25 years on


The apneoa alarm went off in the early hours of the morning.

It had been a while since we’d had a false alarm but they weren’t unusual.

I turned on the light, glanced at Tom who looked as he normally did, reset the alarm and was about to get back into bed when I remembered the nurse who’d taught us CPR saying. “don’t just rely on the machine, use your senses too”. As I turned to check Tom more carefully the alarm sounded again.

This was for real. He had stopped breathing.

I pulled him out of his cradle and began CPR while my farmer rang for help.

The first to arrive was our neighbour who’s a nurse, then our GP who took over the CPR and finally the ambulance.

My farmer and I watched and waited for what seemed a very long time. Just as I was about to ask if it was worth continuing, Tom started breathing again.

Once it was certain he was stable he was taken by ambulance to hospital in Oamaru. We followed and were greeted by a doctor who recorded Tom’s history then asked us how aggressive we wanted them to be in treating him.

It was just a month since we’d been told he had a degenerative brain disorder, was unlikely to live long and if he did he’d be profoundly disabled.

My farmer and I hadn’t discussed what we’d do if something like this happened. However, we agreed that if Tom was fighting for himself he should be given any help he needed but if it came down to treatment which was only prolonging the inevitable without giving him quality of life they should let him be.

The doctor said he thought that was the right decision but there was little they could do for him here and he’d be better with the specialist peadiatric team in Dunedin.

I accompanied Tom in the ambulance, went through the familiar admission process in Dunedin Hospital where he’d been a patient many times, then watched and waited while the doctors and nurses tried to help him.

Finally the senior doctor turned to me and asked the same question we’d been asked in Oamaru. I gave the same answer. He nodded and said they’d done all they could and would I like to hold Tom.

A few minutes later he died.

My farmer arrived soon after.

All the doctors and nurses who’d looked after Tom came to say goodbye to him and comfort us. Among them was a Fijian registrar who said we all make a fuss about welcoming people, it is just as important to farewell them properly.

That was September 9th, 1987.

I don’t always remember the anniversary but today, 25 years on, I’ve been thinking of Tom – a little of what might have been had he lived and a lot of what has been since he died.

No-one asks to join the bereaved parents’ club, the death of a child is against the natural order of things and we don’t expect to outlive our children.

But it isn’t all bad. The deaths of Tom, and seven years later, his younger brother Dan, changed our family and our lives for worse and for better.

A lot of people say they couldn’t cope with what we’ve gone through but few if any go through life untouched by challenges and when faced with them there’s not a lot of choice. If you don’t cope you go to pieces there isn’t any middle ground.

That doesn’t mean we always coped well and there will always be sadness that the sons we loved, lived such a short time – Tom 20 weeks and Dan five years.

But their lives weren’t worthless and it would be throwing away the lessons they taught us if we wasted our lives mourning their deaths and not making the most of opportunities they couldn’t have.

They taught us how fortunate we are to have the love and support of our wider family and friends, that life is precious and that has added to the joy and excitement of the arrival of the next generation.

In the last couple of years we’ve welcomed the birth of an Argentinean grandchild, three great nephews, two great nieces and another great-baby is due this month.

When I look at them I am reminded that life goes on and love endures.

Word of the day


Demulcent – serving to soothe or soften; bland; a soothing, usually mucilaginous or oily substance, such as glycerin or lanolin, used
especially to relieve pain in inflamed or irritated mucous membranes.




6/10 in the NBR’s  Biz Quiz.

Where Australia goes . . .


New Zealand’s global competitiveness has improved while Australia’s has stayed the same:

New Zealand’s global competitiveness has improved two notches to 23rd in the long-running World Economic Forum survey of official data and 14,059 senior executives around the globe, including 55 New Zealand business leaders.

Released locally by the New Zealand Initiative, a pro-business think tank, the 2012-13 version of the Global Competitiveness Report includes the impact on 2011 government debt and deficit figures of the Christchurch earthquakes.

The relative improvement in competitiveness would have been greater, had New Zealand not dropped to 124th in a survey of 144 countries for ratios of government debt to gross domestic product.

Australia maintained its 2011-12 report ranking of 20th. . .

Australia has weathered the worst of the global financial crisis on the back of mining.

But demand for minerals is dropping and Australia’s  economic growth is slowing:


. . . There are more signs of trouble ahead. Retail sales slumped to a near two-year low in July, for example, while job-market indicators have shown a softening in demand for new staff as Australia’s manufacturing sector continues to contract.

“Things have moved on significantly, with the global outlook weakening further and weaker bulk commodity prices clouding the outlook for the Australian economy significantly,” said Justin Fabo, a senior economist at ANZ Bank.

For Australia, the outlook for growth in China, the country’s largest trading partner, will be key.

“A lot of it hinges on China,” said Paul Sheard, chief global economist at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. “So long as China goes through a soft landing, I think this will be more of an adjustment phase for Australia.” . . .

Australia is our biggest export market, where it’s economy goes ours will almost certainly follow.

Both of us have been insulated from the worst of the global financial woes by growing demand from China.

We can also be thankful for our association with APEC:

Economic disruption, including possible recession in the United States, the Eurozone crisis and the slowing of expansion in China have taken a toll on the confidence of CEOs in the Asia-Pacific region, according to PwC’s 2012 APEC CEO Survey.

Just 36% of executives surveyed by PwC said they are “very confident” of business growth over the next 12 months. Longer term, however, prospects improve, with more than half (54%) expressing a high level of confidence for the next three to five years. 

PwC New Zealand’s Chief Executive Bruce Hassall is not surprised by the results and says the confidence gap underlines the challenges for businesses operating today, verses the promise of growth tomorrow in the Asia-Pacific. . .

. . . “And looming large on the horizon is the overall trend of rising incomes and the fact consumer spending power among APEC economies is projected to nearly double through 2021. That creates an enormous opportunity for New Zealand,” says Mr Hassall. . .

We can’t ignore our traditional markets in Europe and the USA but the newer markets in Asia will provide more opportunities for trade at least in the short to medium term.

More debt & less investment or . . .


Opponents of the government and the partial sale of a few state assets have taken great delight in the delay in the partial float of Mighty River Power.

But the ODT explains there’s a price to pay for that delay:

. . . However, one thing that is completely missing from any of the arguments for and against the sale is the ongoing programme the Government has to pay down debt and return the country’s fiscal accounts to surplus.

Without the proceeds of the partial sell-down, previously set at between $5 billion and $7 billion, the Government will need to continue borrowing to fund the planned improvement in health services, education, welfare reform and employment growth.

Put simply, this country cannot afford to borrow more than it earns. It did previously and the results are still visible. Economic growth, while strong compared with some other parts of the world, is not sustainable based on borrowing.

If the Government cannot use the proceeds of the sale process to pay down debts, New Zealanders might need to get used to further slimming down of the public service, less welfare and higher living costs. It is a choice not many will want to consider.

We can’t have everything.

More debt when it’s already too high and the global financial situation is so uncertain is not an option.

The Opposition would be first to complain about more cuts to the public service and services but that’s the alternative to the partial floats.

Pumas no pushover



When my farmer received an invitation to watch the All Blacks vs the Pumas from the comfort of a corporate box at the Cake Tin it gave me an excuse to go to Wellington too.

The prospect of flying in to the city in the face of gale force winds yesterday made me wonder if it was such a good idea. However, the flight we were booked on was cancelled and the later one we caught gave us a few bumps as we descended for landing but nothing too uncomfortable.

The partner of one of the other invitees made use of the excuse to go to the game too.  We were not treated to corporate hospitality but we had very good seats right on half way and immediately in front of the VIPs.

One of those was the Argentinean ambassador who was gracious enough to let me practice my Spanish at half time.

And the game?

I’ll leave the analysis to someone better qualified but from my not particularly well informed perspective it looked like the final score (21-5)  flattered the All Blacks.

Anyone who thought the Pumas would have been a pushover in the Rugby Championship would have been disappointed.

They held the Springboks to a draw at home and would have given the All Blacks plenty to focus on before they meet again in La Plata at the end of the month.

September 9 in history


9 –  Arminius’ alliance of six Germanic tribes ambushed and annihilated three Roman legions of Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

1000 Battle of Svolder.

1379  Treaty of Neuberg, split Austrian Habsburg lands between the Habsburg Dukes Albert III and Leopold III.

1493 Battle of Krbava field, a decisive defeat of Croats in the fight against the invasion by the Ottoman Empire.

1513  James IV of Scotland was defeated and died in the Battle of Flodden Field, ending Scotland’s involvement in the War of the League of Cambrai.

1543 Mary Stuart, at nine months old, was crowned “Queen of Scots”.

1739 Stono Rebellion, the largest slave uprising in Britain’s mainland North American colonies prior to the American Revolution, started.

1754 William Bligh, British naval officer, was born (d. 1817).

1776 The Continental Congress officially named its new union of sovereign states the United States.

1791  Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, was named after President George Washington.

1828 Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist, was born (d. 1910).

1839 John Herschel took the first glass plate photograph.

1850 – The Compromise of 1850 stripped Texas of a third of its claimed territory in return for the U.S. federal government assuming $10 million of Texas’s pre-annexation debt.

1886 The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was finalised.

1914  World War I: The creation of the Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade, the first fully mechanized unit in the British Army.

1922 Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 ended with Turkish victory over the Greeks.

1922 Hoyt Curtin, American songwriter, was born (d. 2000).

1923  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Republican People’s Party.

1924 Hanapepe Massacre on Kauai, Hawaii.

1926 he U.S. National Broadcasting Company was formed.

1940 George Stibitz pioneered the first remote operation of a computer.

1941 Otis Redding, American singer and songwriter, was born (d. 1967).

1942  World War II: A Japanese floatplane dropped an incendiary bomb on Oregon.

1944  World War II: The Fatherland Front tookpower in Bulgaria through a military coup in the capital and armed rebellion in the country estagblishing anew pro-Soviet government.

1945  Second Sino-Japanese War: Japan formally surrendered to China.

1945 First  case of a computer bug being found: a moth lodged in a relay of a Harvard Mark II computer at Harvard University.

1948 Republic Day of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

1951 Alexander Downer, Australian politician, was born.

1952 David A. Stewart, English musician (Eurythmics), was born.

1956 Elvis Presley appearedon The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.

1960 Hugh Grant, English actor, was born.

1965 – Hurricane Betsy made its second landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving 76 dead and $1.42 billion ($10–12 billion in 2005 dollars) in damages.

1966 Adam Sandler, American actor and comedian, was born.

1969  Rachel Hunter, New Zealand model and actress, was born.

1969  Allegheny Airlines Flight 853 DC-9 collided in flight with a Piper PA-28 and crashed near Fairland, Indiana.

1971  The four-day Attica Prison riot began.

1976 The Wanganui Computer Act established the New Zealand government’s first centralised electronic database.

Wanganui Computer legislation passed

1990  1990 Batticaloa massacre, massacre of 184 minority Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan Army.

1991 Tajikstan gains independence from the Soviet Union.

1993  The Palestine Liberation Organization officially recognised Israel as a legitimate state.

2000 Victoria Federica de Marichalar y de Borbón, granddaughter of king Juan Carlos I of Spain, was born.

2001 Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated in Afghanistan.

2001 – Pärnu methanol tragedy  in Pärnu County,  Estonia.

2004  –  Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta killed 10 people.

2009 – Vladikavkaz bombing:  a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at the Central market in Vladikavkaz killing at least 17 and injuring more than 160.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipeida

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