A near death experience

On 26 September 1983 this man saved my life.  And he saved yours.


At the height of The Cold War in 1983, Stanislav Petrov,  then a high ranking Russian military officer, was on duty at a secret bunker outside Moscow .  Three weeks earlier, the Russians had shot down a South Korean passenger airliner that had strayed into Soviet air space.

It was just after midnight when the alarm bells shrieked.  America had launched five ballistic missiles.  A red screen  flashed the word ‘LAUNCH’.

Stanislav Petrov—who was filling in for someone else that fateful night—stared in horror at The Red Button. Pressing it would end the world in a fiery Armageddon of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD, as it was called by the Superpowers.

Petrov,  later known as, ‘The Man Who Saved the World by Doing Absolutely Nothing’,  had a hunch—“a funny feeling in my gut,” he would later recall—that it was a false alarm; that he would be putting out the fire with gasoline. But what if he was wrong?

September 26, 1983, is as close as the world ever came to a nuclear winter.

On that date in Australia, we awoke to the thrilling news that we had won the America’s Cup, the holy grail of yachting wrested from the USA after 132 years.  Our Prime Minister Bob Hawke declared a national holiday.

We partied hard,  unaware of our near miss with nuclear annihilation.


As the aggressive former Prime Minister Tony Abbott becomes political roadkill  in the rear view mirror of Australia, I reflect that a man such as he, an authoritarian martinet, would most certainly have pressed The Red Button in that Soviet bunker that night.

So it was with great relief this September we saw off our war- mongering clerical fascist ;  a Prime Minister of whom it was astutely said: ‘In your guts you know he’s nuts’.




Tony Abbott  kidnapped Australia and took us on a road trip back to the 1950s, where men were men,  and women ironed their shirts.

A spooky sign that  Abbott was evil incarnate came to me when family of mine were about to undertake the 1000-year old pilgrim route across northern Spain, known as the Camino. They found a painting in an ancient Gothic  church that sent chills down my spine.  For there in plain sight was another poor soul being  tortured by none other than  a Tony Abbott look-alike demon!


For chronically ill Australians Tony Abbott was a cruel PM.

He ripped billions out of health budgets and he created a climate of fear and loathing which was  harder  to bear as one’s life ebbs away.  He made me afraid for the future; this yesterday’s man. Exercise-mad, he was our fittest ever Prime Minister, yet totally unfit to lead.

His government characterised Australians as ‘lifters or leaners’ and everyone who is ill or old knows they’re not lifters.  All lifters were good, except for shirtlifters, because there was never ever going to be same sex marriage under an Abbott government. Nope. Nope, as he liked to tell asylum seekers in leaky boats trying to get to Australia.

Abbott, whose reptilian habit of tasting the air with his tongue,  was unpopular in poll after poll.  And so they came for him.

As the Saturday paper said in tones Churchillian:

‘He will not be missed.
He should not be praised.’

My own near death experience this month was to suffer a  massive hemorrhage  which at 4 o’clock in the morning saw me fearful of drowning in the blood gurgling up from my lungs, possibly caused by a bronchial valve eroding a blood vessel.

The ambos reluctantly agreed not to send me to hospital which this year is infested with  a record number of  flu cases after a nasty strain of the virus  not covered by the annual vaccination has caused a spike in deaths among people like me.

There was a state of stillness as I entered the eye of the tornado and where I stayed until the sun rose again.

Beside me, as always, was my beloved. Whether married or not, who  better than us know  the meaning of the vow we are not legally allowed to take: to love each other in sickness or in health; for better or for worse . . .

Also this September,  vale Oliver Sacks,  another man who would not have pressed The Red Button.

oliversacks blog


America’s Cup Seven Network Closer 1983








8 thoughts on “A near death experience

  1. Interesting day the 26th Sept Thank you Barbara ..again for your honest love.and beautifully written like …only you can .now on the eve of the 28th Sept we face another “red button” and perhaps more evil than.one can possibly imagine.. Cern….some say an Angelic force is on their way to stop this…others like Stephen Hawking ..are fearful..we need to become mindful


  2. Your near death experience sounds absolutely horrific, Barb. Your fortitude and courage are truly inspiring. And what a blessing to have a loving partner at your side to support and fight for you.
    I have to admit that I didn’t even know, at the time, how close we’d come to a nuclear holocaust. We’d won the Americas Cup and I was preoccupied with making my kids go to school after our then Prime Minister had said any boss who sacks people for not turning up to work is a bum.They felt that this dispensation applied equally to school students and argued forcefully for a day off. (No surprise that 2 of them are now lawyers.)


  3. Always a joy to read your thoughtful blog shares Barb. The blood bath sounds horrendous for you and scary for Frances. Pleased you pulled through that particular challenge. Your ability to not panic must have been in top form. xx


  4. Just re-read this and saw that I did not respond. I know you had a very hard time for awhile. Me too. I now have 24/7 o2 plus a caregiver to do too hard things for me now. I have a scooter on the way. Living in Hawaii is challenging with this disease. I’m on the big island and in a very rural locale. Had a cough for over a year and finally was referred to a pulmonologist. After testing he determined that I had 2 bacteria in residence and he was fearful of proscribing meds for me. He referred me on to a infectious disease specialist. I was happy to have the referral as I had already decided I wasn’t going to return to this doc. My primary care who is a physician’s assistant gave me meds needed and saved me having to travel to Honolulu to see that specialist. For the meantime I am well and want to make it through the winter. Yes we do have winter in Hawaii.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sharon, 24/7 O2: So you too are in new territory. I’m sorry you have stepped down but that’s the inevitable projectory of a progressive disease. Stable is the best we can hope for. I too have goals to keep me going. I see yours is “to make it through winter”. Boy, I know that one. I pull up the drawbridge in the cold months but always have something to look forward to on the other side.

      It’s a brash, loud, green spring that I observe. On one day, when the temperature rose to 40 degrees, thousands and thousands of butterflies burst forth and loop-de-looped in a drunken frenzy. Gone in 48 hours. Life ended. Mate found. Eggs laid. On their trail, birds have come tumbling out of nowhere, honey eaters, rainbow parrots, tiny clusters of shrub wrens, spinebills, black cockatoo, eagles and pelicans overhead and a background always of native doves.

      The naval range near us will sometimes explode with bombs prepartory to us going to war in the ME. The bombs shake the house. And so Paris is in my backyard. And Beiruit. And Mali. And Bali. The grey ships pass whales and calves returning from Antarctica.

      War, like COPD, seems to be a progressive terminal illness.

      I am on the sidelines and lucky enough to have the wherewithal to cope with my burdens. So many lives with so little, humble me. In the end, this disease has taken much. It has also given much. I hope you are in the same place as me in that way. Acceptance, I suppose. That’s The New Normal.

      Do write more. Thank you for coming by. x Barbara


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s