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Behind the numbers

Today we heard the tragic news of a hot air balloon accident in Al Ain.  There were two deaths and one serious injury out of the total fourteen persons on board.  I was shocked, both because we had seriously considered doing the activity while the family was here, and because we had actually been to Al Ain two weekends back. 

For some reason while writing this up I visualised myself in a hot air balloon, tumbling in the rough winds and finally crashing to the ground, and realised that it is all too easy nowadays to look at the numbers – deaths, accidents, injuries.  But just give the it some thought and put yourself in the situation.  I assure you the result will give you a new perspective on traumatic incidents, and your reaction to them. 

Imagine yourself lurching from side to side in the balloon’s gondola. The panicked face of the pilot is not reassuring.  Your stomach reacts to the sudden drops.  Visibility is bad, there is lots of sand and grit.  Then all of a sudden – you hit the ground. You are thrown off your feet, hit something hard, feel excruciating pain.  If you’re lucky you’re on solid ground, but in Al Ain there’s a chance you hit rocky outcroppings (sometimes referred to as mountains), in which case there would be further tumbling and crashing.  At the end of this you can barely move, or you can barely breathe, or your eyes won’t open for some reason.  Your insides are violently displaced, and there is a strange taste in your mouth. You may have released your bowels, but that’s the least of your problems.  There are moans and cries of pain.  Or silence. 

If you are lucky you make it.  If not, you are a number for the media.

Of course even if you make it, it does not stop there.  There are many issues to deal with – trauma, shock, hospitals, insurance, family, work disruption, repatriation, the chill that goes down your spine when you see another hot air balloon in the sky.

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