Sunday, January 31

A blog about death.

I know the header of this blog says it is about “Life, I guess”. But it is only death that really gives life meaning. To define something as dead we really mean “not Living.”

We all know that death is all around us. Some of us live in much closer proximity to it. Think of almost anywhere in Africa… Some of us live close to start with then suddenly get closer; Haiti anyone? Bangladesh every other year?

Watching my kittens growing into young cats I admire their poise, their balance; the speed with which those razor sharp claws fly to catch a ball thrown - all practice for bringing about sudden (hopefully) death to small creatures…

I have seen death amongst humans. I used to work as a Warden in sheltered housing for “older people” [“elderly” is apparently a value judgement too far]. Death is rarely dignified. People just stop—in mid-step, mid-poo or whilst reaching into that corner of the cupboard where the last cob-web stays unreachable.

The saddest corpse I ever saw lay on his back in the middle of London’s City Road. Safe in motorbike leathers and helmet, invincible until Newton took his life, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction”, motorbike stopped, rider carrying on at 120 miles per hour until the tarmac deformed under the impact of his helmeted head. He lay, a policeman cradling his head and neck, waiting hopelessly for the ambulance to come; knowing death had arrived. The bike still, steaming, 80 yards away…

Why am I pondering so much on the end of life? It may be because (God Willing) I will be 50 myself in December.

I think not. I have learned that death is, essentially, random. A clot here, a dodgy cell-division there. Who knows?

But the randomness of life-threatening situations is not unbeatable. Age will take all of us lucky enough to make it; but some accidents, both physical and medical will be survivable, with the right, timely response.

In 2001, on the 21st January, my wife went upstairs for a shower. She came back down shortly after, complaining of a headache. I could see that she was not just in pain, but agony. I rang 999 and within 90 minutes she was having a CAT scan at the Whittington Hospital. She was diagnosed with a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage. For three long days she was stabilized and kept alive by the medical team. She was transferred to the National Hospital in Russell Square in an ambulance that never went faster than walking pace.

Thankfully she was operated on. She made a full recovery. Most people who have those bleeds die or have permanent loss of brain function.

My point? Death is random, but sometimes we can work against the odds. Sometimes lives can be saved….

The Whittington Hospital is in danger of having its Accident and Emergency unit closed down. Angela might well have died without the timely intervention she received.

To join your name onto the on-line petition to save the Whittington A&E, go to

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