Monday, November 19, 2007

Will Love Save You - Or Just Make You Stupid?

I've been seeing and hearing a lot of stories lately about wilderness survival. Most experts agree that the most lethal part of the equation in a life or death situation is panic. Most people can survive with very little, if they keep their minds clear and make the right decisions. But panic is all too easy when you're lost in the woods, or drifting out to sea in a kayak.

This all got me wondering whether your odds of survival are better or worse if you're with your life partner at the time. I think there are arguments both ways. On the one hand, as I say in my book, nobody is just going to stand around and watch while the person they love is being swept down a river, or falling off a cliff. On the other hand, love does tend to get in the way of logic. We've all done stupid things because we were in love. But if you're reading this, none of those stupid things has yet cost you your life!

Here are the positives as I see them:
  • You will give each other more support and encouragement than friends or acquaintances, so there's a better chance of keeping a positive attitude.

  • You are likely to know about each other's health problems, and also realize more quickly if your partner is not behaving "normally".

  • You won't have any issues about sharing body heat, or helping each other physically. And if there is any blood involved, you're not going to be concerned about HIV infection (unless you have a positive partner.)

  • You know your partners limitations in terms of fitness and skills, so you can make plans that are achievable.
Here are the negatives as I see them:
  • Partners are likely to over-sacrifice, so that one will give up too much of their dry and warm gear to the other, and end up hypothermic themselves.

  • You are unlikely to be willing to leave a sick or injured partner by themselves, even if going for help alone is the most logical thing to do.

  • Many survivors stay alive through their ordeal so that they can return to loved ones back home. If your loved one is there with you, do you lose that driving force to stay alive?

  • Some couples will spend so much time arguing over whose fault it is that their lives are in danger, they'll forget to try to get rescued!
What do you think? I'm fairly certain nobody has crunched the numbers from Search and Rescue to see whether couples fare better or worse. Would your partner be a saviour in a disaster, or a dead weight?


RedYetiDave said...

That's a huge subject!

My girlfriend took a head-over heels-cartwheel down some cathedral-sized lateral moraine in a remote location in Northern Sweden a couple of years back. I think that I considered my landing before stepping off and sliding to a halt beside her. But I am not as sure as I'd like to be, that I considered it for as long as I should have done.

However, what I do know for sure is that the first aid training that we both took was very valuable indeed. To be honest the driver for that (or at least for me renewing since I don't lead groups these days) was mostly driven by fear of not knowing what to do if the other was injured.

It didn't stop me making the classic mistake of patching up the obvious wounds and missing the big bleed under the waterproof jacket. But you never get everything right when it's all gone wrong. And it was a good reminder to keep refreshing the training. In the end she was fine. Nice scar on the arm as a conversation starter (rather awkward conversation starter with her mum though ;)

And earlier this year when she took a tumble into a log pile and broke an arm in the woods (again in Sweden) we both knew the drill. What had to be done, what to check and monitor.

She's not accident prone usually - just that the couple she's had have been quite spectacular

So, with a little forethought, having a partner out there can mean you are far better prepared than you would be otherwise.

E-mail: said...

That's a good reminder about first aid training. It's been ages since my last course, and it would be a good idea to do a wilderness first aid one rather than the general course.

And I never knew Sweden was such a dangerous place!

Anonymous said...

This is a very Carrie Bradshaw column! :) G