The incredible rescue and amazing power of meditation

 

The world have seen the incredibly daring but successful mission of saving the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in the Tham Luang cave for 18 days, when they were exploring it after a soccer practice session and it became flooded by monsoon rains.

The plight of the boys and their coach, who called themselves the Wild Boars, has captivated not only Thailand, but much of the world – from the heart-wrenching news that they were missing, to the first flickering video taken by a pair of British divers of the cold, anxiously smiling yet calm, dirty and emaciated figures sheltering on a pitch-black ledge surrounded by water and even to the dismaying possibility that the rescue could take months if the monsoon persists exacerbating flooding inside the treacherous cavern.

This was nine days later after being unheard of and their location was about two miles of narrow, flooded passageways from the main entrance. Indeed this was a hell of a place to be in, especially for someone who does not know how to swim.

Efforts to pump water out began immediately as authorities tried to take advantage of a break in monsoon rains.

It was reported that in three stages divers ventured into the claustrophobic caverns to retrieve two boys at a time, giving them a full-face mask for oxygen and tying them with a rope. Each boy was accompanied by two divers, one holding the youngster and a second air tank, while another followed behind. The boys were also given anti-anxiety medication to prevent them from panicking as they were carried and pushed through narrow crevices.

At least 13 specialist divers and 5 Thai Navy Seals were sent in to escort the boys and their coach out.

What an incredible and skillful rescue effort in a perilous situation involving a group of helpless, adventurous individuals in the service for humanity!

But that is not all there is to it.

What makes the whole heroic event also amazingly miraculous is the fact that the boys and their coach were able to survive the 9 harrowing days without food and perhaps, unknowingly, a depleting air for breathing, not to mention the uncertainty of the purity of dripping water being drank.

There is no doubt that credit should go to the coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, who, earlier in his life trained as a Buddhist monk for 12 years before he decided to coach the Wild Boars soccer team.

Needless to say that it was meditation performed individually upon instruction of the coach that got the team through in what has started to be their calvary.

​For Buddhists, meditation is a go-to when distressed or in danger.

Meditation is a type of mental training that can increase your focus and compassion for others, among a wide range of other benefits. It calms you by slowing down your heart rate, your breathing and your metabolism, while decreasing cortisol levels, oxygen utilization and carbon dioxide emission. Cortisol is a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands.

No wonder, therefore, that despite the odds the members of the Wild Boars team were facing, they all showed amazing disposition.

 

Advertisements

D-Day has come for the ‘Wild Boars’

 

I am talking of course about the designated-day, or what I call decision-day, that has finally arrived,  as I write, to rescue the ‘Wild Boars’, a Thai soccer team composed of 12 boys ranging from age 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for more than two weeks now.

The Wild Boar football team went exploring in the Tham Luang cave network after a football game on June 23 and was trapped kilometers deep inside the cave system as floodwaters caused by heavy rains blocked the entrance.

The group was found, dishevelled and emaciated but alive, on a muddy ledge by rescue divers. Since then rescue workers struggled to find a way to extract the team from the cave.

Their ordeal has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities struggled to devise a plan to get the team out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” rescue director Narongsak Osottanakorn said, in announcing that 18 divers have gone for the rescue. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity.”

Osottanakorn was of course referring to the fast coming monsoon rains that could derail the life-saving plans. Rescuers have conceded that evacuating the boys is a race against time or the preparations made ahead, like draining the tunnels, would just go in vain and jeopardize instead the safety of the group.

Thirteen foreign divers and five Thai Navy SEAL divers are taking part in the rescue mission, which could take two to four days.

Aside from the fast approaching bad weather what could be worrisome also is the health of the boys and the fact that none knows how to swim.

Hopefully their determination, their will to live, couple with the surge of adrenaline will get them through these difficult challenges confronting them. They have all shown their indomitable spirit despite all the odds. Now it is just a matter of sustaining their physical and mental toughness.

We can only pray for them and their rescuers and wish them all Godspeed!

 

 

Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

Dried fish packaging

 

While this article may legitimately apply to consumer advocates, I am addressing this, however, directly to the consuming public for their immediate awareness and vigilance when buying dried fish or any dried sea product for that matter in a transparent plastic packaging.

It used to be that the salted, sun-dried fish, especially the much sought after “danggit” variety (rabbitfish), which is a known delicacy for breakfast, can be bought loose at certain quantities and costs in transparent plastic packaging material.

The problem however is in the aesthetics as the goods inside simply piles up at the bottom of the container, especially when lifted, and does not appear as presentable and inviting as when the items inside are orderly arranged.

The marketing people perhaps thought that the best way of having the items in place, in lieu of a vacuum packaging machine, is to staple it to the plastic container so that even if it is displayed hanging from the hook or taken out for a closer look it remains immovable.

They may have considered it a brilliant solution to their marketing problem, but in the process their seemingly clever and artful act is posing a serious threat to the health and safety of the consuming public.

I am talking of course about the staple wires that one might miss removing once one decides preparing the dried fish for breakfast. You can bet that you will have a handful of these tiny wires once you start unpacking the whole thing.

I am also writing this just in case you get this kind of “danggit” packaging coming from Manila.

 

Assisted suicide

 

Professor David Goodall

This is about two resolute individuals with different medical concerns but with one gallant goal in mind – to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death, a euphemism for physician assisted suicide.

Let me first talk about Professor David Goodall, an honorary research associate in Ecology at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, who, at 104, is considered Australia’s oldest scientist.

Goodall has produced dozens of research papers and until recently continued to review and edit for different ecology journals.

He does not have a terminal illness but his quality of life has deteriorated that he has secured a fast-track appointment with an assisted dying agency in Switzerland where euthanasia is legal.

“I greatly regret having reached that age,” the ecologist said in an interview on his birthday earlier in April. “I’m not happy. I want to die. It’s not sad particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented.”

Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries around the world and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria became the first to legalize the practice last year.

But that legislation, which takes effect from June 2019, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.

If that is not ironic, I don’t know what is.

Exit International, which is helping Prof. Goodall make the trip, said it was unjust that one of Australia’s “oldest and most prominent citizens should be forced to travel to the other side of the world to die with dignity”.

Noel Conway

The other individual who had already been to the Court of Appeal in London to win the right for what he calls his “fight for choice at the end of life” is Noel Conway, a 68-year-old retired lecturer from Shrewsbury, England, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014 and his health continues to deteriorate.

When this neurodegeneration occurs, everyday activities become increasingly difficult or completely impossible.

Over time, the condition progressively worsens as the muscle weakens and can visibly waste.

The majority of those diagnosed with the disease are given a three-year life expectancy starting from when they first notice the symptoms.

When Conway has less than six months to live and retains the mental capacity to make the decision, he wishes to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death.

This is how Conway, who says he feels “entombed” by his illness, describes his dire predicament now: “I now can no longer walk at all and have to be hoisted from bed to chair, as well as experiencing increasing difficulty with breathing and having to wear my ventilator for 22 hours a day.”

Feeling fatalistic about the whole thing, Conway also issued the following statements: “I know this decline will continue until my inevitable death.”

“This I have sadly come to terms with, but what I cannot accept is that the law in my home country denies me the right to die on my own terms.”

The High Court judges said that as the “conscience of the nation”, Parliament was entitled to maintain a “clear bright-line rule” forbidding assisted suicide.

Again, what an irony for a man destined to die soon, who says, “The greatest fear I have is still being alive but not able to use my body.

Another new body organ discovery

 

Interstitium: latest body organ discovery

Sometime in early 2017 scientists discovered an important organ making it the 79th inside the human body.

Called the mesentery, it is a double fold of peritoneum – the lining of the abdominal cavity – that holds our intestine to the wall of our abdomen.

Accordingly, what is considered an organ now has always been inside the human body performing important functions that affect systems throughout the body, but was ignored throughout the centuries thinking it was just a few fragmented structures in the digestive system.

What it is in fact is a continuous organ that plays an important role in the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular and immunological systems, but more research is needed to determine the extent of those roles.

Among its functions, it carries blood and lymphatic fluid between the intestine and the rest of the body. It also maintains the position of the intestine so that it’s connected with the abdominal wall without being in direct contact.

Very interesting discovery, indeed, even to a known medical person, but what makes it even more fascinating to me is that I have known about this word already when I was running a meat processing plant where we butchered our own hogs and large animals.

The foregoing, however, is not the subject of this piece.

The new human organ discovery I am referring to in the title is called Interstitium, which according to scientists had previously gone unnoticed despite being one of the largest organs in the human body.

It was reported that Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center medics Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias came across the interstitium while investigating a patient’s bile duct, searching for signs of cancer.

The researchers noticed cavities that did not match any previously known human anatomy, and approached New York University pathologist Dr Neil Theise to ask for his expertise.

The researchers realized traditional methods for examining body tissues had missed the interstitium because the “fixing” method for assembling medical microscope slides involves draining away fluid – therefore destroying the organ’s structure.

Instead of their true identity as bodywide, fluid-filled shock absorbers, the squashed cells had been overlooked and considered a simple layer of connective tissue.

Having arrived at this conclusion, the researchers realized this structure was found not only in the bile duct, but surrounding many crucial internal organs.

“This fixation artefact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” said Dr Theise.

How about that for the latest human organ discovery!

I would suppose this makes it the 80th important organ of the human body.

Gorillas dying in captivity

In the same manner that my attention always gets pulled towards the zoo enclosures where large primates are found, like the gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans, I also get bothered and saddened reading about these intelligent, human-like animals suffering and dying in captivity.

It is bad enough that these herbivorous apes have been displaced from their natural habitat of dense forests where they spend most of their daytime feeding on vegetation, but it gets even worst when man insidiously change their diet.

Long running studies have been made to find solution to a crisis facing captive apes the world over that gets transferred to an artificial environment only to die later.

In 1911, Madame Ningo, the first gorilla in North America, arrived at the Bronx Zoo, where she was fed hot, meat-centric meals from a nearby restaurant. Being an herbivore, Madame Ningo refused to eat and was dead within two weeks.

In 2006, three seemingly healthy male gorillas in American zoos died from heart disease—a condition almost nonexistent in wild gorillas. Scientists have since determined that 70% or so of adult male gorillas in North America have heart disease, and it’s the leading killer of captive male gorillas worldwide.

Significant proof to this is when a 30-year-old and 400-pound gorilla named Mokolo unknowingly got an ultrasound heart exam when he voluntarily shambled up to a stainless-steel fence, squatted on his stout legs, and pressed his belly to the mesh.

Like many captive male gorillas, Mokolo suffers from heart disease—specifically, fibrosing cardiomyopathy, a condition that turns red, healthy heart muscle into bands of white scar tissue too rigid to pump blood. Other great apes, such as orangutans and chimpanzees, suffer at similar rates.

For more than a decade, zookeepers, veterinarians, epidemiologists and others have struggled to figure out why heart disease is so prevalent among captive apes, and how to prevent the animals from developing it. Now they may be closing in on answer—one that lies not in the 20-ounce time bombs housed in gorillas’ chests, but in the microscopic bacteria that flourish in their guts.

“The gut dictates everything,” a biological anthropologist says. Even with advances in feeding, scientists believe gorillas are still getting too much sugar and grain—and too little fiber—and it’s changing the microbes in their guts. It’s possible that, as in humans, gut microbes play a role in the health of systems throughout the body.

Perhaps what this means is that unlike in the forest where the flora being foraged is what gives the gorillas more of the good bacteria in their guts, in captivity most of the food given them generates more bad bacteria that makes it generally unhealthy for the body.