Home Back Forward January 2, 1999: Getting my enthusiasm back







One of the secret bits of background information about 1998's trip was that Charlie went with a serious medical problem that he didn't tell anyone about, except Maureen. He had an aneurysm in his leg that was ready to pop any time. I didn't find out about it until they were back and Charlie went to the hospital...

Dear James,

Life has improved for me since our meeting in the hospital room one day after my surgery. It was a disappointment that I didn't get a chance to visit with fewer impediments as it was difficult to talk with all the tubes and drugs. I'm, of course, not the first to notice that the only thing going for that kind of reality check regarding our own mortality is that it gives one a fresh outlook on life if you happen to survive.

Now that it's all over except the getting used to having man made parts keeping me alive, the whole experience doesn't seem too bad. I feel lucky that the aneurysm was discovered by a fluke last March and although it was aggravating at the time, not being able to have it operated on for at least six months, in the end it couldn't have worked out better. If they had operated immediately, I would have missed the incredible summer that Maureen and I had in Kamchatka. Of course prudence should have kept me home in Alberta anyway but I decided to play the odds and go. My doctor, Bill Hanlon, said I had a 15% chance of buying the farm in Russia if I went because the aneurysm was expanded to about two inches. This was considered to be borderline serious and would have been operated on right away if Alberta did not have a backlog of surgeries. Bill, being a serious climber-adventurer himself, was not going to say I couldn't go. Especially when our work with the grizzlies, and the wilderness flying that we do, would be considered in most circles as the other 85% chance of dying. In fact, Bill and his colleges had a good laugh about it when the subject came up. I decided to live with the figure of 15% even though each year the flying does worry me. Maureen and I consider that our life with the bears is far safer than the traffic in and out of Calgary and many other things we do. Maureen, however, made it quite clear early on that she was going to keep the flying with me to the bare minimum. That explains why there is an obvious lack of mention of it in any of her web site entries last summer. I found, on the positive side, that the precarious position that I found myself in added a sharp edge to many of my experiences, the mortality thing I guess. On the negative side, every little stomach pain made me imagine that the end was very near as there was 0 chance of getting help if it did give way.

I came back this fall, with an urgency and lots of energy to get writing the book about our years of experiences in that wonderful area and all that the cubs have taught us about their species. It felt like I even have too much material for just one book as I probably have one about my flying as well. All that urgency and my keenness went out the window in November with the anesthetic and stitches and just feeling sorry for myself. Its been slow getting it back but with all the nines lined up in this new year, I think I'm ready to get going now.

Kind regards,

P.S. You have my permission to put this up if you think it appropriate.

© Lenticular Productions Ltd. 1999