Lessons from a Fatal Accident

I found myself in a very surreal situation a few weeks ago. I want to share with you, as this could be you some day. Things happen, and they happen suddenly. This was one of those things.

I was at a stoplight on a busy four lane street. It was dusk. I was the third car in line in my lane. When the light turned green, the two cars in front of me took off as fast as they were able. Within seconds the front car hit its brakes and violently swerved to the right.

In an instant the second car did the same. I was looking at the cars wondering why they swerved out of the lane. I thought to myself, someone was hauling something and part of what they were hauling fell off the truck or trailer and was laying in the street.

Accidents happen quickly and without warning

Accidents happen quickly and without warning

I started slowing down looking in my rear view mirror deciding which lane would be safer to turn into. When I looked forward to the road surface, I saw a large something laying in the lane.

As I came closer, I thought to myself, that looks like a human body. I quickly turned into the right lane, and stopped on the side of the road. When I exited my truck, I was sure it looked like a human laying in the street. From here on what happened became very surreal.

My next thought was call 911. I had my work phone with me, but I turn it off after work. As I walked towards the form on the street, a woman was standing with her phone out and one finger over the screen.

I asked her if she knew what happened or knew the person on the street. She said no. I asked her who she was calling, and she said, “I’m calling emergency”. Unfortunately she was frozen in place. I asked to call 911 as I walked towards the body.

It was dark, and the lighting was not good. My first thought was it was sick prank, what else could it be. Someone threw a human looking dummy into the street thinking it would be funny watching vehicles swerve to avoid hitting it.

After some seconds of staring at the body, I knew it was not a dummy, and I also knew he was not alive. I am now standing in the middle of a fifty mile per hour four lane street with a dead body on the ground. No sign of an accident and no reasonable explanation of how it got there.

I think that pretty well describes the situation. As I stood there, I thought to myself, ‘people get killed doing what I am doing’, trying to do the right thing. I could not leave the body alone to get ran over by someone not thinking about their driving, so I stayed in the lane with the body.

I looked over to the woman who was still frozen in place, and this time I commanded her to dial 911. A few more people had gathered and two of them said they would call 911. The woman was likely in shock and probably could not remember the number to 911.

I remembered I had either a tarp or a blanket in the backseat of my truck. When the light turned red, I walked to my truck to get it. The woman was still frozen in place. I found a blanket in the backseat, walked back into the lane, and with the help of a person who stopped and put on their flashers so I would not get hit too, we covered the body with a blanket.

I saw a woman walking up the lane from a distance. there was a car with its flashers on stopped in the lane some distance away. When she was about twenty feet away she broke down, sobbing and crying she hit the man and did not mean too.

One of the bystanders told her to go to the side of road which she did. It sounds harsh, but I did not care if she stayed standing out in the street in front of traffic that probably did not see her. She was not my concern, and her actions did not fit what happened. I realized later, she was probably in shock too.

The police eventually arrived, two officers in two vehicles. One officer started controlling traffic, and the second came to where I was standing next to the body. After surveying the situation and listening to me telling him there was a dead man under the blanket, he lifted the blanket, and confirmed what I said.

The policeman stood, and announced to the five or six of us that were at the scene, that this was about to become a crime scene, and if we were not involved in the accident, or had pertinent information we should leave, unless we wanted to stay there three or four hours. Myself and the others who were not involved left the scene.

There is good learning here even though the situation is horrible.

Things happen which are way out of our comfort zone.

The two drivers of the two cars in front of me at the stoplight will have to live with their decision not to stop and render aid for the rest of their lives every time they are reminded of what they did.

Sometimes even with the best of intentions we are not able to do what we know we should do.

Risk taking is a personal choice. Not everyone should be willing to stand in a lane with a dead body with cars flying by on each side of you.

If people are already stopped and helping, and it looks as if you can not help too, it is probably best to drive on. Too many people could mean a second accident, as driver are sometimes too preoccupied.

The person who was killed deserves some of the responsibility for what happened. Crossing eight lanes at night, not in a vehicle, is an extreme high risk activity. It is horrible what happened, but it can not be undone.

When driving, pay attention to the road in front of you. The driver who killed the man IMHO, was unfortunately distracted somehow. She will have to live with what happened for the rest of her life. I would not want to be her, and I am sure you do not either.

If you are on foot or on a bicycle, skateboard, or something else, weigh the risk of street crossings carefully. The person hit and killed may have crossed this street at this time night thing often over time, and was safe every time, until this time.

Melancholy Reminders of Family Past

A phone call from the past last evening made me realize how much I really miss my sister Lana. She was nuts, but she was always there for me. She would go off on these tangents of thought. Wasps for example. I never really thought about Wasps, but Lana was consumed by them for months on end.

She asked me during one phone call if I ever noticed how high tech Wasps were? I had to admit, I really had not given wasps a lot of thought. Lana pointed out to me how their insect body shape was different than other insects. They looked as if they wore helmets. They were streamlined, made for flying fast. Lana thought they came from a different place than most insects. Some high tech aliens introduced them to the earth was a possibility.

I listened to Lana talk for hours on end over the course of a summer about how cool and unique Wasps are. She was feeding a Wasp colony, and wrote the editor of the local paper about it. The paper published almost of her letters over the years. Humor maybe? It did not matter to Lana. Something as uniquely odd as feeding Wasps sugar water was perfectly normal in Lana’s thinking.

When Lana wore herself out about Wasps, she would get around to me. It was an expectation that I had come across or was thinking about something oddly unique. I do not remember much about my end of the conversations, it has been a while. For some conversations I would struggle to come up with a topic, thinking what I would say why she prattled away. Generally I would choose a topic Lana would relate too.

Sometimes Lana amazed me with her insights. Other times, she would go through three or four phone calls hashing over something that was important only to her. Lana made a connection between whales, dolphins, and birds one year during one of the single topic multi conversations we shared.

Lana told me that God created certain animals that performed specific duties for the earth. Sea mammals, some fish, and birds all had a specific role. Through their calls and chatter, they introduced and maintained a calmness over the earth, in the air and the sea. Without these animals, Lana told me, all animals would live in excessive fear because there would be no calming voices in the background of our hearing.

I shared her thoughts with friends at times. Frozen looks, and no response were the norm. I did not mind, her fixation was never ordinary. Often it took a leap in thinking to get to her level. I was okay with it.

Melancholy MemoriesLove and relationships were out of the question. Taboo to put it mildly. She had lost any normal feelings of love and family, thirty years ago. We traded letters and talked in person when I was in town, and over the phone for almost thirty-five years. “I love you”, was never once uttered.

Anything tribal, Native American, or low IQ people were off limits. This was the domain of the ‘nuts’ part of Lana. I would listen to her berate, lament, and attack these groups of people for what would seem hours. Then she would get it out of her system, and she would return to almost normal.

I was able to share many parts of my private life, and my private thoughts with Lana when she was connected with the idea that her brother was on the other end of the phone. I think that was the greatest thing about having a Sister whose connection with reality was fragile.

Lana was a steel trap about my innermost thoughts. Nothing I told Lana in three decades ever went from Lana to another person. All my secrets were safe with Lana. I could express my fear, frustrations, and occasionally my warped thinking with her. Lana would take each utterance of mine, dissect it, rehash it, and find some value in it for me, unless it infringed on one of her taboo topics. When I infringed on a taboo area, the phone would end shortly.

I would wonder what I was giving Lana, that she needed in return for her listening to me. After some years, it became obvious we were different sides of the same coin. I listened to Lana and she listened to me. For Lana it was enough of a connection, probably the only one she could make. For me, Lana was my repository of thoughts that would never really see the light of day.

Lana spent most of her adult life seeing counselors in one form or another. Maybe she took on that role when it was my turn to create conversation. Maybe she was really interested in what I had to say.

There are parts of all of us that should never see the light of day for various reasons. They need to remain in the cracks and crevices of our mind. I know now, how fortunate I was to have a sister like Lana. She did not mind that I too had a side of me that was not public I could share with her. Maybe we kept each balanced.

Erasing Risky

The second and last Cat, Risky died last week, heading towards his nineteenth birthday, which is quite long for a cat. I suppose this post is about erasing a long time pet and family member from your life. Risky was an odd cat, so maybe my erasing him seems a little odd in itself.

I knew when I came home Wednesday eveningt and found blood pools around the living room and hallway, Risky was running his last race. He had been throwing up for about five months, but nothing like this. Not this amount of blood. There was so much blood I thought it had to be half of what was in his body. It looked as if a knife fight had taken place in the living room.

I found him on the bed, his normal spot for that time of day. Laying there he looked normal, eyes clear, and indifferent in that cat sort of way. When he atood, I knew it was as serious as I was afraid it would be. Instead of standing, Risky shivered, tilted, and wobbled as he tried to stand up. By late Thursday evening he seemed to have quit drinking, and by Saturday morning I was on my way to the vet to make arrangements for him.

Risky didn’t come back home with me after his first car trip in almost fifteen years. The erasing process has started. One empty pet carrier and no Risky inside. I emptied Risky’s cat box as there was no need for it now. I put it in a plastic bag with the scoop, and put it in the garage. I swept up what clay litter pieces there were to sweep. I gave the floor a quick wipe.

I picked up Risky’s cat beds, three of them, where he slept in the daytime depending on the time of year, all three beds by windows. On my hands and knees, I scrubbed at the blood stains in the carpet for the second time. It made little difference, the blood stains are semi-permanent I think. I washed his food and water bowls. I could not put them away yet.

Sunday I worked. When I came home, I started collecting whatever cat toys were in sight. There were a couple dozen toys, hidden under the couch, in the corners, under things. He was given a lot of toys over his almost nine-teen years. I collected leftover cans of soft food and the partial bag of dry food. I bagged them to give them away on Monday to someone with a cat.

Tuesday, I collected the last of Risky’s toys as I vacuumed the carpet to clean it again, for the second and where the spots were, the third time.

Wednesday, I steam cleaned the carpet, picked up a few more toys that hidden away. I vacuumed the curtains to remove his hair from them. I need to do this a second time, just not right now. I washed and dried the throw Risky slept on when he was on the bed, and the blanket that was below it.

I cleaned out the freezer of a half dozen small baggies of hamburger meat, and “on special” trout fillets Risky doesn’t need any more. I threw out his cardboard scratchers. Every day I wonder, where he is, or what is he doing when I hear a noise, followed an instant later by remembering – Risky is dead.

As this happens I think about my two trips to the vet on Saturday. Standing outside the closed door each time, once by myself, and once with Risky in his pet carrier. How painful I found it to take two final steps, open the door, and take two more steps to the desk. It was even harder to talk.

I don’t know how long it will be before Risky is erased from the house. Every room, most of the furniture, and so many small noises, and lack of small noises have his memory in them.

I think this is a good thing. It reminds me I am alive, and I have feelings. It also reminds me I am mortal, someday it will be me, and this is how life works.

It has been two weeks now and company has arrived. It was a simple thing to tell them Risky died. I skipped the details. As the outside door opens and closes over the last few days, I keep thinking, Risky is going to get out. Then almost as quickly, I remember.

Hershey The Cat

Hershey the Cat in her prime

Family member, confident, and friend.

Hershey the Cat died early this morning. I was with Hershey at her passing a few minutes after one o’clock. It is a relief she died, though it is so painful too. Hershey couldn’t go on any more. Over her last few days she quit eating and stopped drinking.

Hershey was a family member for almost twenty years. Hershey entered our life a very young kitten, starving and lost at a campground. No one ever claimed her, so she joined our family.

Hershey was smart as a whip. Hershey learned how to ring a bell to be let in, come home from exploring to the sound of a dog whistle, play hide go seek, and in her last year Hershey was very proud of herself when she learned to meow what sounded like “hello”.

Hershey got mad often as Siamese Cats do. She purred as she fought with my hand, and could hold a grudge for days. We both loved an disliked each other through the years, same as family members everywhere.

Hershey was an above and beyond mother. We kept one of her only litter of three kittens. Hershey was still trying to take care of her son (about six months younger than her) in the few hours before she passed on.

My wife called her Her/She when we found her at the campground as a kitten. She was a Chocolate Point Siamese. Hershey became her name. She could have been Heinz 57 for all I care. Hershey was the cat of a lifetime. I am so blessed to have had her as part of my family.

I could go on for another ten thousand words about Hershey the Cat. If you have or had pets you understand. If you never had pets, you may not understand. Hershey took care of us as we took care of her. Hershey was a great Cat, friend, consoler, and family member. I hope I was some of those things for Hershey, or maybe did other things only a cat would need understand.

I miss Hershey deeply.

Death by Vegetable

Be careful, your vegetables amy be killing you? Wow, I have heard some slanted news as I was a teenager in the late 1960’s when the Vietnam War was going strong. The media would report almost anything except the war news. War news would often only receive a brief one line mention right before commercial break.This media hype has all the stink of big money in the background making a big story about nothing. In the bigger picture death by vegetable poisoning is not even a blip on the radar screen.

Let’s look at some other sources and some other non vegetable facts. Here is the abstract from the Center For Disease Control’s findings which prompted the death by vegetable hype:

Each year, >9 million foodborne illnesses are estimated to be caused by major pathogens acquired in the United States. Preventing these illnesses is challenging because resources are limited and linking individual illnesses to a particular food is rarely possible except during an outbreak. We developed a method of attributing illnesses to food commodities that uses data from outbreaks associated with both simple and complex foods. Using data from outbreak-associated illnesses for 1998–2008, we estimated annual US foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths attributable to each of 17 food commodities. We attributed 46% of illnesses to produce and found that more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity. To the extent that these estimates reflect the commodities causing all foodborne illness, they indicate that efforts are particularly needed to prevent contamination of produce and poultry. Methods to incorporate data from other sources are needed to improve attribution estimates for some commodities and agents.

So a few hundred people died this year from food borne illness on vegetables. Let’s look at other health facts. Starting with the eating of red meat:

Per the Los Angeles Times, a pretty reputable news source, they had this to say back in March. It is also supported by the China Study.

All red meat is risky, a study finds

Eating any amount or type increased the chances of early death among adults tracked more than 20 years. …any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years.

For instance, adding just one 3-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat — picture a piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards — to one’s daily diet was associated with a 13% greater chance of dying during the course of the study.

The London Telegraph ran this story this month:

The Department of Health was last night urged to review its guidance on red meat after a study found that eating almost half the daily recommended amount can significantly increase the risk of dying early from cancer and heart disease.

The Food Poisoning Bulletin wrote what foods were involved in 2012 food poisonings:

10 Largest Multi-State Food Poisoning Outbreaks Of 2012

Three of the foods: tuna, cheese and mangoes were imported.  Five of the food sources: cantaloupe, ground beef, spinach and spring mix, clover sprouts, and peanut butter, were produced domestically. (The specific food source for two of the outbreaks was not determined.)

Here comes the hype, led off by The Huffington Post:

Leafy Greens Leading Source Of Food Poisoning Illnesses, Study Shows

A big government study has fingered leafy greens like lettuce and spinach as the leading source of food poisoning, a perhaps uncomfortable conclusion for health officials who seem to not want us to eat our vegetables.

Now lets look at some other data presented as fact from the Center For Disease Control (CDC)

“Heart Disease Facts

  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.1
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.1
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 385,000 people annually.1
  • Every year about 935,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 610,000 are a first heart attack. 325,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.2
  • Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year.3 This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.”

Moving on to death by Drunk Driving. I found these numbers as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The figures are from 2010. The data compliments of The Century  Council.  I suppose these numbers are harder to come by than death by vegetable.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 32,885 people died in traffic crashes in 2010 in the United States (latest figures available), including an estimated 10,228 people who died in drunk driving crashes, accounting for 31% of all traffic deaths last year.

On smoking, the CDC weighs in with these numbers:

In the United States, smoking is responsible for about one in five deaths annually (i.e., about 443,000 deaths per year, and an estimated 49,000 of these smoking-related deaths are the result of secondhand smoke exposure) (Worldwide there are over an estimated 5,000,000 smoking related deaths a year as reported by the CDC.)

There have been about 600,000 deaths by Heart Attack in America each year, helped along by eating red meat per the CDC data. The CDC also reports that there were about 443,000 smoking deaths. World wide the same source estimates more than 5 million people die each year from smoking. Let’s not forget the 32,000 that died from drunk driving,  We had less than 500 deaths by vegetable poisoning in 2012 verses over a million deaths from eating red meat, smoking, and drunk driving.

From a 2008 harris poll as noted on wikipedia:

…found that “approximately 0.5%, or 1 million [Americans] are vegans…

I haven’t heard any Vegetarians whining about vegetable deaths, what gives? They should be up in arms, writing every government official they can, shouldn’t they? Perhaps Vegetarians realize they could be accidentally killed before they leave their home in the morning, and certainly before they make it back home for the night.

Yet there was the media hype on several major web pages about a few hundred deaths brought about by contaminated fruits and vegetables. Would you like some raw broccoli to go with your red meat, wine, and after dinner cigar or cigarette?

Disclaimer: I eat red meat, I eat white meat, I occasionally eat fish. I also eat a large amount of vegetables to go with my meat. I have nothing against meat eating. I am more than familiar with smoking as a number of family members died from the same smoking related illness. I have yet to hear of anyone I know die from vegetable poisoning. And I thought politics was full of biased information.

I am never sure if the media is that desperate for Shock Value, or it is manipulation by big money somewhere to change the focus of the average American onto something that is not important in the long run.

America is in fiscal crisis.  The War in the Middle East is not slowing down. Floods have devastated major areas of our coastline. Global Warming has not gone away. Yet there is a rash of hyped up articles about something that does not really have a major impact on America in light of other things we take into our bodies.

Quick, look at that!

Oh, you missed it….