he number of London transport staff dying with Covid has increased to 60, including 46 bus workers, it was revealed today.
The total figure, up three from 57 revealed earlier this week, includes staff working for the private bus firms contracted by Transport for London to run the capital’s buses, plus Tube and rail staff and TfL head office workers. The death toll includes 37 bus drivers and nine other bus workers, such as bus station staff.
Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford said: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of our 60 colleagues who have sadly passed away from coronavirus.
“Their tragic loss is devastating for us all, and I and everyone at Transport for London would like to pay tribute to the critical role they played in London’s fight against this global pandemic. We will never forget them.
“Our heroic frontline staff and colleagues across the transport industry are the beating heart of London and have kept this great city moving through one of the most challenging periods in its history and helped ensure life-saving critical workers were able to do their jobs. I would like to pay tribute to them all.”
The Government’s vaccine delivery plan states that phase two of the roll-out – once over 50s have received the jab – may include “targeted vaccination of those at high risk of exposure and/or those delivering key public services”.
There are high-level concerns among London politicians that teachers, TfL staff and Metropolitan Police officers might be more vulnerable to infection due to the public-facing nature of their work and because they cannot work from home.
More than 3,300 TfL staff are said to be off work sick, shielding or isolating. One in seven London Ambulance staff are currently off sick or isolating.
Nick Hague, headteacher of Marner primary school in Tower Hamlets, died just before Christmas after contracting covid.
Officials leading the Covid response in the capital are trying to secure rapid testing of transport workers and police to free them from self-isolation and enable them to get back to work.
London’s public health chief Professor Kevin Fenton told a City Hall inquiry into covid this week that he supported the principle of distributing jabs based on likely exposure to the virus rather than vulnerability to the disease, once the first priority groups had received their doses.
Professor Fenton said: “I think the evidence on key workers… and other factors which can increase the risk of acquiring severe disease may well be another way of thinking about who gets prioritised.
“Rather than focusing on one characteristic – a person’s job – it may be that it is the combination of risk factors that would help to identify an even better, more sophisticated prioritisation strategy.”
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As a rabbi and climate activist, I’d already been grieving a long time. For our trees, for the great Appalachian hemlock forests, as well as for the burning Amazon, the oceans choked in plastic, the hungry people. For the whole beautiful and complex system of life, brought to its knees by a species rich in intelligence and poor in wisdom, the most dangerous apex predator ever to walk the Earth.
Abraham sat under the hemlocks on soil packed hard by his play. Last fall he named this spot Frog and Toad’s corner, and he likes to go on toddler “trips” there before triumphantly rushing back into my arms when he “comes home” to the patio. His little body rocked back and forth quietly. I resisted the urge to distract him, or myself, from our own versions of the same giant and holy grief.
Like so many, my husband and I were working from home and without child care this spring and summer. Caring for Abraham every day and sneaking in work emails where I could, I found myself more consistently outdoors in spring than I had been since my own childhood. Every day, Abraham and I walked the few short blocks from our Boston home to the back of Peters Hill in the Arnold Arboretum, a 281-acre collection of plants from around the world, owned by Harvard University and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Every day we saw, smelled and felt the changes in the trees. The collection nearest our house features the Rosacea family, and we spent hours underneath the flowering crab apples and hawthorns, marking the days by who was in bloom, whose petals had begun to drop, who had started to put out leaves, or fruit. Inspired by the botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer, I began a practice of using personal pronouns when referring to all plants and animals, teaching us both a new grammar that I hoped would be Abraham’s native tongue.
As we walked, Abraham and I spoke about the trees as people — and indeed, for the first month of quarantine, they were the only people besides us he got to see up close. In the absence of human friends, greeting the trees with a reverent shake of a lower branch became an obvious choice. “Hi, European larch tree,” Abraham would say in his toddler dialect, grabbing the feathery needles of the drooping branches.
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SEOUL, South Korea — At a logistics depot the size of an airplane hangar in southern Seoul, couriers recently held a ritual at the start of another grueling work day: They stood for a moment of silence to remember more than a dozen fellow couriers who they say died this year from overwork.
“We won’t be surprised here if one of us drops dead, too,” said Choi Ji-na, one of the couriers.
Ms. Choi, 43, and other delivery workers in South Korea say they feel lucky to have jobs amid growing unemployment, and that they are proud to play an essential role in keeping the country’s Covid-19 cases down by delivering record numbers of packages to customers who prefer to stay safe at home.
But they are also paying a price.
The string of deaths among couriers this year has caused a national uproar, drawing attention to worker protections that are unevenly distributed in a place that once had one of the longest workweeks in the world. Packages are expected to arrive with “bullet speed,” but the uninsured workers delivering them say it is becoming impossible to keep up with the demand, and that labor rule changes made by President Moon Jae-in have left them out in the cold.
There have been 15 deaths among couriers so far, including some who died after complaining of unbearable workloads that kept them on the clock from dawn until past midnight. The delivery workers say they’re dying of “gwarosa,” or death by overwork.
“The workload has become just too much,” Ms. Choi said. “Since the coronavirus came, going home early enough to have dinner with my children has become a distant dream.”
Couriers are some of the hardest-working, least protected workers in South Korea. Between 2015 and 2019, only one to four couriers died per year. This year, nine couriers died in the first half of the year alone, according to data that the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency submitted to the lawmaker Yong Hye-in.
When President Moon slashed the maximum workweek to 52 hours from 68 in 2018 to ensure a “work-life balance” and a “right to rest,” couriers were left out of the deal. As the pandemic rages on and packages pile up, couriers say they are not only facing longer hours, but an ever-present fear that they will succumb to the mounting volume of work.
Online orders have surged around the world, and demand for delivered goods in South Korea has grown by 30 percent, to 3.6 billion parcels this year, according to some estimates.
Most deliveries in South Korea are handled by large logistics companies. Those firms outsource the labor to couriers, who are independent subcontractors working on commission using their own trucks in assigned areas. Since 1997, as e-commerce as boomed and competition has intensified, online shipping costs in the country have dropped by more than half.
Shopping malls and logistics firms now promise even faster deliveries, offering “within-the-day,” “before-dawn” and “bullet-speed” options. But the fees collected by couriers have dropped. Workers now receive between 60 and 80 cents per parcel and have been slapped with penalties when they fail to meet delivery deadlines set by major online shopping retailers.
One courier in Seoul, Kim Dong-hee, returned home at 2 a.m. on Oct. 7. Later that day, he returned to the warehouse to pick up 420 packages. He still had many deliveries to make when he texted a colleague at 4:28 a.m. the next day. He said he would be home by 5 a.m. but would barely have time to eat and wash up before heading out again.
“I am just too tired,” he wrote.
Four days later, he didn’t show up for work. When colleagues checked his home, they found him dead; the police ruled that heart failure was the cause. Colleagues say he was killed by overwork. He was 36.
The day Mr. Kim sent his message, another man in Seoul, Kim Won-jong, collapsed on his delivery route, complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing before he died.
“I remember how tired he looked late in the evening, his shoulders slumped and his cap pulled low, as if he were semiconscious,” a customer who knew Mr. Kim wrote online after his death made news.
It has become common to see weary couriers weaving through apartment compounds in the dead of night, delivering fruit, bottled water, Christmas decorations and other items many shoppers now prefer to have delivered. Some residents who fear infection have refused to share elevators with delivery workers, forcing them to haul packages up stairs.
The pandemic has brought profits to couriers and logistics companies like CJ Logistics, Hanjin Shipping and Lotte. But categorized as self-employed, most of the country’s estimated 54,000 “taekbae gisa,” or home-delivery drivers, do not benefit from the labor laws that protect full-time corporate employees. Benefits such as overtime, paid vacation and insurance against on-the-job injuries are largely unavailable.
According to a September survey by the Center for Workers’ Health and Safety, a rights group, couriers work an average of 12 hours a day, six days a week. According to government data submitted to lawmakers, work-related injuries for couriers soared by 43 percent in the first half of the year.
Couriers in the United States, Europe and China have gone on strike seeking better protections. In South Korea, they have staged strikes hoping to secure shorter hours and a “life with evenings.”
“We organized and fought back because we had no one to talk to,” said Park Ki-ryeon, 36, a courier since 2016.
“We, too would like to keep warm indoors, like the people we serve,” Mr. Park said. “But many of us are not well educated and started this work with debts to pay. If we quit, we don’t have an alternative.”
Ms. Choi became a delivery worker seven years ago after a divorce made her a single mother of two young children. She has hauled packages weighing up to 55 pounds apiece up and down stairs. She sometimes has to climb walls to make deliveries, because homeowners are out, with their gates locked, but want the parcels left inside. Couriers have been known to injure their ankles — or become the subject of police calls made by neighbors who mistake them for burglars.
She said she liked the work because she could get home in time for her children to return from school, but the virus changed everything. Ms. Choi now delivers up to 370 parcels a day, 30 percent more than before the pandemic. She starts work at 6:30 a.m. and rarely gets home before 10 p.m.
At the depot, container trucks rumbled in under the pre-dawn sky, bringing cargo from across South Korea. As what seemed like an endless stream of parcels of all shapes and sizes were unloaded, Ms. Choi and her colleagues gathered around a conveyor belt to search for packages with addresses in their districts.
The deliveries would stretch well into the night.
Some logistics companies have apologized for the recent spate of deaths and promised to provide benefits, like medical checkups, and add more workers in phases to help shorten work hours and manage the increased volume.
Mr. Moon’s government has vowed to introduce a five-day workweek and ban nighttime deliveries, admitting that his policies have not kept up with the growth of the delivery industry and that “the burden was concentrated in long hours and heavy workloads for couriers.”
After the deaths generated headlines, people also began expressing sympathy for the couriers, leaving drinks and snacks at the door with notes saying, “It’s OK to be late.”
“When strangers pass me on the streets, they say to me, ‘Please don’t die! We need you,’” Mr. Park said. But the reforms promised by logistics companies and the government have been too slow to arrive.
When his grandmother died last month, Mr. Park said, he had to hire a replacement courier with his own money to deliver the parcels along his route just so he could take a half day off to mourn her. “We want change,” he said. “We are not working machines.”
It came at him like a missile, a dark shape across an underwater stretch of white sand, to the coral bombora on the Great Barrier Reef where Rick Bettua had just speared a Maori Sea Perch.
It came faster than he’d ever seen a bull shark move – pectoral fins down, spearing towards him the instant his trigger clicked.
He’d seen a million of them during his lifetime of diving. Often docile. Occasionally on the hunt.
This one was too aggressive for this time of day, for water this cool. It was NRL grand final day, exactly seven weeks ago. Everything about it was wrong.
He’d been diving for more than 50 years; had prevented one shark attack with a dead eye shot from his spear gun. And in 2017 his heroics had saved a mate who was gravely wounded in the jaws of a shark.
But Rick Bettua never, ever imagined he’d be bitten.
It was on him in an instant. He swung his spear gun, hard, and hit it.
It hit him harder – its jaws tearing him from knee cap to hip. It shook him, let go and bit again.
And he thought: F—, that thing just bit me! And again: It just f—ing bit me!
It fled just as quick, taking off in a cloud of blood.
That’s when 32 years of military training kicked in. Decades of learning how to act in a crisis, how to rescue someone when every second counts. War zone stuff. Improvised explosive device injuries. Missing limbs.
Three minutes. Three minutes. Three minutes. That’s what they’d been taught. Three minutes to save a life. Three minutes before you bleed to death.
He kicked to the surface, looking down to see if the shark was coming back. He saw only blood. There was so much blood he couldn’t even see the fins on his feet.
His longtime mate and spear fishing partner, Peter Kocica, met him halfway, grabbing him by the arm to help him to the surface and over to the boat.
They clambered in, Rick using his arms and a heap of adrenaline to pull himself up and over.
The blood poured out of a wound so bad that Rick, with his years of combat training, knew exactly what it meant. Out here, miles from help. More than an hour from help. It wasn’t like the last time, when both of them, blood soaked, had rescued a mate from a shark, strapped his leg and got him to shore. That day they’d been close enough to hope that he might make it.
“You’ve got three minutes,” Rick told Pete, his voice calmer than he expected.
“Three minutes for what?” Pete asked.
“You’ve got three minutes to save my life.”
THE first in a Swiss cheese series of miracles – events of luck or skill or good decision making that lined up to save a life – began with Rick himself.
Some people are good in a crisis. Rick spent decades training for it.
At the age of 17, Rick Bettua signed up for military service. He became a navy diver, then a master diver. When he retired as a disabled veteran, it was at the rank of master chief. He’d dived in dozens of countries, seen combat, saved lives and fallen out of the sky.
He based himself out of Hawaii and became well known in the spear fishing circuit, starting his own company – Aimrite – which produced some of the world’s best spear guns.
In Florida, he met a Greek Australian woman named Angela – another spear fishing enthusiast. Eventually they’d move to North Queensland – South Mission Beach – where they decided to raise their two boys.
The Great Barrier Reef was on their doorstep and Rick had instant friends – Aimrite customers from Australia who promised to take him out diving. Pete was one of them.
“Rick actually saved me from getting attacked by a big bull one day,” Pete said.
The 4m shark had ripped towards Pete. Lightning fast.
This big bull shark just opened his mouth up and was probably going to go for the fish but obviously it’s right at me and my legs at that moment,” he said.
“Rick actually leaned over and shot it in the head with the spear gun.
“I reckon if he didn’t do that that day, it probably would have had my legs too.”
FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Rick met Muay Thai Boxing trainer Glenn Jackson through the gym. Someone had suggested regular exercise might be good for the soul of a disabled veteran after decades of service.
Glenn taught Rick the martial art and Rick taught Glenn to spear fish.
Then, one day in February, 2017, Rick, Glenn, Pete and another friend took Pete’s boat out off Hinchinbrook Island.
It was a little after 10am and Glenn, who’d just snagged a fish, was near the surface. A bull shark hit, multiple times, taking large bites out of his thigh and calf.
His mates got him out of the water and Rick, military training kicking into gear, used a weight belt as a tourniquet, securing it high and tight.
Pete powered into shore and made the awful phone call to Glenn’s partner, Jessie-Lee.
“Jessie played it pretty cool, thinking it was a little shark bite. But then she started asking me if he was going to survive,” he said.
“I told her I can’t say. He’s not in a good way.”
Truthfully, Pete thought Glenn might die. His blood was everywhere and he’d turned grey.
Paramedics met them at the jetty and a rescue helicopter took Glenn to Cairns. He lived but he lost his leg.
Queensland Ambulance Service senior operations supervisor Neil Noble said at the time the tourniquet had saved him.
“This is a really good case where simple first aid can absolutely save a life and that’s what happened,” he said.
Pete sold his boat after that. He couldn’t stomach going in the water and would give up spear fishing for more than three years.
“It’s not that I’m scared of sharks, but it changes your whole perspective on life,” he said.
F**K, NOT AGAIN
Three and a half years had passed when Pete finally got back in the water. It was this year and Pete had bought a new boat. He and Rick started heading out to the reef.
“We’ve dived together for years and I’ve always felt really safe with Rick,” Pete said.
“We both dive the same, we both have the same ideas with spear fishing.
“That was probably my sixth or seventh dive back and I was just starting to enjoy it again.
“But then when it happened again, I thought, f … not again.”
‘I CAN’T BREATHE’
There had been four of them in the boat that day when Glenn was attacked.
On October 25 – with that critical three minutes between life and death for Rick – Pete had to do everything.
There wasn’t much time and they were an hour and 20 minutes from Dungeness boat ramp.
Every move Pete made was life or death for his mate. If he panicked or took too long, if any small thing went wrong, Rick would die.
Pete got the tourniquet on. Rick didn’t think it was tight enough, so Pete took another weight belt and tried tying that on too. It snapped.
They decided one would have to do and Pete set off the EPIRB and grabbed the radio.
“Mayday, mayday,” he said. “Shark attack, Britomart Reef.”
He had no idea whether anyone had heard him. He pulled the anchor – and for the first time that day it didn’t get caught on anything.
“He asked me for his sat phone,” Pete said.
“I passed it to him and kept driving. I knew he wanted to use it to ring Angela. But he lost energy and dropped it in the side pocket of the boat.
“He said, Pete, tell Ange and the boys I love them.
“And I said I will, but you can tell them yourself. You’re not f … ing dying here today.
“And he said Pete, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.
“I told him just concentrate on breathing. I got to keep driving.”
He kept going, full tilt, knowing they were far too far from shore for Rick to survive.
But that EPIRB sent its signal. Back in Townsville, the crew of the Queensland Government’s Air Rescue Helicopter jumped into action.
HELP IS AT HAND
Paul Lambert’s 7m Stagg cruiser was a miracle at sea.
Lambert and his mates hadn’t planned on being at Britomart Reef that day but nothing had been biting at the wreck they’d stopped at earlier.
Skipper Paul and his friends Ben Reaves and Bastien Iezzi had settled on a section of reef to drop their lines. Nearby was a boat belonging to their mate Alex. There were no other boats in sight.
There were eight of them in total. They’d rented a house on the water at Lucinda for a boys’ weekend.
Paul saw the smaller boat approach and thought it seemed odd. It was coming in fast and someone was waving at them.
A friend on Alex’s boat radioed over. It was a shark attack, he said. They’d need Ben.
Dr Ben Reaves, a paediatric cardiologist, was the “over-achiever” in the group, according to Bastien.
Bastien’s skill, according to Bastien, was his size – 203cm tall.
“They always call me the wookiee,” he said. “I’m just really large, larger than life.”
And what were the odds of this boat in this place. This boat in the middle of the ocean, miles from anywhere, with a doctor on board, a bloke big enough to lift a semiconscious man, a skipper with the skill to navigate a rough sea at high speeds and a radio that could have put them in touch with Papua New Guinea.
Pete pulled up his boat close to Paul and Paul told Ben to jump in. He’d close the distance quicker in the water and give Paul time to pull his boat around.
Pete was pleading with them to take his mate. Paul’s boat would be faster. They were so far out and they were running out of time.
“This guy’s got to go,” Ben said from the other boat.
Paul, who’d earlier been worried about scratching his cruiser, saw the seriousness of the situation. He sped around and crunched his fishing boat into Pete’s.
The wookiee grabbed hold and together they hauled a moaning Rick on board.
They told Paul to meet them at Dungeness and the cruiser roared off.
“I remember I tried to make Rick comfortable on the floor,” Bastien said.
“He was in a fair bit of pain. I noticed his leg and in the wetsuit, there were massive bite marks there. I remember him grabbing my arm and hanging on tight.”
TIME RUNNING OUT
Rick remembers everything. He remembers the pain, how hard it was to breathe. He remembers taking long deep breaths and picturing the faces of his wife Angela and their boys Troy, 10 and Derek, six.
He remembers the “big yeti guy” and his “giant paws” holding him down.
He remembers his reassuring words. We’re 40 minutes out. We’re 35 minutes out. We’re getting you to help. Just hang on.
“It was horrendous,” Rick said.
“It was the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life and I’ve been hurt, hurt and re-hurt.
“Because I was bleeding out, every time I would move or roll over onto my back, it was as if an elephant was standing on my chest and I couldn’t breathe.
“It wasn’t the nicest day. The wind had blown up in the afternoon, so we were just crashing through.
“Within maybe 10 or 15 minutes, my extremities were just numb. I was like a jellyfish on the floor.”
He knew he had to hold on. His military training taught him to focus on his breathing. Long and slow. Slow the heart rate down.
“The bad thing was, I was smart enough to understand that after 45 minutes to an hour, I noticed that my breathing was shallow and quick and I knew exactly what was happening.
“I remember the boat getting calmer. The waves weren’t bashing the boat so much.
“The only time it gets calm is when you’re getting close to the boat ramp.
“It started getting calm and I was feeling good that I knew we would be at the boat ramp any second.”
And then Rick Bettua’s heart stopped beating.
THE RESCUE MISSION
Dr Ben Reaves and skipper Paul Lambert had been in constant radio contact with authorities.
And five minutes after handing Rick over, Pete had been able to make a Triple-0 call.
Pete’s call was important.
The Queensland Government Air Rescue Helicopter had been gearing up for a retrieval based on Pete’s EPIRB activation.
But the Triple-0 call had given them more information. They were now looking at a shark attack.
The crew grabbed Life Flight’s critical care doctor David Humphreys, who joined them on board with four units of blood.
While Bastien tried to keep Rick comfortable, Paul and Ben worked with authorities on a plan.
They discussed sending a rescue boat to meet them.
“I said, look, we’re 27 nautical miles out. The lady on the radio was really excellent. Very composed. They must have judged from the speed I was doing and the speed the rescue boat could do, it was best we keep going,” Paul said.
Then they talked about winching a paramedic from the rescue helicopter.
But nothing would buy them more time. Even in calm conditions, winching a paramedic took time.
There was nothing more they could do for Rick but go fast.
But as conditions worsened, Ben told Paul to slow down. Rick was being bounced and jolted and it was causing his leg to bleed even more. They slowed, but soon after, Rick’s heart stopped beating.
Ben told Paul to hit the hammer. They’d run out of time.
YOU MUST BE JOKING
Angela was home with their two sons when her phone started ringing.
“I’ve just transferred Rick to a bigger boat,” Pete told her.
“He’s been bitten by a shark.”
“F— off Pete. There is no way,” Angela said. Pete was a prankster but this was a cruel joke. She knew he’d been affected by Glenn’s attack.
“Angela, I am not joking. He’s been bitten by a shark,” he told her.
She asked him how bad it was. It’s pretty bad, he told her.
“Peter, this is important,” she said. “Do you think he’s going to make it?”
He told Angela the same thing he’d told Jessie-Lee. He didn’t know. He didn’t think so. She’d better hurry. Get to the boat ramp. It didn’t look good.
“I was thinking, OK, how am I going to tell my kids? Should I tell my kids? Who will take care of them while I rush over there?” she said.
“I felt panicked. Devastated for my kids. I was wondering if I had told him I loved him that morning before he left.
“You don’t expect something like that would happen. Especially to Rick. His whole life has been about the ocean.
“Never, ever did I worry about him diving.
“So, when that happened to him, it was definitely panic, disbelief, just a rush to get to the ramp and hopefully see him. I just prayed the whole time that he was going to be OK.”
A friend came to look after the children and another friend drove Angela to Dungeness. The trip took 90 long minutes. Long minutes of wondering whether her husband was alive.
Angela made it in time to see him off, to tell him she loved him. Nobody knew if he’d live. Certainly nobody thought he would.
ALL HANDS ON RICK
Every available paramedic was sent to the Dungeness boat ramp on a category one – lights and sirens.
Richard Brown, officer in charge of Halifax station, got on the road.
Alyah Ehierth and Alicia Locke were crewing together. They got moving but halfway there, the crew was diverted to Ingham Hospital.
The boat was still 45 minutes from hitting the boat ramp. It meant they could pick up emergency doctor Anne Hoske, a medical student, and importantly – two units of blood.
“If you can imagine, the response to this incident was magnitudinal,” Alicia, an advanced care paramedic with six and a half years experience, said.
“There were multiple QFES (fire) crews, multiple QAS crews, police, everything was set up.
“Normally when we arrive on scene, we get out and go
“But we had time to discuss basically what our roles would be, what the plan would involve.
“Everything we do is quite systematic to make sure nothing is missed.
“And basically, everything played out as we’d discussed. Everyone knew what they were doing and it just happened.”
There was no mistaking Paul Lambert’s cruiser. It screamed into the jetty. Firefighters and paramedics got a lifeless Rick onto a stretcher and he was wheeled to the car park.
The massive team was so well set up, they’d even erected a marquee to give Rick shade.
Ingham’s Dr Hoske had a line in and was pumping blood into the patient in less than a minute.
Ben helped with resuscitation. Rick wasn’t breathing. They needed to breathe for him.
“What we did was, we removed the wetsuit to look at how bad the injury was,” Alicia said.
“We cut it off with shears, so we exposed that left leg.
“As soon as we exposed it, we noticed that it was still bleeding.
“So what we did is we placed one of our combat tourniquets on top of the tourniquet that was already there.”
It wasn’t enough. Alicia packed the wound with Quikclot combat gauze – a bandage type product impregnated with a clotting agent.
Nobody could believe it when his heart started beating.
“It’s actually really, really rare to get someone back from a traumatic cardiac arrest,” she said.
“Like, incredibly rare. He is incredibly lucky.”
They’d stopped the bleeding. They’d used the two units of blood. The rescue helicopter was landing, so they had more blood on the way.
Alicia was now putting pressure on Rick’s femoral artery. She pushed her fist into his groin, ramming her full body weight down. She’d stay that way for 40 minutes. At times, a firefighter would hold her off the ground so she could bear down harder.
Rick regained consciousness.
“You’re hurting my leg,” he groaned at her. She knew it.
“I’m so sorry,” she told him. “I can’t stop.”
She’d be sore for days from the effort. Her swollen hands a reminder of the part she’d played.
It took close to an hour to stabilise him enough to wheel him to the helicopter.
But the movement of the stretcher dislodged the clot and caused him to bleed again. Badly.
They used the rest of the blood. Dr Humphreys packed in more Quikclot.
They had nothing left to give. They had to get him into surgery.
‘VERY BAD BITE’
Paul and Bastien sat in their bloodied boat at the ramp while nearby Ben worked shoulder to shoulder with the medical team.
They kept looking at each other in disbelief. Had that really happened?
“We didn’t know if he was going to make it,” Bastien said.
“I kept thinking, God, it felt like we worked hard to get him there, get him there quickly.
“We didn’t have IV bags, we didn’t have ways of intubating people, we didn’t have a defibrillator.
“We were just going out fishing.”
They watched as the helicopter took off and soon after Ben appeared.
“He sat down with us and said, hey, I think he’s going to make it. I’m not sure if he’ll keep the leg though, it was a very bad bite, but I think he’s going to make it.”
Bastien said while so many people played vital roles in saving Rick’s life, perhaps none were as important as the role Pete played.
“Peter saved his life,” he said.
“He pulled him out of the water, he tied the tourniquet, he set the EPIRB off, he looked for a boat to assist him and zoomed over.
“He didn’t just sit there and wait for someone else to do it.”
‘YOU’VE GOT YOUR LEG’
Angela Bettua had been preparing to plan a funeral one moment and talking to her husband the next.
They’d prepared her for the worst. Her husband might have brain damage. He might have organ damage. He’d lost basically all his blood. Maybe he would have a bad reaction to the blood they’d pumped into him.
But doctors roused him from an induced coma to find him as sharp as ever. He knew where he was, what had happened. He reached down to his leg.
“You’ve got your leg,” a nurse told him.
When he was fully alert, the hospital called her.
You can talk to him over the phone, a nurse said. He won’t be able to talk back because of the tubes in his throat. But you can talk to him.
She told him how much she loved him, that she’d be right there. Just hold on for us. You’ll pull through this. I’m on my way.
“Now cowboy the f … up,” she told him. It was something he’d say to her, teasingly. She’d been dying for a chance to say it back.
Rick Bettua walks slowly, a brace holding up his foot. Nerve damage means he can’t pick up his left foot, although surgeons hope to fix that in the coming months.
Thirty medical staff scrubbed up for surgery that day at Townsville Hospital, keen for a chance to put a leg back together that had been torn completely open by a massive shark.
The rotors on the helicopter were still turning when hospital staff threw more blood to the LifeFlight doctor. They started transfusing right there while still on-board. Then they rushed him past emergency straight into theatre.
He’d have 14 units of blood in all – more than the average person has in their entire body.
Today, a wide red band runs up the back of his leg where a large skin graft – taken from his back – is still healing.
The front of his leg looks exactly as you’d imagine – a scar the shape of a 4m bull shark’s jaw carves along it.
It doesn’t feel the same. Muscles aren’t quite there and nerves fire strangely. But Rick is incredibly grateful.
Three days ago he walked into the back of the Townsville Ambulance Station, Angela and their two boys by his side.
Waiting in the shed by a row of parked ambulances were many of the people who had saved his life.
One by one, Rick approached them.
“What did you do?” he asked each one. This was the blank he wanted filled. The part he doesn’t remember. He wanted to thank every one of them for the role they played.
“It’s the big guy!” he laughed, spotting Bastien.
“I never really saw your face. I just saw your paw on my chest.”
“It’s good to see you, man,” Bastien said. “Oh man. You look so much better than last time I saw you.”
Next was Alicia. The paramedic who spent 40 minutes compressing his femoral artery with her fist. He hugged her tight.
“I did a bit of everything,” Alyah told him. “I cut your pants off.”
The group laughed. “Sorry!” she called over to Angela.
Richard, the officer in charge of Halifax station was next.
“I was actually at the one in Cardwell as well,” he said, referring to Glenn’s shark attack.
“So you and Peter really need to get another hobby. Buy some rollerskates.”
He moved on to the Life Flight doctor, David Humphreys.
“You did a lot,” Rick said.
“The team did a lot,” David replied.
“I was bagging you, breathing for you.”
“I had my fist in your groin for the whole trip,” rescue crew officer Scott Mellor told him.
“I flew you there as quick as I could,” pilot Nick Kelly said.
Aircrew officer Darrell Donnelly, the helicopter’s winch operator, explained to Rick how critical Pete’s Triple-0 call had been.
“When we first got the call, it was a beacon,” he said. “The doc wasn’t coming. It was a beacon search. And then it unfolded you’d been attacked. And the whole thing changed.”
Rick hugged every one of them.
“If any one of you didn’t do what you did, then I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
He gathered his boys in front of them so his rescuers could see them.
“The best thing I can leave you with are these two little boys,” Rick said.
“So they don’t have to grow up without me.
“And it’s because of you. You can take that away. You did save me – but you also saved them from growing up without a dad.
“And I really, really, really appreciate it.”
BACK IN THE WATER
Pete went out to the reef again this week. He didn’t want to wait another three years before finding the nerve to return to his great passion.
He stayed shallow at first, looking for crayfish. When he didn’t find them, he swam deeper.
“I just dived down, picked up three trout and left,” he said.
“There were sharks coming in. After seeing what I’ve seen a couple of times, it is pretty scary.”
He’s uncomfortable with the hero label but sometimes he plays it up for fun.
“It comes down to a minute or two and your mate’s bleeding out on the floor.
“You just know that if you don’t do something, he’s dead.
“I’m no hero, I just did what I had to do. He’d do the same. That’s just life.”
Rick will get back in the water too. He’s been talking to a company in the process of testing a shark proof wetsuit.
He says the fabric has been tested on a white pointer to some success.
When he has a shark proof wetsuit, Rick will be back on the reef.
Whether Pete gets an invitation remains to be seen.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m ever going to dive with him again,” he laughed.
Originally published as ‘You’re not f***ing dying here today’
An independent NSW MP says he will draft fresh legislation on access to voluntary euthanasia in the state, with debate to take place next year.
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said in a statement on Sunday that voluntary assisted dying should be legalised in NSW, following the lead of Western Australia and Victoria.
New Zealand also recently passed euthanasia laws via a referendum, with laws to come into effect in 2021.
Mr Greenwich encouraged his parliamentary colleagues to begin discussing the matter with their constituents ahead of debates in 2021.
The bill would legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill.
Mr Greenwich said he viewed the WA model positively, with access to assisted dying provided to those who will die within six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition, and cannot tolerably relieve suffering.
“My constituents have regularly raised with me the need for NSW to join other states in providing the option, with safeguards, for people with a painful and cruel terminal illness to die with dignity,” Mr Greenwich said.
He also acknowledged the issue was “emotive” and pledged to work with MPs from all parties throughout the deliberation process.
An earlier NSW bill which legalised assisted dying was in 2017 defeated.
Euthanasia advocacy group Dying with Dignity NSW on Sunday also launched a campaign to progress voluntary assisted dying in the state.
“Every day that NSW parliament ignores this issue, more terminally ill people will die badly, even with the best palliative care, and more families will be traumatised having to watch their loved ones suffer,” president Penny Hackett said in a statement.
Ms Berejiklian assured colleagues in a party room meeting in August 2019 that there would be no more conscience votes in this term of government.
One senior minister, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “A deal’s a deal.” Another MP said Ms Berejiklian “promised it wouldn’t be considered”.
The decriminalisation of abortion was politically damaging for Ms Berejiklian despite it being a private member’s bill, also introduced by Mr Greenwich but co-sponsored by several Coalition MPs.
In August last year at the height of the abortion debate, Ms Berejiklian told the Herald she did not believe community attitudes towards voluntary assisted dying had changed.
“The upper house dealt with assisted dying in 2017 and it didn’t get up…we have had the debate.”
In 2017, the upper house debated a bill to make it legal for terminally ill patients aged 25 or over and expected to die within 12 months to end their own life with medical assistance.
It was narrowly defeated by 19 votes to 20 but supporters had been confident that a new make-up of the upper house would make it more likely to pass this term.
Many Liberals believe Ms Berejiklian could not survive another bruising policy debate after revelations emerged this year of her long-term relationship with a disgraced former MP.
Right-wing MPs have also been angered by a proposal put to cabinet for a three-strike drug possession policy and have demanded changes, warning they would not soften drug laws.
One Liberal minister, who supports euthanasia, said Ms Berejiklian was a “hero and conqueror” after the 2019 election but a drawn-out assisted dying debate would be “politically disastrous” for her.
While the issue will split the Liberals, the Nationals leader John Barilaro said assisted dying would not be a policy that would divide his party.
“Assisted dying is well supported in the Nationals’ party room, among members and our base and it is not something that is going to tear us apart,” Mr Barilaro said.
Mr Greenwich proposes a model similar to that in Western Australia which would allow assisted dying for terminally ill patients whose prognosis indicates death in the next six months – or 12 months for neurodegenerative illnesses such as motor neurone disease.
It would need to be approved by two doctors but, unlike the Victorian version, the second doctor would not need to be a specialist. The WA model also allows nurse practitioners to administer the medicine, as well as doctors and the patient themselves.
Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
His chief counsel asked the relevant bureaucrat how many people had died waiting. The answer was shocking. In the previous year, 16,000 people had died waiting. We also learnt that almost another 14,000 people had gone into an aged care home because they couldn’t get the care they needed at home.
This is one of the key reasons why the interim report by the aged care royal commission was entitled Neglect. The system was described as “cruel” and “inhumane”.
It’s worth noting that Australia has one of the highest rates of institutionalised aged care in the OECD. We want this addressed and we want the Prime Minister to live up to his promise to restore faith in the system.
In the last week of the royal commission, we saw a cabinet memo from 1997 which explained that we have a rationed system. It’s not based on need but rather how to keep costs down by rationing people’s needs. In doing so, thousands suffer and thousands die waiting.
In the last sitting week of Parliament, this issue was raised by the opposition spokeswoman on aged care, Julie Collins. She asked the Prime Minister how many people had died waiting for a package. He responded by saying that in the most recent budget, the government had allocated 23,000 extra packages.
But when I heard of this, I thought of the person who wrote to me last week. It was a man from Brisbane whose wife had multiple sclerosis and asthma, and she was waiting and hoping that she would get one of these packages. He wrote saying she’d been assessed in March this year and allocated a level 3 package (which provides intermediate care needs such as medication management and nursing support) with the possibility of having a level 2 package (which provides low-care needs such as domestic assistance and transport) in the interim. The wait time for level 2, he was told, was six to nine months; it was nine to 12 months for for level 3.
The man went on to say that last week, he phoned a member of the assessment team who had looked at his wife back in March. He did this because he was wondering what had happened to the 23,000 extra packages announced in the October budget.
He said he was told the only packages that were being allocated were for people close to going into aged care. He was understandably angry and described the situation as “appalling”.
When pushed in Parliament on this, the Prime Minister talked about the problem of not having enough trained workers. So why not? I spoke to a home care provider who said this was a weak excuse.
“If the government provides the packages, we will provide the workers,” he said. He was already working with his state government in training mature-age workers and working with a private employment agent to train more home care workers.
When the royal commission hands down its findings in late February, the time for excuses will be over. All people want is the care they deserve. They don’t care how it’s funded. Some say increase the Medicare levy, some say increase the GST. However it’s funded, it has to be fixed.
And let’s not forget that Scott Morrison called the aged care royal commission to restore faith in the system. That man from Brisbane and his wife just want a home care package for Christmas. They deserve it and they don’t deserve to wait a day longer.
Ian Henschke is chief advocate at National Seniors Australia.
Tasmania is on the cusp of becoming the third Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying, after a majority of MPs voted in support of the legislation in the state’s House of Assembly.
This was the bill’s second reading in the Lower House
It still faces amendments and a final vote in March next year
The laws would then become active in mid-2022
The End of Life Choices Bill passed Tasmania’s Legislative Council last month but will not go through the amendment process in the Lower House or to a final vote until March next year, after a review of the bill is received from a panel of University of Tasmania experts.
The bill has received significant support in Tasmania’s House of Assembly, passing the second reading 17 to seven, with Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein and Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff both voting in favour despite previously voting against similar legislation, most recently in 2017.
Voluntary assisted dying has already been introduced in Victoria and Western Australia.
This is the fourth attempt to pass similar laws through Tasmania’s Parliament since 2009, but the first to originate in the Upper House.
It was tabled in August by Independent MLC Mike Gaffney, who said he would remain nervous until it officially passed Parliament next year.
Mr Gaffney said the support of the Premier, Deputy Premier and two ministers had given him confidence the bill was sound.
He said the vote was a “historic moment.”
“At the end of the day we want a bill that’s accessible to the Tasmanian people who want to choose the way that they exit, with their family and friends around,” Mr Gaffney said.
Sarah Courtney, who took responsibility for leading the bill through the Lower House from Mr Gaffney, said she was relieved, and grateful the debate had been respectful.
“What was quite clear from the debate today was that all Parliamentarians are united in the fact that we want to ensure vulnerable Tasmanians are protected,” she said.
“Through the work that is going to be done we will make sure that this is the strongest bill possible.
“I believe that individual Tasmanians have the right to be able to have choices in their lives about important issues such as this.
“Ultimately, my job as a Parliamentarian isn’t to direct people how to live their lives, I think individuals should be supported and informed to be able to make their own decisions.”
On Thursday, Premier Peter Gutwein detailed his own experiences of loss in outlining his support, speaking of the deaths of his 10-year-old brother, father, and younger sister.
“I believe very firmly that an individual should take personal responsibility for their actions during their life,” he said.
Jeremy Rockliff has voted against voluntary assisted dying three times during his Parliamentary career but said feedback from the community indicated this bill met expectations.
“There is nothing wrong with being cautious, equally, there is nothing wrong with a change of heart, based on sound evidence and empathy,” he said.
Sisters ‘proud’ to witness mother’s dying wishes
The historic vote was watched in Parliament by sisters Jacqui and Natalie Gray, who promised their mother Diane they would fight for voluntary assisted dying to be legalised in Tasmania.
Diane died of gastric cancer just over a year ago after an 11-month battle.
Jacqui Gray said she was moved, emotional and “so proud” after watching the vote take place.
She said the sisters had sat through the entire debate to be the voices for Tasmanians who were not given the choice to access voluntary assisted dying.
Natalie Gray promised to return for the final stages of the debate next year.
“We’ll be back to the very end,” she said.
With her in parliament for the vote was Ms Gray’s new baby, named Tilley Diane in honour of her mother.
Bill ‘long overdue’
Opposition leader Rebecca White said it was “a human rights issue” and the weight of evidence in support of introducing voluntary assisted dying was convincing.
“People are suffering cruel deaths. Sometimes lonely deaths, sometimes traumatic deaths, and as a society I feel very firmly that we must do better to alleviate the suffering and provide dignity and peace to people in the final stages of life,” Ms White said.
Her deputy Michelle O’Byrne called for compassion.
“We should not be accepting that ending life in misery and agony is better than helping people for whom death is inevitable to leave this life in the best possible way,” she said.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the reform was much needed, long overdue, and that the bill had significant safeguards.
‘Cusp of a terrible oversight’
Among those strongly opposed was parliament’s youngest MP, Liberal Felix Ellis.
Mr Ellis told the chamber he was concerned about what the bill would mean for the elderly and disabled.
“I cannot use my vote to cause one wrongful death,” he said.
“I can’t help in my heart of hearts but be overwhelmed by the sense that our Parliament sits on the cusp of a terrible oversight that will endanger the lives of those who we should be taking extra special care to protect.”
State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson said the bill was not good for the people of Tasmania.
Attorney-General Elise Archer had personal and legal concerns, while Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett described it as flawed and the safeguards not strong enough.
Laws would not become active until 2022
The End Of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill has been amended since it was tabled by independent MLC Mike Gaffney in the Legislative Council in late August.
A prognosis clause has been added to the bill, meaning a person must have been given six months to live (or 12 months with a neurodegenerative condition) before they can apply to access voluntary assisted dying medication.
The patient would be required to make three requests for the drugs over a prescribed period dependent on their medical condition.
The process will be overseen by a commission of five people.
The Premier has laid out plans to amend the bill so the laws can become active 18 months from now, in mid-2022, rather than 18 months from when they are finalised, to prevent a delay due to Parliament’s summer break.
Thousands of mourners paid homage on Sunday to the leader of Serbia”s Orthodox Christian Church who died of COVID-19 last week.
Ninety-year-old Patriarch Irinej tested positive for the virus soon after presiding over the funeral of his number two, who also fell victim to coronavirus, at a ceremony in which basic safety measures were neglected.
This time, the church stuck to strict sanitary precautions.
Mourners were allowed inside the church during the liturgy but were banned from approaching the Patriarch’s coffin. Three days of official mourning were declared after his death on Friday.
The vast majority of the Balkan country’s seven million people are Orthodox Christians.
Two giant screens were installed outside the Church of Saint Sava, the biggest Orthodox temple in the Balkans, so that the faithful could follow the ceremony, after which the Patriarch’s body was due to laid to rest in the crypt.
Serbia is currently facing the biggest health crisis since the epidemic erupted in March, recording record numbers of infections and deaths on an almost daily basis last week.
The country’s health service is under severe pressure. For the past week, there have been no hospital beds in the capital Belgrade, the worst-hit region of Serbia.