Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Being prepared

If there were to be a world event that completely shut you off from your current way of life, say the internet failed completely, would you be able to survive and for how long? Think about it.
A couple of moths ago I got it into my head to set up an emergency stockpile of foodstuff and groceries. In my case, living alone with only my animals to look after, the stock didn't have to be so huge. A couple of tins, about 30 odd, some dried stuff like a big bag of rice and a bunch of dog food and cat food tins. 25 Kilograms of dog chunks and about the same in cat chunks, no frozen or perishable foodstuff.
Well, in retrospect, this would not last very long, probably about a month. That, of course, is not the only thing to be taken into account. I would have to move to some place very hard to reach on a single tank of fuel, say Vioolsdrift on the Orange river for example. It's a long way from any town with desert on all sides, flowing river water and a thriving agricultural society. Remember, with the internet shut down the shops will run out of produce in less than a week. Fuel stations will run dry even sooner and so on. This is a worst case scenario where I have to run away from the mob anarchy that will develop in the big cities and a remote, hard to reach place would be a good bet.
Since there won't be any electricity supply, I'll have to get candles as well, maybe an extra can of standby fuel too. In South Africa our power supply has become rather a dodgy thing to rely on in the past decade or so, Escom. That's more than likely why I started thinking about this in the first place.
I've been surfing the net looking at other websites by people with the same notion in their heads, what to stock up on and what could happen if a world changing event did take place, not scary, just interesting. I even came across a document about America being shut down, by terrorists of course. Hmm! How prepared would you be should that happen?
Let me know and if you know of any site I could take a look at please post a link for me.
Thanks and blessings to everyone, Geoff.
Oh, by the way. I'm in good shape, after my heart attack, and in good spirits.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Heart Attack, what you will experience.

Where I was on Wednesday. source

I had a heart attack on Sunday night. (25 January 2015)
Yes, I'm still alive and in good spirits, well sort of good spirits. I'm grateful to God for my being alive, even though I don't deserve this. I'm humbled by the number of people who contacted my family voicing their concerns and praying to God for me, from Australia to England, amazing. To everyone I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and gratitude. Thank you.
So, what can you expect should you have a Heart Attack in Africa? Here is my experience.
I will try to break this up into pre-heart attack, the moment it happened, the treatment and post treatment.
There are a few things to take into consideration here; I'm not overweight, only 63 kilograms or about 130 pounds. I've been stable at this weight for the past 30 odd years.
Fitness, in my case, had declined a bit since I left Cape Town. Taking walks alone in Johannesburg is not safe, muggings do occur very often here. In Cape Town I had the farm, the hill, the beach and the whole area was safe, no muggings. The point I'm trying to make here is I stopped walking and now go by car, which by the way isn't exactly safe either, smash and grab, hijackings and so on. But my level of fitness has dropped somewhat.
I have been a smoker for about forty plus years. There were the odd periods when I stopped, once for up to six years but I am and always was a smoker. Expensive and not very clever. I  was drinking quite a bit of red wine. South African wines are amongst the finest wines in the world, on a par with the finest French wines, so there's my excuse. I'm also a God honoring practicing Christian of nearly 60 years of age.
Pre-heart attack:
A few weeks ago I was finding that my left arm was sore and uncomfortable, not excruciatingly painful, just tight and sort of cramped. I'd stretch it out to my left to try relieve the discomfort. I did know that this was a pre-cursor to a heart attack and was a bit concerned but, not knowing what to do about it, I endured it without complaint. What else was there to do? Another thing I found was the degree of exhaustion I was experiencing on a daily basis. I'd go to work and get really busy in the morning, but by one in the afternoon I was tired. By three, all I wanted to do was lie down and have a sleep. This was something I couldn't understand, I'd slept well, I was eating properly, there was stuff to do so boredom wasn't involved. I just could not understand why I was so tired. The other thing that I experience was an inability to get my head around things, sort of  disorientated. At the time I was thinking it had something to do with the wine I had had the evening before, like a hangover, but not quite the same, it even affected my vision which wouldn't quite focus properly.
Okay, so there you have the impression I have of the prelude to this life changing event in my life. There are I'm sure,  many more things I haven't taking into account, probably because I didn't notice them at the time. So, without further speculation on what I didn't notice, lets move on to the fateful day.
The Moment it happened.
This event happened at about 11.30 on Sunday night, South Africa time of course.
I live alone and most of my home time is spent watching movies or reading what I would consider interesting articles on the internet. Friday evening in front of the computer with a bottle of wine and something to eat, plus of course my cigarettes. Saturday getting a bit of shopping done then back to the computer till about midnight. Sunday morning off to church, clean the house and by evening back for a movie or two before bed. All through the weekend I had periods of sleep during the day, up to about 4 hours at a time.
At about 11.30. On Sunday evening I had had enough of watching movies and decided to go to bed. I stood up and went to the bathroom to get a headache powder, I had had some wine and didn't want to wake up in the morning with a headache. As I put my head back to take the powder I felt a very intense painful discomfort in the middle of my chest. It felt like my heart was cramping. Definitely my heart, I could take deep breaths without any further discomfort, My ribs were not sore nor were the muscles outside the rib-cage. I bent over the basin and everything I had eaten came out in a rush, not like retching as is usual but more like a natural thing to do, no taste and no extra discomfort just out it came.
I stood there clutching my chest trying to calm myself down and, at the same time, trying to work out what was going on. Why would red wine and pork chops cause me to vomit and why would it give me chest pains? I was very confused but turned to the Lord and asked Him to please not take me tonight. Why I asked that I have no idea. The pain in my chest wasn't like someone sitting on my chest, it was inside and felt more like a cramp. Another thing I was experiencing was cramping in my upper back between my shoulder blades. This was most uncomfortable and disconcerting. Oh, I also had a feeling in my throat a bit like indigestion, in fact very much like acid re-flux.
I took another headache powder, the first one had gone down the drain, literally. These powders I'm talking about, "Grandpa Headache Powders" contain Aspirin so, in my thinking, this was probably a good thing. The Cardiologist who later treated me agreed, it probably saved my life. After this I closed up the house and went to bed hoping to get through the night without further ado. After some rolling about in bed trying to get comfortable I did fall asleep, four hours later I was up trying to cope with the pain in my chest and back. I'm not sure if what I did next was such a good thing but no-one has told me any different yet. I took a very strong painkiller, something I had left over from when I was injured and hospitalized previously. It didn't help me sleep but by 8.30 on Monday morning the chest pain had let up.
My intention at this stage was to spend the day in bed resting. I got hold of my brother and explained I was not going to the factory and he was going to have to open up for the guys. This is generally one of my tasks, open up in the mornings and locking up at night. I did explain that I had chest pain, can't remember what his reaction was. Toni my younger sister called at about 8 am to ask me about something, not quite sure what, but before she got around to it I told her what had happened. All chaos broke loose.
First thing she wanted to do was drive all the way out to Mid-rand, about 40 kilometers away, to come fetch me to take me to her doctor. At the time I was feeling okay so was not open to that. Eventually we decided that I would drive to her work and then we could go to the doctor. Okay cool. Shelley, my daughter, would meet us at the consulting rooms and we would go on from there. This is what did take place. The doctor took blood samples and gave me an ECG. The graph looked normal enough but the blood samples would need to be analyzed before he would know what had happened, fair enough. This analysis took 2 hours, probably less for the actual analysis, but transport and so on takes time. His final call was, "Mr Maritz, you definitely have had a heart attack and need to go to Johannesburg General Hospital as soon as you can." Ouch, what a thing to hear. I had been hoping it was not a heart attack and hearing the confirmation was quite a disappointment, oh well such is life.
During the two hour wait I had gone to my sister's place to relax. I phoned Toni to let her know the results of the test and asked her to get hold of Shelley, my daughter, to take me to hospital. She arrived about 45 minutes later and we were off. It took a bit of working out how to get to the hospital itself. Neither of us had been to this particular hospital within the last 30 odd years and even though we both knew where the hospital was, getting to it involved various twist and turns. We got to cardiac admissions at about 14.30, about 15 hours after the event.

The treatment.
The doctor at the admissions took blood samples and repeated the ECG, same results. They had me in high care straight away while I waited to be admitted to cardiac intensive care. I did feel alright but the chest pain had come back, I think the painkiller had worn off. The rest of the time, up until I had the Angiogram, was quite boring. I was finally admitted to intensive care at 10.30 in the evening. They hooked me up to monitoring machines and did all the same tests again. Stuck needles into my stomach, something to do with thinning my blood, there were pills for cholesterol and a half an aspirin tablet. Very uncomfortable night, tied up in tubes and cables running to machines and drips. Very noisy place too. Wow!
I found the day shift nursing staff great to get on with, very attentative and present. The night time staff on the other hand were something else altogether.
The ICU unit was pretty well equipped and clean with full sheets and good attention. I had heard, from who knows where, that the cardiac unit was probably the best in Johannesburg, even better than most private hospitals (which I couldn't afford).

I was taken for an Angiogram early on Monday morning and the whole thing was complete before 10.
They took me into room that had large white machines and a narrow bed in it. I couldn't get a good look at everything, I was on a gurney lying flat on my back. I was asked to scooch over on to the funny bed, which I duly did, and they began to work on me. Just a little shave on both my upper, inner thighs, cleaning with alcohol swabs, wow, so cold, and then a whole lot of green covers. Apparently they were going to use lots of water and this was to prevent me from getting drenched.
Cardiac surgeon, Doctor MC Cutcheon, was going to be performing the operation on me, nice guy. He gave me an injection to numb the skin where he would be operating, then made a small incision in my right groin and inserted a tube so that the machines could  could do what they were about to do, and put in one stitch to hold everything in place.
Various dies were injected in to my blood system and, as far as I could understand, a mildly radioactive fluid. With the patient now prepared the machines came to life. Around my upper body was a cone of clear space in which the imaging equipment would rotate in three planes. The bed too could move forwards and backwards. This allowed those operating the apparatus to give the doctor images from almost anywhere. They could place the transmitter anywhere from my chin pointing at my heart, to transmitting from my groin and any place to either side of that. Quite amazing actually.
In front of the doctor above my body were three monitors that could also be moved out of the way should it be required. This operation is, without a shadow of doubt, a joint effort involving a whole bunch of people. People on the other side of a wall with a large window in it, were working with the computers, while those in the room with us were doing all sorts of things, and then there was the cardiologist himself, doing all sorts of things all the while directing the others and telling me what was going on. After the initial tube insertion the rest was not painful and very interesting. I could even see the monitors and see where the narrowing of one artery was without even having to be shown. Doctor MC Cutcheon did a pressure test on either side of the restriction and found the pressure on the lower end was a little below what it should be but still well within acceptable levels. He turned to me and told me things were not bad, this could be treated with medication and wouldn't require open heart surgery. Whew! Good news indeed.
Post treatment.
Operation over and now time to get back onto the gurney I had arrived on. I was not allowed to bend the leg in which the tube inserted. In order to perform this particular type of surgery it is necessary to thin the blood considerably with some form of substance injected through the tube in my leg. The tube had to stay in my leg for six hours to ensure there would be no internal bleeding. For me to lie in one position for six hours is, I must admit, almost impossible. Once the tube was removed I would have to remain still so that no external nor internal bleeding could take place. This is a major artery and a bleed could very easily and very quickly lead to a final goodbye. Twelve hours, not six, how depressing but you know what? When you know your very life depends on it, you can do it, I did.
When I was wheeled back into the ICU ward they had re-coupled all the pipes and wires reapplying all those little sticky things that they attach wires to. Man, when they pull them off it really hurts. (I've got a very hairy chest.) Each day I was in intensive care a day shift sister was assigned to look after me exclusively. The same for night shift. There were, in retrospect, so many people involved with me. Absolutely amazing.
My ECG's and other things they were using to monitor all showed normal and stable so on Thursday morning when Doctor MC Cutcheon came to have a last look at me and I was discharged by about 9 in the morning. Before leaving I was visited by the Nutritionist and given some information on what to eat, when and what to avoid. This is after all a life changing event and trust me, everything changes.
So, if you have a heart attack anywhere in sub-equatorial Africa, this is pretty much what you can expect. Your condition before the attack and what it feels like, well that's how it felt to me, what to do as soon as possible, where to head for and who to ask for.
There are a huge number of people and other goings on that I have not told you about but that involves the reaction of myself since and that of my family and friends.
Just to let you know, I've stopped smoking, I eat much more healthily and way more expensively, am more connected to my widespread family but, most importantly, I'm way better connected to my God who has seen fit to give this stupid man a little more time here in the world. May I bring Him honor and praise from all who read this post.
Heart attacks aren't always fatal, just extremely uncomfortable and life changing.
This has been a very long post, especially written for those who have had a heart attack affect their families. Chin up knowing God himself will stand by you, because He loves you, Jesus told us that long ago.
Blessings from Geoff.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Midrand Presbyterian Church

Midrand Presbyterian Church
I went to church today, the first time in a very long time.
Having been in Johannesburg now for a little over a year and spending almost every day at work I've not been able to find a church I want to be a part of. Nothing wrong with the churches, more to do with a lack of time and being too exhausted to go out looking. Having been raised by my parents in the Presbyterian church, I find I tend to return again and again to the same church each time I move home, in my case many, many times through my life. I am a Presbyterian, no doubt about it. Anyway, this morning I Googled "Midrand Presbyterian Church" and found this church just a few miles from home so off I went. When I arrived I was impressed by the number of people there and their young ages, compared to the average age of congregants at one other Presbyterian church I had visited about eighteen months ago in Edenvale where everyone was quite a bit older than even me. Then I went inside. Oh Wow! Talk about going back in time. What a magnificent building.
Everything about this church just fitted right, it was like coming home at last. The service was perfect, the people were friendly and genuine, there was plenty of parking, the gardens were well maintained and so on and so forth. They have Holy communion on the first Sunday of the month so today we gave thanks to Jesus for His sacrifice with bread and grape juice. While this was happening I got an image of Jesus knowing this was the last day before He was to be murdered and the tears started welling up in my eyes. What a terrible time that must have been for Him. Anyway, there is no rock band to accompany the worship but a genuine pipe organ. Absolutely stunning.
The pipe organ
   Oh how perfect God's  timing is. A few weeks ago I would probably  have not been in the right head space to appreciate all of this.
The sermon itself (2 Timothy 3 v 1-5 & 10-17)was about the end times and how mankind was only interested in himself, pretty much how I tend to see this world we live in. Did it speak to my heart? Like bells on a church calling worshipers.
Imagine that in Midrand
There is so much more I could write about but I first want to spend a little time with these people before I gush too much so I'll leave you with some images to exemplify the building and what has been achieved here, the whole building was moved here from Pietermaritzburg about forty odd years ago. Ill write about the process once I know more.
details on the downpipe

Just look at that workmanship
Amazing stonework
cast iron grill in tiled floor
the story of the moving process
My love and God's blessings to all who read this post, Geoff.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

On faith and the law

image source
Then what are we to say? That gentiles, who made no effort after righteousness nevertheless achieved it, a righteousness based on faith; whereas Israel made made great efforts after a law of righteousness, but never attained to it. Why was this? Because their efforts were not based on faith, but (as they supposed) on deeds. Romans verse 30 to 32.
Do you love your children? Of course you do. Would you say your love for your children is dependent on  their deeds or works? "Bad child I will no longer love you because you didn't sweep the floor as the house rules dictate you  have to do." How insane is that.

image source
God the father loves his children in the same way as we love our children. Let me tell you about an incident that happened in  my own life:
One day a few years ago, after I had had a huge fight with God, I was very down and despondent thinking that the God of creation, He who had formed me in my mother's womb and to whom I owed everything, could never love me again nor could He possibly forgive my irreverent and outrageous arrogance in fighting with Him. I was walking around the farm lamenting my unjustified outburst wishing it had never happened. I was talking to the Lord saying "I'm so sorry Lord, I know you can't forgive me, please take my life now so I can go to where I'm bound, in hell, and be done with my pathetic life."  This went on for hours and hours.
I think, after a while, He became quite frustrated with me because, all of a sudden, the following words came to mind: "Do you love your children?" Well yes, of course I do. "Would you still love your child if, when drunk and having been abused, belittled and mocked and in a very bad emotional state, he fought with you, called you a liar and swore at you?" "Well would you forgive him and still love him?" Yes, of course I would. "Would you sent that child to hell for one outburst or would you write it off understanding that he was not in his right mind at the time." No Lord, I would never send my children to hell. I would forgive them no matter what they did to me, I love them. "In the same way I love you and have forgiven you long ago. I will not send you to hell to pay for something you did in extreme distress, I love you too much to do that just as you would forgive your children no matter what."
image source
This changed my whole outlook on life and on what love means. I had tripped over the stone the Lord had laid in Zion, the one that hurts you. God's love for me is not based on the things I do to try to get into heaven, but on His having looked into my heart and seen the person I truly am. He sees just how much I love and trust him, how much I love Him and why.
I do not consider myself to be a righteous person, certainly not lovable nor even likable and yet God, the creator of the entire universe and everything and everyone therein, tells me He loves me and has plans to prosper me and not to harm me.
God obviously sees something in me worth loving, even though I don't. Well Lord, I will trust your judgement above my own, thank you.
God's love for his children is not based on our following his law and our attempts to obey but on our faith in His love for us and trust that He is faithful to us in all circumstances even though we go way off course and do things that break His heart.
God is love. Love is enduring, forgiving and the strongest force in all the universe, way stronger than fear or hatred. I love the Lord, I love my children and to be quite honest I love you.
Will you have faith that God loves you as much as you love your children, even more? Have faith in His love and trust that no matter what, His love for you will overcome even your worst situation? God's love is all you need to get through this difficult life. He really does love you.
Lord God almighty thank you for this astounding love and gentle care for all of us. May your kingdom come and may all of humanity finally realize that you are so in love with us your creation. Bless you so much Lord, Geoffrey.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


Happy new year everyone.
2015, What will happen this year?
Well this year, I would like to get back to where I was a while ago, as far as writing blog posts is concerned. 2014 was a rather disjointed year for me. No more walks on the beach with God, no more walks up the hill on the farm and saddest of all, no more friends to sit and chat about God with.
I've been told by quite a few people who have moved vast distances from their usual homes that the first year was their most difficult to cope with, me too.
We closed up shop on the twelfth of December after having about six stores postpone their shopfitting work till this year, I was so glad. The first two days of leave I slept, that's how exhausted I was, but I'm rested now and ready to get to it again on Monday. We had been working every day for four months, seven in the morning till six at night seven days a week, phew.
My brother's wife Tracey is still undergoing radiation treatment for lymph cancer, not much change yet, we'll see in due course but apart from her fear of dying she seems to be in good spirits.
James, my son, is in London right now having returned from Washington and New York. He'll be going to visit my sister in France on his way back to Cape town.
The rains came rather lat this year, I think the first storm we had was on the tenth of November. Wow, has it rained or has it rained? This afternoon the freeways going into Johannesburg were closed due to flash flooding, who would have thunk of such a thing. Gauteng in winter is SO dry, nothing to photograph, no mushrooms, flowers, insects and so on, all my favorite subjects. The mushrooms above were photographed on the small holding, where I live in Mid Rand yesterday, hard to find and very small. In summer this place has thunderstorms every day from about three in the afternoon till about seven and then it clears up during the night with bright sunshine in the morning, very different from Cape Town where the rainy season is in winter, which I prefer.
My new home

I think for today I'm going to call it a day. It'll take a while for me to get back into blogging again but I do think that your support while I was having such a hard time in Cape Town kept me going and having a platform for my pictures certainly motivated my photography. thank you for that.
May the Lord bless and keep you all in 2015 as He has kept me and blessed me all these years.
Lots of love, Geoff.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Waterkloof air-force base Aerospace airshow 2014

Pitt special
Airshow on the 20th at Waterkloof Airforce base Gauteng. And a great time was had by all, about one hundred thousand spectators. whew!
As you know by now, I really do enjoy taking pictures but these aircraft are quick and finding them in the view finder takes a little skill and lots of luck. I was using a Canon 18 to 200mm lens, quite heavy and without a tripod a bit shaky but what beautiful pictures. There are a few things I would do differently next time, slow the shutter speed from 1/4000 second to about 1/ 1000 second so that the propellers would be a bit blurry. These pictures look like they have been photo-shopped in, otherwise they are pretty good in my opinion.
Rhino anti-poaching unit with dogs on skids.

 Oh how my heart longed to be in any one of these spectacular craft. Having flown airplanes and helicopters in the past, very distant past in fact, I watched their antics with glee but must admit, most of my time was spent looking through the lens.
One of the thoughts that kept bouncing around in my head was how terrorized people living around a hundred years ago would have been by this incredibly noisy aerial display, can you imagine?
One of the exercises performed was the Rhino anti-poaching unit display using helicopters and dogs. It was very impressive. What happened was they came in with the choppers and the soldiers rappelled to the ground with a German Sheppard harnessed to them. Once on the ground the dogs were released, taking about 15 seconds to release, and off they went after the poachers. Two dogs and two poachers in full dog training padding. Unfortunately for one of the poachers, the dogs saw only him so he had two dogs attacking him at the same time, very scary indeed. Those of us in the group I was with had a good laugh watching him trying to get away, very funny to watch. He was not injured in any way, just in case you were wondering.
Harvards in formation fly by.
   I'm an old fashioned type of person, I like old. South Africa has some very old planes still in use, like these Harvards. I remember, while living near Pretoria in my late teens, watching these beautiful little trainers doing exercises over the hills where we lived. They have a very distinct engine noise ( not very noisy)and were always painted the same, just like these two. Ah, good memories. Unfortunately the shots I have are from underneath, because of the display they were putting on, but that is pretty much how I've always seen them anyway. Lovely. And then came the extremely noisy and unbelievably (1370 miles per hour) fast Gripen fighter jet. This is apparently one of the arms purchases made by the new South African government in the 2005 arms scandal. Although 26 were purchased and paid for, only one is in flight ready use today, another twelve have been put in mothballs. I live in Africa, oh well.
Saab Gripen fighter aircraft
The noise from this aircraft is amazing, and it was only flying by at about 600 miles per hour. Getting a shot of this aircraft was my greatest challenge for the day. Unfortunately every time it flew by it turned away from the crowd, which makes safety sense, so all the shots I did get were from underneath. Sorry about that.
There were commentators telling the crowd what to expect next with the pilots radio communications also audible, very interesting. Lots of stunt flying, Pitt specials flying in formation and then breaking away with, of course, the obligatory smoke trails. Hearts in smoke with smoke arrows, oh how the girls in the crowd cheered when they saw that.
We left the show at about 2pm in an effort to get out before the grand exodus, 100 000 people take up a lot of car space, lots of traffic. It still took us over an hour to get away. On the way home we stopped at a little nursery in Irene for something to eat and a cold drink. A lovely end to an absolutely exhilarating day out with Shelley and Toni.
So what do you think of my photographs so far?
And on a final note, I am so amazed that God invented flying so long ago, no need to be terrorized, just amazed will do.
Blessings to all, Geoff.