Thursday, 5 August 2010

Day in the life of a WHO activist.

So tell me, what year were you born?
I was born in 1924, two years before they opened the new power station at Bunnerong.

I see. Now, do you remember where you lived as a child? What sort of house you lived in?
Yes, I remember Dad building it when I was about four, but it wasn’t finished for almost ten years.

So, he was building it as you grew up. What was it made from? Do you remember that?
Yes, he used old timber from the Tempe tip and Fibro. It had a tin roof.

Asbestos cladding?
Yes. He had a special Fibro cutter, but he sometimes hammered the edges to make them fit.

Do you remember breathing any of the dust?
I remember what it smelt like, a sort of a wet cementy smell.

OK, so did you grow up there?
Yes, we grew up there, swam in the Cook’s River as kids, fished and made canoes out of old corrugated iron and …

OK, so was that in Marrickville, near the Tempe tip?
No, we lived in Earlwood, just up river from the tip and across from Marrickville Golf Course. I remember it being built. That was in 1941, the year I had my tonsils out. They said it was infection from the river.

Tonsils out. OK, so did you stay in that house long?
I moved out after I left school, but Mum had to sell up when Dad died from lung cancer about the time of the first Maralinga tests in 1955.

Yes, probably, but they said it was lung cancer. Mum couldn’t get compensation.

OK, so when did you first start having kidney problems?
That would have been about the time we built Vales Point, 1964.

You worked at the power station?
Yes, I started at Wangi as a stoker, but they needed more and built Vales Point then Liddell then Munmorah and Wallerawang. Eraring and Bayswater were the biggest. All coal fired.

So what did you do there?
Most of the time I was in the coal yard driving a loader. They sprayed the heaps but the dust still got through.

I see, and did you smoke?
Yes, we all smoked then, but I quit the year the Torrey Canyon ran aground in 1967.

OK, now when did you first have difficulty passing urine?
It started at the time of the first oil shock, 1979.

Right, and when did you have the kidney out?
Later that year, same week as Three Mile Island. 1979.

So you started dialysis then?
No, not right away, the other kidney hung on until the Chernobyl meltdown, 1986

OK, so when was your prostate cancer diagnosis exactly?
I had a normal range PSA reading about the time the Ozone Treaty was signed in 1989, but a bad one when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. That was 1989 too. Then I had it out at the start of the first Gulf war, just as Saddam set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells in 1990.

So how did it go?
What the war?

No, the op.
Not good. I lost my erection.

But you were already over sixty-five by then!
So? Do you think it all stops when you retire? Good heavens man! That was the best time for sex. No pregnancies, plenty of time, no kids around. We miss it more than anything!

Is that still a problem? We could prescribe Viagra.
Four tablets a hundred bucks? That’s over fifty bucks a week! Mate, we’re on the pension!

So you have sex twice a week?
I wish. Used to; we always had great sex.

OK, OK. So tell me. What about the incontinence?
That’s a lot of fun too. Ha ha! I got out of diapers when Kyoto was signed in 1997. It looked good for a while, but I started to leak again after Copenhagen in 2009.

Right. So when did the first secondaries show up?
The headaches started at the time the oil rig fire off the W A coast. That was later in 2009.

OK, so how did the chemo go?
No good. Began the day the Gulf spill started and stopped the day it was capped but it was all too late. Accumulated damage… No chance of a full recovery now.

So do you want the surgery? We can fix it for a while, but there will be more events and of course in the end…

I know. The old body can only take so much. No, I think I’ve had enough. I’ll just take the morphine and go.


  1. Sobering read. What we do, how we do it ~ will we ever get it right? This was overwhelming, Stafford. I'm breathing deeply now and very grateful that I can ........

  2. Asbestos, as well as all the horrid toxins we've created, are scary as hell. Excellent post, Staff.

  3. This is brilliant Stafford - very impressed! You'll get this one published, but what category would it fit into - hmm.

  4. Scarey read. I know at 86 somethings going grab you but he's had more than his share of misery in the last 20 years, don't blame him for wanting to give up.

  5. Excellent Stafford. Keeps moving and building. Hope the next oil spill is a long way off.

  6. Gee Stafford, I just love this post. Very sad, however, very interesting. I love reading your posts. Hope you two are well :>

  7. excellent
    the picture said it without a single word


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