Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

Delaying The Inevitable

This post was going to have a completely different direction when I started. But a tragic local headline served a stark and horrific reminder instead.

I wanted to talk about traffic and driving experiences. I am one of many parents who have children who have delayed getting their drivers licenses, a right of passage growing up. Where I live, the area seems to grapple with a loss of gravity, as the nearly daily accidents involve some sort of rollover of their vehicle, including from either a straightaway or pulling out in an intersection. No, when I originally came up with this filler piece, it was nowhere near as heavy as I write it today.

The picture is a screenshot from my phone, credited to local news agency, UC Breaking News – SWFL. The headline reads, “13-Year-Old Boy Killed In Crash.” Again, as I mentioned, daily car crashes here are not uncommon, and it seems that deaths or at least severe injuries occur nearly every day. There were not many details released. A car, driven by a 17-year-old girl, had three passengers, two aged 13 years of age, and a 10-year-old. She attempted to make a left turn, thinking she had the right of way, or at least enough distance, and instead was hit by another vehicle, being driven by a 30-year-old father, and his 3-year old child. This turn was attempted at night. The accident is being investigated. But one definite fact has been reported, a 13-year-old boy was killed in the accident.

Of course, social media does not disappoint, with all the know-it-alls and just plain assholes, offering their commentary and disrespectful, hurtful comments. A lot of discussion needs to be had about this accident for sure, regardless of anything that comes out of the investigation. One thing that was confirmed, all passengers and drivers in both vehicles were wearing seatbelts, or this would have been much worse.

As a teenager, all I wanted to do was drive. The day I turned 15-years-old, I could not wait to rush out and get my learner’s permit. With a birthday occurring in the wickedest time of the year weather-wise, Winter, I would learn to drive in extreme conditions not experienced by my friends born in April or July. The furthest thing from my mind, was ever getting into a car accident, a clear case of the “it will never happen to me.” And for over 35 years, I kept that record in tact. That is right, that record came to an end, five years ago.

In a scene reminiscent to the story written above, only I know my details accurately, I had a left turn arrow, and was actually following behind a police cruiser who was also turning. But a young woman driving a Challenger in the opposite direction, was approaching, clearly without a green light, through the intersection. The police officer had just completed his turn. She was coming straight at me. A last-second maneuver, a hard turn left, turned my eventual collision from head-on, to her hitting my right passenger side. I do not recall much of the accident other than the sound of the impact. I remember the officer, who had turned around, witnessing the impact in his rear view mirror, asking me if I was okay. I was a little woozy, but I did not seem injured.

I deal with flashbacks when I have to drive that intersection, but otherwise, I had begun my accident-free streak again from that point on.

Having two teenage daughters, I knew there would come a day, that each would want to get their driving licenses. And why shouldn’t they? As I said, it is a right of passage. The fact that it was something that should happen, did not take away the many memories that haunt me of others that I knew, or had heard about, involved in car accidents. Admittedly, my memories really only hold on to those killed in car accidents. As a teenager myself, there were so many.

The first occurred during my senior year, a friend was killed driving across a bridge known for being hazardous, especially during inclement weather. Another friend, killed just after graduation in a vehicle purchased by his parents as a gift. The most personal for me occurred when my first ex-wife was hit head-on, on a dark two lane road. Driving a Geo Storm, she was hit by a Ford Crown Victoria. Somehow, she survived, hurt badly, but survived.

But these personal memories definitely impacted my motivation, rather, lack of motivation to encourage my daughters to seek their drivers licenses. I used all kinds of rationale from not necessary, to expense, and even relied a bit on their own lack of impulse to pursue the process. I would tell my daughters, “you know, by getting a license, you will be asked to run errands all the time,” capitalizing on how they often did not like being interrupted or, “if you want to borrow the car you will need to do this,” blackmail, the exchange simply not worth the inconvenience.

I have driven all over the country. And as I have, I constantly changed my opinion of which places were the worst to drive, whether road conditions or drivers. Along the way, Florida held that title for me once before and has regained my opinion of worst place to drive again. As my picture above shows an intersection in China, the photo was taken by me, that was what I thought was the worst place for traffic. Having witnessed all types of transportation, from tractor trailers and buses, to cars, to motorcycles and mopeds, to bicycles and pedestrians, it was clearly a “circle of life” situation with the strongest surviving. I had even witnessed an accident with someone opening a car door into a cyclist who had been trapped in her lane of travel. It was a sickening thud.

Here where I now live, in south Florida, there is not a day that goes by, there are at least two or three accidents, one of them severe, at least every other day involving a death. If it involves a car, there is likely a rollover involved, which does not make any sense from the lack of curves in the roads, and in most cases, traffic does not move that fast because of the amount of cars tying up traffic. Then, just as in China, you have all of these other vehicles on the road, not just trucks and buses, but because this is a tourist area, there are these funky vehicles, three wheelers, electric rickshaws, vespas, all risking their lives having less physical protection around them in the event of an eventual crash. And of course, pedestrians and cyclists are constantly getting hit by vehicles. Did I mention aggressive drivers?

And so, we have a tragedy like just occurred. There needs to be discussions about the circumstances. I know we are a country of people that do not want to be told what to do, but dammit, when we do not use common sense, such as drunken driving or texting while driving, something needs to be done to protect the innocence.

My biggest fear next to my own daughters driving, has always been them, being driven by someone else. Of course, them driving the family car, we would be aware of. But going for a ride with a friend or classmate, as the expression goes, “what we don’t know…” Well, my daughters as of now, still do not have their licenses, and it is likely they will not anytime soon, because they have realized they do not need them at their current stage. They will get their licenses eventually, but right now, they do not need them. They know this. That means, their friends do the driving. I have no idea when or how often this happens. And yes, they are to offer gas money. But as I pass cars filled with teenagers today, I see my biggest nightmare, the passengers all carrying on inside (and outside) of the vehicle, while the driver focuses on the roadway.

This tragedy is just that, a tragedy. What was a fun night for a family, has now become a nightmare. There will be lots of “coulda-woulda-shoulda”, and changes made in families who knew them, and perhaps by others who heard of the accident. But in this area particularly, the county needs to do something. Aggressive and reckless driving (such as drag racing) is at an all time high. This is not the first time a child’s life has been lost on our roads here. The first thing to dealing with a problem however, is recognizing there is a problem. And while authorities may admit to a problem, they do not publicly publicize it, you know, it is called “awareness.” If you don’t talk about the problem, it does not exist, right?

A Super Side Story

(apologies for the delay in this story, but life happens.)

As many who have no vested interest in the Super Bowl (meaning my team was not playing), I am prone to want to pay attention to the extra stories that occur over the two weeks, and the game itself. This is a tradition that began for me back in 2006, when the Seattle Seahawks (my team) went to their first Super Bowl, and I completely missed the game, as I was in the process of adopting my youngest daughter. Every year, as Super Bowl rolls around, regardless who is playing, including the two additional appearances by the Seahawks, the first thing that always comes to mind, is that trip all the way around the world.

This year’s game, had many special stories behind the game. There was the first match up of biological brothers playing on opposite teams. This story so entertaining, even their mother, any time she was seen, was wearing “split” clothing, representing both the Philadelphia Eagles for her son Jason, and the Kansas City Chiefs for her son Travis.

There was the historical milestone of having two black quarterbacks starting the Super Bowl.

And then, there was the fact that the head coach of the Chiefs, at one time, had been the coach of the Eagles, and while haven gotten the birds to the Super Bowl, the did not win. “Big Red” as Andy Reid was known by, soon found himself out of favor with the fans, and the team, landing in Kansas City, where he won his first Super Bowl as a coach last year.

But the most special moment for me, occurred at two separate moments, both before the game had begun. The first happened in the hour before the game, an interview was held by former New York Giant Michael Strahan, with Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin, who gained unintended fame having collapsed on the field, during a game between the Bills and the Bengals near the end of the season.

After some questions to Hamlin about how the day began, and what was at stake, Strahan then asked a most difficult question. I am paraphrasing it, as this happened to be an emotional moment for me watching this interview, explanation will be coming shortly, “what went through your mind, as you got up after making the tackle, only to collapse right after.” Hamlin responded that he was not able to answer that question yet, as tears started rolling down his face.

Of course, the question was likely to provoke a response about the sudden blackout, fear, helplessness, and as his heart beat stopped on the field, would he have had any memory of that moment? The interview ended soon after that.

Whether for good or for bad, when the body decides to allow or disallow memory of certain trauma, whether remembered or not, often stirs an emotional upheaval, none felt like ever before. While I will not speak for Hamlin, myself, a cardiac patient as Hamlin, I often still struggle with my emotions every since my first major open heart surgery almost fifteen years ago. And I cannot explain it. I do not personally remember anything after the oxygen mask had been placed over my mouth. Reading the surgical report, I know my heart had been stopped, drained of its blood so that the surgery could be done. And then my heart was filled back up with blood, and restarted. I offer my apologies to my surgeon as it was really way more complicated than I made it sound. But my point is this, I remember nothing about what happened, once I was put under anesthesia until I came to after the surgery. And yet, whenever I witness or hear of someone else go through an experience with the heart, or cancer, I lose control of my emotions.

As I write this post, I am aware of a fellow long term Hodgkin’s survivor like me, going on over a month now since his heart surgery. He is also facing new emotions as he struggles with his recovery, as well as the trauma of what his body had been put through.

When Hamlin is ready, he may finally discuss what he has been feeling, struggling with. Maybe his won’t. But one thing that I truly admire about Hamlin, like many other survivors, they take the experience of that traumatic event, and try to make something good come of it.

Hamlin is alive for only one reason, CPR being performed on him, almost right away. Time is the most critical when the heart stops beating, and medical personnel were able to begin CPR right away, buying the time necessary for better methods to be employed, eventually saving this young man’s life. It is truly an inspirational story, fan of football or not.

And so, the second moment of yesterday’s telecast came, during introductions of the game, many medical personnel who tended to Hamlin, and training staff from both teams were all introduced on the field. And yes, it was predictable, but wow, what a powerful moment, Hamlin was introduced, and embraced all who were there. Yes, the tears were not only falling, but out of control for me. Hamlin was wearing sunglasses, but anyone watching knew what was happening in that moment.

I reunited with my hospital caregivers a couple months after my emergency bypass had been completed. I wanted to let them all know, their care was responsible for saving my life, and I was not only going to live, but make the most of my life, and I would forever be grateful for the care that they gave me.

In the meantime for Hamlin, he is using his “event” to raise awareness and advocate for everyone to learn a newer version of CPR, his life definitely being saved from someone immediately able to perform CPR on him after he collapsed. As anyone knows, timeliness is critical in reviving someone whose heart has stopped.

The newer procedure for CPR came about for several reasons, from reluctance due to Covid-19 risk and sadly homophobia in some cases, to discovering that chest compressions were more critical to keep blood flowing until emergency personnel arrives. The American Heart Association now recommends up to 120 chest compressions per minute, and if possible, using a chain of rescuers. Even if you have never performed CPR on someone with the older method, and just been certified using a “dummy,” performing chest compressions for a long period of time, combined with the emotional adrenaline, can be exhausting.

But learning this new technique, is not only easier, it just might make a difference when you least expect it. Like in front of 65,000 fans during a football game.

Hey Frontier Airlines! I Just Want You To Know…

Hey Frontier Airlines! I just want you to know… that you SUCK!

Oh, you do not have to worry about me thinking you care about the inconvenience you caused yesterday. The loss of time with my daughter yesterday and this weekend clearly is not your problem. But here is your problem. “Du bist mies” (German).

Forget the fact, that this was the second flight in a row that you have cancelled for me in a month and a half, after I had already checked in. You clearly knew the flight was going to be cancelled sooner, yet, it was not until my daughter was on her way to the airport, and a notification by Flight Aware, not you, Frontier Airlines, that the flight was cancelled. “Vous etes nuls” (French).

You never offer any explanation as to why the flights have been cancelled. This is quite arrogant of you. It is quite obvious why you do not offer explanations. If it were the weather, you could just say so. No one would ever blame a judgment call because of bad weather. But yesterday’s flight cancellation was not because of weather, though clearly weather did cause a great number of delays. Frontier Airline and Countour Airline (had never even heard of that one before) were the only ones to cancel flights. All other flights took off. It was not the weather. “Pesimo” (Spanish).

On average, your airline only has one flight to a destination per day. Why is it that you cannot even get just that one flight out when other airlines get multiple flights out, even if late? You will not say. “Jestes do bani” (Polish).

Do you remember that one flight that you lost my luggage in spite of your flight being non-stop? I do. There were about 30 of us at that airport, trying to find out what happened to the luggage that was loaded at the departing airport, but did not arrive. Your personnel offered no explanation other than “we are looking into it.” When it turned out, another passenger had a tracker turned on for a device in his checked bag (he must have experienced this before), he discovered that his luggage was indeed back at the departing airport. Why was he able to figure that out, but not your employee? And then, all your employee would offer, was that the luggage would be flown here “as soon as possible,” in spite of a second departing airplane from that same airport an hour later, refusing to guarantee the luggage would be placed on that plane. And why was the luggage bumped from the airplane in the first place? Was it true that “contracted cargo” bumped passenger luggage for space on the airplane? “Bena vagy” (Hungarian).

Even during the Covid-19 crisis, somehow you managed to operate more reliably than now, especially with the extra steps of disinfecting the planes and surveillance upon boarding. The government even gave your airline relief funds to help you survive the pandemic and restrictions by retaining your staff. But did you keep your staff? “Du suger” (Swedish).

The kicker? While you are forced to give refunds for flights that you cancel, it is hysterical that you offer a credit voucher for your “inconveniencing” me. So just because you think I have a low enough IQ, you want me, to schedule more flights with you, in spite of the frequency of cancellations, and you are going to bribe me with a $50 voucher (that cannot be exchanged for cash to say… purchase a ticket for another airline to get to my destination). You want to keep me hooked, for the possibility and the unreliability that the next flight could get cancelled as well? “Unasinya” (Swahili).

I would like to talk to you about a better way to resolve this issue, but there is no one to talk to in customer service. Customers are told to communicate via the Frontier app or on line. How convenient that this allows you to not subject an employ to the true impact of customers and the inconveniences caused by your airline by supplying what I feel are likely automated generated AI responses. At least gauging by the responses I got in return, the responses were computer generated. So there is no chance, any customer is going to be made whole for their inconvenience and losses because there is no one on the other end. “Fai schifo” (Italian).

There is an expression, “you get what you pay for.” And while no one expects a “discount” airline to be perfect, reliability should not be the thing that is discounted or eliminated. Sure, Frontier Airlines is not as bad as other airlines. I would not think that is a bar that your airline would want to strive to be. But you are getting there. “You suck!” (English).

You do not have to worry Frontier Airlines. I am not going any further with this. As an advocate, I have much more important things to fight for. A losing cause is not one of them. I feel your airline clearly does not care about its customers and customer service.

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