“Operation: Thai Cave Rescue” airs on Discovery Channel on July 23

Last week saw the conclusion to the terrifying ordeal in Thailand that befell a soccer team of 12 boys and their coach who went exploring the local cave system of Tham Luang. Monsoon rains caused flooding within the cave, stranding the boys inside for two weeks.

The amazing efforts that led to their successful rescue will be told in a 1-hour special airing on the Discovery Channel on July 23, 9.50pm with a repeat airing on July 29, 9.50pm.

Synopsis:

DISCOVERY CHRONICLES THE HARROWING STORY AND EXTRAORDINARY RESCUE OF THE THAI SOCCER TEAM THAT IS CAPTIVATING THE WORLD IN OPERATION THAI CAVE RESCUE, A 1-HOUR SPECIAL

From the moment the heartbreaking news broke that 12 young Thai soccer players and their 25-year-old coach were stuck in a cave complex near the Myanmar border, the world has been glued to the rescue and recovery details. For over two weeks, the facts of how the group ended up in the cave and the subsequent mobilization of rescue workers around the globe has been a testament of just how powerful human spirit can be—while the sudden and tragic death of one of the rescue divers underscored the seriousness of the situation.

“Operation Thai Cave Rescue,” Discovery Channel

“Operation Thai Cave Rescue,” Discovery Channel

But as each boy has been pulled out, there remains many questions. Why were these boys there? How did they survive for nearly two weeks without food and without knowing how to swim? What will their physical and mental state be moving forward? What would it take to get this group out of this treacherous cave, and why did the unique geology of this cave present so many challenges? OPERATION THAI CAVE RESCUE will be the first documentary to explore and unpack every angle of this remarkable rescue operation.

Discovery Channel is on SKYcable channel SD 39 and HD 180. It may also be streamed live on skyondemand.com.ph.

Show provided by Discovery Channel in a recent media notice.

Disclosure: I work for SKY and part of my job is promoting its products and services, especially the content it provides to its subscribers. I consider being able to share my love for TV shows and movies and the experience of watching and talking about them with like-minded people some of the biggest perks of my job.

Why we should donate blood

I joined the Red Cross Youth org in my university during my college years. While I handled several projects for the org, I never got around to donating blood. At the time, I was afraid of the needles used, the sight of blood or the medical team sometimes had trouble locating the blood vessel in my arm optimal for blood extraction.

I started donating blood a few years ago. The employees’ union at my office had a bloodletting activity and, as a show of support and with some friendly competition among my coworkers, I joined those donating blood. It was fairly painless plus the union officers even gave me a mug and a shirt as a souvenir.

Since then, health and schedule permitting, I have tried to regularly donate blood at a nearby hospital. I even brought my husband with me once and we made the experience into a bonding activity. On my next donation this December, I plan to bring my eldest daughter so I can instill the habit in her as well.

My reason for donating blood is that it’s one of the easiest ways I can contribute to someone’s life. One pint of blood can be broken down into three components – red blood cells, plasma and platelets – thereby possibly saving up to three lives.

And don’t worry about your donation going to waste.  There’s actually a lot of demand for donated blood.  Yours may even reach the farthest areas in the country, and may help save lives in far-flung provinces.

Given the demands on my time and resources, I can’t contribute much to charity or volunteer at my chosen causes. Giving blood, however, simply involves a trip to the hospital and a few minutes at the blood bank, or some time away from my desk during the office’s blood donation drive.

Blood donation also affords me several health benefits:

  • A free mini-physical that checks my pulse and blood pressure as well as a free blood analysis that checks for the presence of infectious diseases.
  • Prevents hemachromatosis, a health condition brought about by too much iron in the blood. By maintaining healthy iron levels in the blood, the risk of certain cancers, liver and heart ailments are also minimized.
  • It helps in weight loss. Every donation burns around 650 calories, which to me is the equivalent to three hours at the treadmill.
  • It also stimulates production of new blood cells further contributing to the maintenance of good health.

To be eligible to donate, I needed to be the following:

  • In good health.  You should be feeling well at the time of donation.
  • Between 16 to 65 years of age.  If below 18, you will need your parent’s consent to be able to donate.
  • Weighing at least 110 pounds.
  • Having a normal blood pressure, between 90 and 160 mmHg (systolic), 60 and 100 mmHg (diastolic)
  • Able to pass the physical and health history assessments that will be conducted immediately before the donation.

After the procedure, I was given refreshments (usually a snack and a juice box which I should consume before leaving the donor area), and these reminders:

  • Rest and remain in the area for 15 minutes.
  • Increase fluid intake for the next 24 hours.
  • No smoking within the next 3 hours and no alcoholic beverages for the next 24 hours.
  • No strong pressure or heavy lifting on the donating arm for the next 24 hours to avoid bruising.
  • No strenuous activity or hazardous work for the next few hours.

Blood donation is a way for me to give of myself. It is my gift of life to whoever has the urgent need for it.

If you want to donate blood, check out the Red Cross website for more information.

Your place in the world

You have been a good boy and got good grades last grading period so I let you have my old smartphone to play with during your school break.

“This is my phone?” you asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “But I will get it back from you on Sunday night because you have school again on Monday, okay?”

You nodded and sat down on the couch beside me, happily tapping and scrawling through your game apps.

At nearly nine years old, you appear much the same as other boys your age, average in height and average in build. However, you are three school grades behind. You speak almost exclusively in English, not with the finesse of your sister at the same age, with some broken words and almost always a lilt at the end, but well enough to be understood by your teachers and the school staff. I was told that you have few friends because the other mostly Tagalog-speaking kids have trouble communicating with you. When you fight with your sister, you go straight to me or your daddy, saying “Ate (Big Sister) did this” or “Ate said that” and are content to let our simple admonishment of your sister stand. While other boys your age would have made their moms crazy with worry by sneaking off to bike or play basketball with their gang in the streets, you are content to stay home, watching cartoons on TV or playing with your phone. Other kids would pester their parents for the latest toys and gadgets but not you; you are happy to play with your old toys or imagine yourself in a fort when you’re actually surrounded by your pillows. At family gatherings, while you often sit by yourself, again with your phone or with your favorite-at-the-moment toy, your cousins would be running about roughhousing and making noises that irritate you.

There was a time when a quiet, mild-mannered, English-speaking Filipino boy would be called the ideal son, but not now. Not when everyone knows, because we felt no need to hide it, that you are in the autism spectrum.

You were around four years old when we noticed something different about you. Your sister was already speaking straight sentences at that age but you were still into grunts and pointing. Your teachers complained that you can’t sit still in class, that you would stand up and walk around. You were very sensitive to noise and textures; I now realized that you hated the Kiddie Halloween party held at my office because the music was so loud and your Dracula costume felt like it was chafing you. It was almost impossible to give you a haircut; you would squirm and throw tantrums whenever the barber and his clipper would go anywhere near you.

You were around five when you were diagnosed and I felt like the ground was pulled beneath me. This is not something that can be fixed by a quick visit to the doctor or a few drops of medicine. This is something life-long. It frightened me.

I was so scared it took another six months before I pulled you out of your mainstream pre-school and got you into speech and occupational therapy. I bought you games and toys for much younger kids, thinking those would hasten your learning. I even relented when your devped prescribed you with Ritalin. Still, you were improving at what seemed to me at a snail’s pace.

I worried. I worried that you will never catch up with your peers. I worried that the costs of your doctor’s appointments and treatments would be overwhelming. I worried that I would not have what it takes to support you emotionally, financially or in whatever way you needed. I worried that should anything happen to me or your dad, you wouldn’t be equipped to deal with life on your own. Mainly, I just worried. Period.

Then, everyone got into action. Your dad and I rearranged household priorities to free up your yaya to spend most of her time with you, particularly when you go to school or therapy. Your grandma recommended a school nearer to our place that has a good special education program. Your uncles and aunts became understanding when you would not immediately answer them or when you would say something out of turn. We moved into a house where you can have your own room that you can retreat to, with subdued colors that won’t irritate or distract you. Your dad and I tried to be as involved in your school and in your inner world of games and cartoons as much as we can, given our busy and demanding careers. Your grandparents also pitched in by fetching you or attending school events when we can’t.

It has been four years since that fateful diagnosis. I have seen how you tried to navigate the world, how you tried to find your place in it. I have seen how you picked up new concepts or try to undertand more complex ones. You try your best to speak Tagalog whenever we prompt you. Far from the aloof and isolated stereotype of autistic kids, I have seen you approach other kids, waitresses, security guards and teachers in an open and friendly manner.

At my last meeting with your teacher, she was amazed at your improvement after months of working with a special ed tutor we got for you. When I see you with your younger cousin, you play and roughhouse that I had to tell you boys to tone it down. You have been off Ritalin for almost two years, and your devped recommended to discontinue your occupational therapy. You qualified for academic and conduct awards last grading period and your teachers and I are hopeful that you will be able to transition to Grade 1 and go on from there.

We still have a long road ahead of us. I still worry but not as much as I used to. Because you have come so far and you will go farther, bravely, not because we’re pushing you but because you know that you have a place in this world. As much as I can, I’ll help you find it.

We actually ARE Racing Extinction

I was privileged to be invited to an exclusive sneak peak to the documentary Racing Extinction. It delves into how human activities, whether covert or out in the open, whether large-scale or minute, affect and even cause the extinction of species.

Sharks, for example, are majestic creatures that survived millennia but are now driven to near extinction because of the culinary and medicinal demand for their fins. They, however, do not evoke warm, protective feelings in me.
Until I saw how one was thrown back into the water with its fins cut off.


Aside from the pain from forcibly severed limbs, that shark will no longer be able to breathe as it respirates through the movement of water through its gills. Imagine someone cutting off your hands and legs then suffocating you with a plastic bag over your face.

Yet, this atrocity is done to thousands of sharks, and now manta rays, just to be able  to serve an exotic soup, or to add an ingredient to alternative, non-scientific medicine. Why should species be decimated just because we want our soup? Or because we want something for our aches and pains (even when there are other medicines available).

In my opinion, we should care about the continued survival of other species because we could have been the species on the lower rung of the food chain. And because, the disappearance of one species could have devastating effects globally.

Racing Extinction will have a global TV premiere on Discovery Channel on December 2, 9pm.