Friday, June 19, 2009

It May Never Be Fashionable, But It May Save Your Life

When I was a kid, a $5 flanno from Woolies was all you needed to stay warm through an average Western Sydney winter's night of generally running amok. Scarves? Wimp. Gloves? Nancy. Jumpers? Pah.

Apparently the remarkable anti-freeze properties of the basic flanno can still offer life-saving chilly weather protection well in old age :

Search crews say they are "thrilled" and amazed that a 71-year-old man wearing just track pants and a flannelette shirt has been found safe and well after three cold, wet nights lost in the bush.

Bruce "Dick" Ludbrook, 71, who suffers mild dementia, got lost in dense scrub north of Wollongong during his regular afternoon bushwalk on Tuesday.

The fit former coal miner - who was used to walking long distances - endured pouring rain and bitterly cold weather before being found today by a group of motorcyclists near Mt Ousley.

Dr Giordian Fulde, St Vincent's Hospital emergency director, said Mr Ludbrook was "very, very lucky" to have survived his ordeal and risks like hypothermia.

"Somebody being out in flannelete shirt and trackdacks should get into trouble," he said.

The risks for Mr Ludbrook were even higher because maintaining body warmth was even more difficult for the elderly, he said.

Dr Fulde believed Mr Ludbrook's regular long walks would have been crucial to his survival.

Okay, maybe it wasn't just the flanno that saved him from hypothermia. Some credit must go to his fitness level. Ironically, the same wet weather that could have killed through a heart attack brought on by hypothermia supplied the water that stopped the also very dangerous risk of dehydration.

Dr Fulde believed that in order to survive, Mr Ludbrook must also have sought shelter from the rain to keep warm and drunk water from sources in the bush, such as rainwater puddles.

"I think he must have done something sensible," he said. "The most important thing to human beings is water - you can go quite a few days without food but you can't go a long time without water."

A pretty remarkable survival story. It could have easily had a tragic ending.