Ray Columbus – Summer Ramblings 2009

So much has happened since I last wrote; Obama elected in the USA, John Key here in New Zealand, Helen Clark resigning from leadership of the Labour Party, the World in chaos financially, and everyone looking for scapegoats. Madoff pops up as one of dozens of likely suspects in New York, Bankers, Financial Consultants all of whom, I suspect, were considered heros to their clients and Boards et al until their greed became apparent! It was fine while they were all pigs eating from the same trough…but once the truth came out no no it’s not right. There were some Entertainment ‘names’ that were caught in the Madoff debacle Mr. Speilberg, Stevie Wonder … they’ll be licking their financial wounds now. But they are some of the lucky ones…who still have fortunes pouring into their coffers from royalties for past efforts.

NZ seems to be in better shape….with our Banks particularly, being more cautious ,jobs are a worry but we have a Businessman at the helm now, so the timing of John Key’s arrival on the scene is, hopefully, going to prove fortunate for all!. But he’s been handed a ‘hospital pass’ in Rugby terms by Labour with the state the economy was already headed under their banner.

The Wellington Sevens rugby Spectacular has been and gone and once again for the 10th time in a row the Capital turned it on.NZ lost in a nail-biter, in the final…to, surprise, surprise England and the day before they lost to Wales, which cast a shadow of the event. But the USA beat Fiji too so at least the Northern Hemisphere is catching up with the Kiwis and South Africa…who have dominated things for years. I was actually glued to the Black Caps Cricket Drama with the Aussies, to be two up in a five match series is so off the wall at any time and I know it’s easy to be clever in hindsight but, methinks The  Kiwis should have opted t Bat first in the 3rd one-dayer in Sydney. We already had the Aussies on the ropes, they had to recall Captain Ricky Ponting from his two day break(how arrogant is that!) and I know Vettori is breaking in a  new team but maybe we may have taken the initiative to vary our pattern. Anyway the damage is done we’ve let them back in… now it’s 2-1, so we still have the lead and only have to win  one out of the remaining two ODI’s to take the series. Go the Black Caps!

I’ve been quiet the last eight months. Had a Major Stroke on the 3rd June last year and I’m lucky to be here. One of the lucky ones! Linda (my wife) and I, were due to go to New York for our Grandson’s 1st birthday…so we went on schedule. Tina our daughter had insisted I go and see their family Doctor…a Preventive cardiac Specialist in Manhattan who treats her in-laws…the Doc doesn’t take any new patients but he agreed to see me as a member of Tina’s new Family (which is appropriate because I’ve never subscribed to the ‘in-laws’ or ‘step’ children mentality – we’re all family….and in this case we’re all very close too- all the better).

Anyway I was given every thorough test over four visits, was sent to the Professor of Neurology at Mount Sinai Hospital and Med school who checked me out too. They then told me in no uncertain terms the prognosis for my health …….prescribed new medications to add to the ones that my new Auckland Specialist had prescribed before I left NZ…and finally I’m on track. My problems went back to my Heart attack four years previous- I came out of Hospital then, more deathly than when I went in, in the Ambulance (Thankyou St. John!). We worked out that why I was so grey and deathly looking was down to the Beta Blockers… so I asked the hospital Cardiologist what they were for?  ’Standard practice you take these following a heart attack!’…what did they do? I pressed… ’Lower your blood pressure’..I replied: ‘But my heart attack was not from blood pressure per se’ I said, ‘it was caused from the damage done years ago from my old cigarette habit right? I don’t have high blood pressure’? Anyway to cut a long story short, turns out I was playing with fire… went off those pills and some mini stokes later led to my Major Stroke. What I learned in New York is the Beta Blockers are for ‘Inflammation’ also and inflammation kills us. My EECP treatment has reversed the Periferal Vascular Disease in my Arteries (caused by half a life of smoking)… where I still had major problems (established at Mt.Sinai) was bleeding of the brain! Which caused the Stroke!The upshot of all this is: I have a ‘cocktail of Drugs’ I now take every day and night if I want to stay alive. My Geriologist in Auckland God love him, was magnanimous on my return from the States…he read all of the reports…and when I asked him to add the new pills to his ones he said ”In NZ everyone knows where Eden Park is (I started to wonder where he was going there for a minute!) and in the Medical Community around the World.. We all know where Mt. Sinai is…and if this is what they say you must have…this is what you will have”. And I do… Isn’t that wonderful?

It’s been a long eight months – I was partially crippled right down my right side…my right hand is still not quite right, most disturbing was the right side of my face, tongue and vocal chord were effected too! It was quite frightening to hear the nuances and inflections I could (normally) easily bring to my singing for a lifetime…were gone! Speech therapy helped identify the problem and I was sent to Auckland Hospital where specialists were able to use a tiny camera (up my nose and down my throat while I sang the chorus of “Sweet Caroline”. My right chord…I watched later on the software on their PC was still sluggish..so they taught me some simple oral exercises to fix the problem and now I’m back to singing to my standards again. It’s never been perfect but it’s ME and that’s all I wanted. So thankyou to everyone who helped me get back ‘on the boards’.

My colleagues in the business too…I came close to losing my confidence…but when I did the spoken tribute to Sir Howard Morrison on “To Sir With Love”…all the wonderful performances of my peers, friends all- inspired me to get things right again. So thankyou one and all…you know who you are. I’m a lucky boy to get a life again and my career ready to get back on track. I do two concerts in the South Island soon and two, maybe three, in Melbourne in May. YIPEEE!