Friday, January 16, 2009

Survival Lessons From a Sinking Plane - Well Blog - NYTimes.com

Survival Lessons From a Sinking Plane - Well Blog - NYTimes.com:
"“...We’ve heard from people on the plane that once it crashed people were calm — the pervading sound was not screaming but silence, which is very typical,” said Ms. Ripley, who for years covered floods, plane crashes and other disasters for Time magazine. “The fear response is so evolved, it’s really going to take over in a situation like that. And it’s not in your interests to get hysterical. There’s some amount of reassurance in that I think.’’

In her book, Ms. Ripley chronicles how individuals and groups behave during disasters ranging from the tragic Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire to the World Trade Center attacks. World Trade Center survivors, for instance, describe the stairwell evacuations as quiet and orderly, despite the chaos around them.

“You don’t hear the mayhem and hysteria that we would expect,’’ Ms. Ripley said. “That doesn’t mean people aren’t frightened. It means their brain is paying attention to everything going on and they are waiting for direction...’’"
I have never been in a plane crash - thank goodness - but I have found all this to be true when facing potential health disasters in my life.

Husband having a stroke after a TIA; mom being diagnosed with cancer once and a second time; dad going through cancer twice, chemo; me finding out I have a pituitary tumor that has to be removed, me finding out I need my kidney removed due to cancer NOW.

During all those events, I was calm as a cucumber. Got done what I needed to do. Talked to people I never would have. Never afraid. Race to the hospital from a sound sleep. Argue with hospital staff that we were at the wrong hospital. Carry dad up the stairs to the doctor when the elevator was out. Whatever.

But when it was over, I'd fall apart. Then there was time to think and realize the what-ifs. What if it spread? What if the stroke was paralyzing? What if the tumor couldn't be removed? What if there was no cure...?

I imagine those flight survivors are thinking about all the what-ifs today.

I hope their dreams and "playbacks" are better than mine sometimes are!