A Defining Moment
In everyone's life, there arrives a defining
moment which changes the direction of one's life, takes one in a new
direction, so to speak.
Mine arrived recently on the Danny Gordon
Hospital while in the intensive care unit. The doctor was leading a
group of Wits medical students and analyzing each patient's medical
history for the students.
The doctor said: Mr Varty has had malaria 13
times. He has had bilharzia twice. He has had 2 hernia operations.
In 1995 he was in a helicopter accident where his vertebrae T9, L1
and L2 became compressed. In 2013 he was attacked by a tiger
breaking 3 ribs on his right side. One rib is detached and free
floating. In 2015 he had a cancerous melanoma removed from his upper
left thigh. Yesterday he had two large Echinococcus hydatid cysts
removed from his liver.
The larger cyst was 10cm in diameter.
If the cyst ruptures and gets into the blood stream, there is no
Doctor to students: Are there any questions?
Student: What does Mr Varty do?
Later the nursing sister helped me to take a
shower. On either side of the shower were mirrors. I could see the
sister looking at my naked body in the mirror, then she said. "Your
body looks like a snakes and ladders board". I could either laugh or
cry. However laughing is painful.
The comment hit me like a sledge hammer, draining
all confidence I once had away. (An orthopedic surgeon once
described my build as athletic.) I wonder what his description would
Across my chest was a 15 inch cut. (When I asked
Professor Botha why the cut was so big, he replied he had big hands
and to get to my liver with both hands, he had to make a big cut).
On the right side where the ribs are broken, is a
grotesque swelling. It looks like a small Kilimanjaro.
Across my back are a maze of scars where Corbett
raked me. These look like an aerial shot of a waterhole at Londolozi
in the drought with 14 game paths all leading to the water.
In the back of my neck are two distinct holes
where Corbett's canines went in (The left hole has recently been
found to have severed the muscles which support my left arm)
I always thought Mahindra's low range gear was
stiff. Now I discover I only have 14% power in my left arm.
My left leg which was badly scarred by Corbett,
now has a 18 inch cut running through it where the cancerous
melanoma was removed. (It looks like the GPS map on my new cell
The vertebrae compressed in 1995 in the
helicopter accident, has serious arthritis surrounding them. The
result is I can get nowhere near my shoes to tie my laces. I can
only wear lace less high boots. (Suzanne Lenzer, please when you
bring me boots from Australia, make sure they are high so I have
less distance to bend)
Recently a famous plastic surgeon visited Tiger
Canyons and I asked him if he could do anything for me. He reached
inside his bag and with a smile gave me a card. On the card was the
name of a a well known panel beater.
I have to say that my experiences in hospitals
have not been unenjoyable. I have met some of the finest medical
brains in South Africa.
Dr Frank Snickers the neurosurgeon in Milpark who
treated after the helicopter accident. Dr Andre Laubscher the trauma
surgeon who treated me in the tiger attack and Prof Jean Botha who
removed the hydatid cysts in Danny Gordon hospital. Thank you to all
of you who have undoubtedly extended my lifespan.
As a group nursing sisters are my favourite
people on earth. Compassionate, caring and dedicated, these ladies
work long hours and they work hard. I appeal to the Minister of
Health to pay them higher wages.
To survive long periods in hospital, one has to
have a sense of humour. I noticed that as hospitals become more
modern, they have introduced automatic blood pressure cuffs
(tourniquets). Before the nursing sister would come and pump up the
cuffs which would tighten around one's upper arm, then the nursing
sister would read one's blood pressure. Now the blood pressure cuffs
go off automatically every hour and one's blood pressure is
registered automatically on a machine.'
On the night after my liver operation, I was in
the intensive care unit in the Donny Gordon hospital. Because I had
been given doses of morphine to kill the pain, I was having vivid
The realistic dream took me back to the early
80's when I was filming an anaconda in the Amazon Jungle. As I took
the camera too close to the anaconda, it struck at the camera. At
the critical moment, as the snake struck, the automatic cuffs went
off. Convinced that the anaconda was wrapping itself around my arm,
I panicked and shouted "snake" at the top of my voice.
The nursing sister came running,
"What's the matter" she enquired.
"Snake attack" I replied.
"Where?" she asked.
"Around my arm, it's constricting me" I screamed.
"That's your blood pressure, it's 140/60, it is normal" she replied
I woke up clutching the bed post.
I would like to thank all the doctors and nursing
staff of the Danny Gordon for their kindness and care. (I have
picture of nurses taken in Milpark, Medi Clinic and Danny Gordon.
The nurses in Danny Gordon are the most beautiful)
To Dr Emma Wypkema for her incredible kindness
and logical support, I can never thank you enough.
After "the snakes and ladders" comment by the
sister, I had a long time to think and ponder the future. I have
decided I do not have the body or confidence to pursue the opposite
sex any longer. (I think I still have the personality).
I am now going to spend my time and energy
investigating politics (how does America after billions of dollars
spent on campaigns, end up with two candidates that nobody wants),
philosophy and religion.
The only ladies I'm going to pursue in the
future, are four legged, spotted and striped with long tails.
It has been an extremely hard decision to make. A
defining moment so to speak. However the only constant in life is
Thank you to all of you for your many emails and
sms'e and words of encouragement.
Love, light and peace.
PS. A message from Prof Botha to all of you who
have pets. Keep your pets de-wormed and don't let them lick your
Dr Gavin Rous, a vet, warns that cats can
transmit Taenia hydatigena. People living on sheep farms and in game
reserves, are at far higher risk than those in cities with domestic