Being Grateful and wanting that for others

This post is about being grateful….and wanting that for others. (However, I must make a VERY clear disclaimer here… the thoughts in this, and most likely a couple of follow-up posts, are MY thoughts, and NOT the official position or my employer)

Due to the many hats I have worn across my life I have the absolute pleasure and privilege of working alongside, with, for and on behalf amazing people like Firefighters, Ambos, Police, Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health and literally every associated profession, including cleaners, porters, administrative people etc that make a positive and ongoing contribution to the lives of people EVERY day. They all do it with out expectation of anything … simply because they are great people doing important stuff on behalf of others.

Today, I was celebrating a fellow firefighters birthday. A few drinks and feed. Then this beautiful women (no not my wife … on the left of the picture, but the one on the right in the red vest) wandered in. It is incredibly hard to explain just how much Maggie means to me and my family. This blog… really starts with the post how did I get here, and Maggie is a big part of that story. Running into Maggie today has resulted in a big chunk of reflection, and the shedding of a few tears, as I have thought about that day, the following years and the challenging experiences that came with them.

I will never get over the strength and tenacity that my wife showed on the day of Samuel’s accident. I will forever be grateful for that strength and tenacity, and her presence of mind in making an additional Triple Zero phone call and asking for a response of Firefighters as well as the Ambulance.  I will forever be grateful for our neighbours that assisted with the initial CPR and  for my fellow firefighters from 98 Stn who arrived on scene as the first emergency responders. I will for ever be grateful for Maggie, who was the first Ambulance officer to get to Samuel, to scoop him up and start our interaction with the NSW Health System. I will also be for ever grateful for the hundreds of people who then interacted with my family to care for and support Samuel and the rest of my family.

Twelve years ago, due to the strength and tenacity of my wife’s presence of mind to make an extra Triple Zero phone call, my family had access to a crew of Firefighters who trained in Basic Life Support and Advance Resuscitation, who had a truck with equipment on in it that could assist in an immediately life threatening condition like Samuel’s non-fatal drowning experience, AND they were the first ones on scene to begin providing support to Samuel and my family.

While I have written this… I’ve also been actively reflecting on just how far I should take this post…. I think on reflection that I am not going to go as far as my first thoughts… but I will leave it here, with a disclosure and a couple of questions. While I ponder how to further address the associated issues in an ethical and proper way.

Disclosure: Within my professional role I have been responsible for working on a proposed dual response model that would potentially see Firefighters responding with Ambulances to Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest calls.

The Questions: 

  • Why because of the presence of mind of my wife, and my association with a fire service, did MY family have access to a crew of firefighters and equipment that could save a life
  • Why twelve years later, does the public that I and my fellow firefighters serve NOT have the privilege of access to the same level of service
  • How many people could be walking around, or be having a reasonable quality of life, as opposed to being dead, if they had the same access to services as my family?

I know, there are HUNDREDS of questions that people can, and will ask about my families circumstances and the difference regarding availability of services.  I know, that there are hundreds of statements and arguments about “whose job is it really”, and what the REAL problem is about responding in a timely manner to medical emergencies in the community. I know there are questions about pay, about processes, about support for firefighters etc…. I know that there are hundreds of questions about the chances of people surviving, questions about increased exposure of firefighters to trauma, and about quality of life and length of survival for those who need help….   I may address these in follow-up posts… but I need to do more thinking first.

This question though, that is over-riding in my head is this……

“if it was you… or your loved one, wouldn’t you want the nearest, fastest and suitably equipped and trained response to give you or your loved one the best possible chance of survival?”

Venting through the blowhole of grief


I have had grief described to me in many ways, and none of them have ever really described what it has felt like to me since losing Samuel. I’ve been searching for a metaphor that would adequately describe my experience and how varied it is from day to day.

After a lot of thought, the constant motion of waves against a rugged coast,  and the actions of a blowhole are the closest I can come to describing my experience of  grief.

The waves vary in size, sometimes they are a gentle swell rolling and sometimes they bring crashing waves, washing up against the rugged coast of my consciousness. Like a rugged coast my consciousness is full of cracks and crevices through which the the waves pulse and withdraw.  Sometimes as they surge and pulse …. Woosh.. There it blows..  emotion erupts releasing the pressure and I feel like I simply need to collapse, like the column of water after the eruption of a blowhole.

Sometimes there is a rhythm to cycle of the emotional eruption, some days I know it’s coming, I anticipate it and I can sit and observe the rawness and feeling of loss and sadness, other times the eruption seems to come from nowhere and just like standing next to a blowhole unaware,  I wind up drenched by the eruption.

As today marks two years since Samuel died, it is a day of expected emotion, and no doubt tears many times throughout the day. It is also a reflection on the passing of time. When Samuel was alive there were markers of time before and after his non-fatal drowning. We passed things like the point in time where he had been severely disabled for a quarter of the time that he had been our “normal” little man, then half the time, three quarters, equal time… and then.. well and then… it just was. Now that he is not here I find my mind watching that clock again…. two years.. almost as long as we had him “normal”.


Time ticks

Onwards time ticks,
its passing is stark.
Surging memories of moments sweet,
and moments ohh so dark.
Some dates are markers of time,
Defining our before, defining our after.

Through the pain we strive to remind,
ourselves of the moments of joy and of laughter.
That despite being apart,
with days sometimes flooded with tears
and the permanent cracks in our hearts
your memory will last all of our years.

Connecting with their hearts not their heads!

The last two days have been spent at the Australian Water Safety Conference, organised on behalf of the Australian Water Safety Council by Royal Life Saving Society Australia, Austswim (the Australian Council for the the teaching of Swimming and Water Safety), Surf Life Saving Australia and other member organisations.

The conference featured an International collection of delegates and presenters.

Social Media, Community and Effective Communication for Water Safety

In my role as the MD of the Samuel Morris Foundation I participated in the Plenary Panel discussion on Effective Communication. This panel looked at What is effective communication? The role of technology in effectively communicating water safety messages, the use of social media in our communication and a discussion of the state of core messages related to water safety. Part of my discussion on this panel was influenced by this great TED talk by Simon Sinek, and as result I was encouraging people in the water safety industry to connect with peoples hearts not their heads… or in Simon’s words to get to that “gut feeling” that the message is just right!

If you have been here a while you will know the story of How I got here and why I also presented a paper on “Non Fatal Drowning – A case study, advocacy and influencing water safety outcomes”.

Community readiness for drowning prevention

In this presentation I examined a model for community readiness for drowning prevention messages, the current state of community readiness, the contribution of Non-Fatal drowning statistics to community readiness (and how these statistics remain invisible in the current methods of statistical reporting), achieving the goals of the Australian Water Safety Strategy through partnership, collaboration and coalition, building new collaborations with emerging grass roots organisations, and discussed the due diligence checks that should be carried out to ensure that new organisations actions and ethics do not hold any surprises or any potential harm to your own organisations reputation. ( copy of the presentation is being prepared to be uploaded to the Samuel Morris Foundation website very soon).

Child drowning and near drowning continues…

Child drownings occur year round and in developed countries like Australia and the United States drowning is one of the top two or three causes of accidental death for children aged 0-4 and in some jurisdictions it is THE leading cause of accidental death, but as you can gather from the topic of my presentation this is only part of the picture because many more children are left disabled as a result of non-fatal drownings. (and the situation is far worse in developing countries) So no matter what season it is in your part of PLEASE take heed ……

  • Always supervise children in and around water (keep 0-4 year olds within arms reach)
  • Provide effective well maintained barriers to stop children getting into the water (four sided isolation pool fencing, or fenced off safe play areas)
  • Teach children water survival skills and to swim (commencing as early as possible)
  • Have an emergency plan (knowing CPR may well be the difference between life and death for a child if all of the above fail)

Keeping all of our children SAFER

Water is lots of fun, but lets make it SAFER for our children.

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