A sign of peace on earth?

Sunburst on Christmas Day (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Sunburst on Christmas Day (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Sunburst on Christmas Day (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Here I am, sitting in my sunroom, having breakfast on Christmas Day and suddenly I see a sunburst through the trees in the backyard. I said to myself, “Does this have some meaning? Does this say there is hope for peace on earth and happiness for all mankind?” May be. Who knows. We can always hope for something like that.

Cheers. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!

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Be Safe, Do Not Drink and Drive

Alcoholic drink and car keys. (iStockphoto)
Alcoholic drink and car keys. (iStockphoto)

Drivers, here is a recipe for disaster: drugs, alcohol, not wearing a seat belt and speeding.

The highest rate of impaired driving is amongst young drivers aged 19 to 24. This accounts for 56 per cent of all reported criminal incidents.

The rate of impaired driving is at its worse at age 21 and relatively constant for 25 to 44 year olds. Seniors aged 65 years and older have the lowest rates. Statistics show impaired driving was a factor in almost 50 per cent of all incidents causing death.

Here are some other statistics:

-Every 22 minutes someone dies in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident.

-There is a 200 per cent chance that you or someone in your family will either cause, or be an innocent victim to, a drunk driving accident.

-A lot of young people (15 to 24 ages) are dying before they get old. These are tragic, meaningless deaths.

-In a single year, 522 children under the age of 14 were arrested for driving while intoxicated, (113 of them were under 10 years old).

Driving under the influence of alcohol is the single risk factor for motor-vehicle-related incidents and injury. It is about time we crack down on irresponsible teenagers and adults who drink and drive. Alberta is now in tune with B.C., Ontario and six other provinces in passing laws which will lower the legal limit for blood-alcohol concentration from 0.08 to 0.05 per cent.

If you are caught drunk driving then you may pay a steep fine, lose your license and have your car impounded – all before you set foot in court. So, be warned.

The new legislation in Alberta soon after four teens were killed by an alleged drunk driver just south of Grande Prairie. A 21-year-old Grande Prairie, Alta., man was to face a slew of alcohol-related charges in a devastating crash that left four teens dead and one in serious condition. Matthew Deller, 16, Vincent Stover, 16, Walter Borden-Wilkens, 15, and Tanner Hildebrand, 15, all of Grande Prairie, were killed.
Speeding and not wearing a seat belt are other causes of fatalities on our roads. Again the majority of culprits are kids in their 20s or younger. Six months ago, citing a lack of evidence, cops in Calgary released a 21-year-old driver involved in a high-speed rollover that killed his younger brother and girlfriend.

The original charge included impaired driving. The crash happened shortly before midnight on a Sunday on Stoney Trail at McKnight Blvd. N.E. Two of the five people on board, the driver’s 16-year-old girlfriend and his 20-year-old brother, were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the car. They were taken to hospital where both later died.

Few months ago, the town of Magrath, Alta. was in mourning after four teens were killed in a horrific crash on a Sunday. The four – Clay Card, 16, Renzo Dainard, 16, Danae Gough, 14, and Jorden Miller 14 – were in a vehicle that left the road east of Magrath, about 240 km southwest of Calgary, landing upside down and partially submerged in a creek. According to the local Mounties, speed and driver inexperience probably caused the crash.

The holiday season is here. Drinking and partying is part of the Christmas and New Year celebrations. If you drink then don’t drive. If the party is in a hotel then book a room and stay there. Otherwise, take a cab or have somebody (who is not drinking) to drive you home. Wear a seat belt and do not speed.

Have a wonderful, safe Christmas and holiday season and Happy New Year. This column will return in January, 2012.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!

Christmas Means Happy Times Are Here

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun

Most of you will recognize the above lyrics are from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over).

Christmas is here. That means it is end of the year. It is time to take stock of things. It is time to ask some questions and time to plan for the next year. Christmas is also time for friends and family to rejoice and renew their love for each other.

Each year is interesting in its own way. There are many things one can look back on and be grateful about. Equally, there are many things we can look back on and be unhappy about. Sometimes the glass is half full and sometimes it is half empty. And sometimes the glass isn’t there.

But the spirit of Christmas is always there. I find that so wonderful. So many people put in so much effort to make the occasion a happy one. There is something for everyone. Especially for people who are disadvantaged and marginalized in our affluent society. Christmas brings cheers for them as well.

There are about 1.8 billion Christians in a total world population of 5.5 billion, making it the largest religion worldwide. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D. Christmas was largely a non-event in America until the 1860s. No one was really in the habit of exchanging elaborate gifts until late in the 1800s.

There are so many traditions associated with Christmas. I wonder how many people really know their origin. For example, mistletoe has apparently been used as a decoration in houses for thousands of years and is also associated with many pagan rituals. Mistletoe was banned in churches throughout the Middle Ages. Hanging of mistletoe over the front door is a Scandinavian tradition for goddess of love (Frigga).

But does it really matter what traditions you follow. I don’t think so. What matters is the spirit of love, happiness and peace as the city grinds down to a slow pace for Christmas and New Year.

The hospital will be empty accept for the very sick. Most doctors and health professionals (except those who are on-call) will get some time to spend with their families.

As Boxing Day comes, emergency department gets busy – thanks to too much food and alcohol. There will be patients with tummy ache, diarrhea, and vomiting – probably due to food poisoning. Some will have bowel blockage, some will have stomach and intestinal bleeding, some will have gall stone attacks, and some will have pancreatitis (due to gall stones or alcohol abuse).

Some will come with chest pain and heart attack. Some will be in heart failure. Some may get asthmatic attacks, some may get migraine. Unfortunately, some will get involved in motor vehicle collisions, and some will get involved in fights.

Those who survive all this will soon recover to get ready for the New Year’s Eve bash. There will be more food and more alcohol. And then there will be a hangover and 2008 will be history!

Don’t drink and drive. Make sure you are safe and have fun. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!