To my fellow Rotarians, and friends
Our Rotary Family
I was woken up at 3.00am one morning a few years back with the worst news any parent could receive.
My first wife Cathy rang, and between tears and sobs informed me, that our son Ben, who was backpacking through Asia at the time, had been involved in an incident in Laos, and was knocked to the ground hitting his head on the concrete road. Ben was in a coma with a brain haemorrhage and needed to be emergency air lifted out of Laos, to the Bangkok International Hospital for urgent surgery if he had any hope of surviving.
As you can imagine, quite a shock. It is like being hit in the stomach with a cricket bat, and the mental anguish makes you feel that you want to curl yourself up in a little ball and cry. I could not do that because for the next eight hours I was on the phone trying to organise everything for Ben.
I contacted a Rotarian friend James, who was a member of the Rotary Club of Canberra, (my old District), who worked in Foreign Affairs and was able to work with the travel insurance company to get Ben an emergency air evacuation flight out of Laos to Bangkok. James also put me onto another Rotarian in Canberra from the Woden club. Trevor worked in the Passport office, and he organised an emergency quick approval for Cathy’s passport, so she could fly over to Bangkok within a couple of days. I stayed behind, organised my business to run while I was away and flew over a few days later.
16 hours after the incident Ben landed in Bangkok and within one hour, was on the operating table in the Bangkok Hospital, and by this time his Brain haematoma was the size of a soft ball. The Doctor was so amazed at the size if the Hematoma, he stopped the operation for a minute to take a photo of the horrendous site that confronted him. He told us later that he wanted to share it later with his colleagues and medical students because he had never seen anything like it before. After he and his team had removed half Ben’s scalp, removed the Hematoma, and repaired the damage they put him in an induced coma.
Bad news travels fast, and in those first few days I was inundated by phone calls from Rotarians all over the District and beyond with offers of support and offers to help in any way they could to make my, and Cathy’s, life just a little bit easier. Our Rotary Family at work.
A member of my own Rotary Club and my good Friend and Mentor Bob Aitken, contacted me and said he had a Past District Governor and friend of his, living in Bangkok and he would get in contact with him and ask if he could help us in anyway.
When Cathy and my daughter Melinda stepped off the plane, Bob’s friend, Past RI Director Noraseth Pathmanand, was there to meet them and escort them to the hospital wait for them to be briefed by the doctors, and then took them onto their accommodation. Not only did he do that, but he had also already been to the hospital every day from the time Ben had arrived, to make sure he was getting the best of care. When I arrived four days later, there was Noraseth to meet me, take me also, to my Hotel which he organised and then onto the hospital.
Ben was in a coma for 10 days and when he finally woke, the Doctors and nurses told us this afterwards that they thought he would not survive, and if he did, he would be in a vegetative state.
He was paralysed down his left side, he could not eat by himself or speak clearly, and had months of physiotherapy ahead of him to look forward too, Ben had one Physio for his walking and paralysis, one for his speech and swallowing and one for his talking. We would see Noraseth everyday as he stopped by the hospital while Ben was in there, to look after Cathy, Ben’s, and my needs without being asked, and attended to anything we might have asked him to do.
Why, do you ask am I telling you this very personal story? And the answer is. This editorial is all about Our Family of Rotary.
I have a complicated family, and I am sure others do too, but we as Rotarians have a huge Rotary Family all over the world that we can call on in our hours of need or just to have someone to talk to or show us around if we happen to visit their town or country. 1.78 million members all with the same ideals and that philosophy of Service above Self. That is why I love, and am so passionate about, My, and Your, Rotary Family and what it can do.
I know if someone rang me and said they had a son or daughter of a friend in hospital and is there anything I could do to help; I would do everything in my power to accommodate that request. Not because of my own experience but because they are part of my Rotary family, and we do things to help our family.
The same goes when you meet someone like a traveller in your area, and after talking to them for a while you find out they are Rotarians from somewhere else. What would you do? I suggest you would maybe offer to show them some of the local sites, maybe invite them to your club meeting if they were around when it was on, and if they needed accommodation, you might offer them shelter in your house or ask your club members if someone could help. That is what we do in Rotary - look out for each other.
So, what has happened to Ben I hear you say?    
Exactly 8 weeks after the accident he walked out (after paying a bill of $83,794) of the Bangkok International Hospital (and that is another story for another day), and flew home to Sydney, where he then travelled up to the Blue Mountains to Leura where he lived with his mum, Ben continue with a further twelve months of physiotherapy before he was able to go back to work. Ben is now perfectly OK and is living in Spain with his wife Sandra and little son Max, borne on the 30th December 2019.
 
I feel blessed that I had my Family of Rotary both at home and overseas to call on,  because it really made the whole experience a lot easier to handle. My Rotary family at home constantly checked on my, Cathy’s, and Ben’s welfare not only physical but mental welfare, and it is so important that we continue (especially in these COVID-19 times) to respond to any welfare needs in our clubs and spread the love of the Rotary family.
 
Yes, Ben is tall, 6ft 7”in the old scale or 204.5 cm
 
District Governor
David Clark J.P.
And remember “If it stops being fun stop doing it”