giant spreaders. They were wearing heavy yellow
uniforms, helmets, super strong boots. I looked at my “gear”, white t-shirt, black
shorts, flip flops. The dorsum of my feet had red streaks and a bit of blood
from the thorns. I approached the “incident leader” a man in his early fifties
and explained the situation. From the other bystanders there was one doctor, a
nephrologist, I don’t think Sam kidneys was her problem. They asked everybody
to go back to their cars and carry on their journey. I volunteered to stay. In
a few minutes the paramedics arrived. Again I did the introductions. They were
happy that a neurosurgeon was around, and they spread the word on their operational radio. Every time that a new police or incident officer was coming to the scene they were asking “are you the neurosurgeon?”
The incident leader thought that I was some kind of disasters’ expert and was asking for my technical opinion: “do you thing we should put squares or wedges to the side of the poles to lift the car?”. I thought to say “I have no idea what you are talking about!” but he had such a faith in me, didn’t want to disappoint him. I said “Just make sure you do not bent or stretch her spine”. He nodded satisfied that we reached an agreement. As the car was lifted Sam’s belongings started falling out from the back sit; a plastic bag half full with bagels, some clothes, Bill Bryson’s “At home”. Last but not least the emergency doctor arrived. She was wearing orange suit, black boots, blonde ponytail, about my height. She looked like a Swedish model. She smiled (white teeth) and said “Hi, I am Jane, are you the neurosurgeon?” I looked around, about thirty fire fighters, twenty policemen, paramedics, all hard-core uniforms. I looked at my t-shirt “that surelly was a lucky guess!” I briefed her. Sam was stable. “She is lucky” I said. “Some are not” replied. “ I’ll take it from here” said and smiled.
Time to climb back up the cliff, through the thorny bushes, no it wasn’t a good day for flip flops. Halfway through a descending police officer asked me “excuse me, are you…” “yes, I am the neurosurgeon!” finished off smiling and carried on my ascend. The dorsum of my feet were red, red fluid was dripping. Well, nothing that some cold water from the garden hose can’t cure. At the top of the cliff, drivers still were overtaking police and incidence cars. How it is that some people stop and try to help and others don’t? A layman can justify a decision both ways: “ I have no medical skills, I can’t help” or “ I have no medical skills but I can call an ambulance, I can talk to the injured, even give some first aid”. Here’s my theory, all decisions we make are emotional, we use logic only to justify what we decided to do before we had time to think. This applies to all situations, even to the ones we think are strictly logical.
Sunday we went to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford (http://www.ashmolean.org/), Britain’s first public museum founded in 1683. The exhibits were close to my heart treasures from the Hellenic Kingdom of Macedonia, objects and tales from an era leading
to Alexander the Great. Listen to an ancient story through 500 objects, swords and golden jewelleries, silverware and sculptures, objects that were buried with kings and stunning golden crowns worn at the Royal Court. No photography was allowed. I took a few photos. They asked me politely not to take any photos. I took some more. Then they had a poor guy following me around the make sure I will take no more photos. There is something inherently inviting when they explicitly ask you not to do something. Like when I visited Beethoven’s house in Bonn. There were like a hundred signs around his Piano “Do not touch”. I had to strike a couple of keys, and then waited to get arrested. German Polizei is dead serious; German people are dead serious for that matter. But no, I wasn’t arrested after all and lived to tell the tale :-)
At the Alexander the Great exhibition the magnitude and rarity of objects never travelled outside Greece anywhere in the world. British press was mega excited by what they called “The Show of the Summer” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/8465977/Heracles-to-Alexander-Ashmolean-Museum-review.html).
Its open until 29 August, and about an hour’s drive from London. You got about a month to witness history presented superbly through tombs of kings and possessions of rulers, Royal women and architectural wonders. That is true history, nothing like Oliver Stone’s super stupid flick “Alexander”, where the greatest military mind of all times is portrayed like a disturbed, semi-lunatic Irishman. And of course the Hellenic Kingdom of Macedonia has nothing to do with the Slavs northern of Greece claiming Alexander the Great as
Slav. You got to be kidding me! Last time I checked Alexander (whose teacher by
the way was Aristotle!) was not called Alexandrovic.
Sunday night was time for a movie (turned out a good surprise). “The adjustment bureau” was on Sky, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt. It’s a new genre, a cocktail of futuristic thriller,
sci-fi and romance, ideal for boys and girls alike, for a night in. Damon plays a young congressman running for Senator’s office but not doing very well until a brief, cute encounter with Blunt inspires him to give that night the speech of his life. But somehow he loses her and for four years desperately seeks to find her without success because a group of “agents” run his life (and everybody else’s life!) according to a written plan, and “adjust” any deviations. When he finds her again a frantic chase begins to re-write his already written fate.
The screenplay is based on a short story by Philip Dick, whose stories Hollywood discovers again and again with movies like Blade runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. The Adjustment Bureau is about free will vs. destiny, about small things in everyday life (like missing the bus) that can have tremendous impact on how things turn out, about metaphysics (is anybody watching us and plays with our lives?) and about personal effort to change what we don’t like and and go after what we want! I don’t know about the rest but put my name down for the last one!