A word that’s enough to drive you into triage

Cape Argus - - OPINION - By David Biggs

ITHINK “triage” must be one of the most fright­en­ing of all English words. For those not fa­mil­iar with it, it is de­fined as the “the as­sign­ing of de­grees of ur­gency by which pa­tients are treated”. In bat­tle con­di­tions it means de­cid­ing which of the wounded need ur­gent treat­ment and which will have to wait. The same ap­plies in large-scale tragedies, such as train wrecks, ter­ror­ist bomb­ings or fires.

If there are more ca­su­al­ties than the res­cue team can han­dle, some­body has to de­cide who gets saved and who is prob­a­bly be­yond help.

It must be an aw­ful re­spon­si­bil­ity for a field doc­tor to de­cide which pa­tients can be treated and which, in all prob­a­bil­ity, will have to die.

On a far less trau­matic scale, many Cape gar­den­ers are hav­ing to ap­ply a form of triage to their pre­cious plants.

Most of us sim­ply do not have enough “grey” wa­ter to ir­ri­gate all our plants, so we have to make choices.

Do I give that tomato bush the wa­ter I’ve scooped out of my wash basin, or do I pour it on to the beau­ti­ful rose bush that is about to bloom? Is there any point in try­ing to keep that gera­nium alive un­til it even­tu­ally rains?

Plants are im­por­tant in ci­ties. They soften the hard edges of life in the of­ten cruel con­crete jun­gle.

They pro­vide wel­come shade and fil­ter some of the pol­lu­tion out of the air. A newly es­tab­lished sub­urb look very bleak un­til the gar­dens have had time to estab­lish them­selves.

Now many of us are hav­ing to stand by, help­less, and watch the plants we have grown with such care slowly droop­ing and dy­ing.

The good part of all this is that there must by now be close on a mil­lion rain­wa­ter tanks stand­ing in subur­ban gar­dens across the city.

They are all still empty at the time I write this but it must rain even­tu­ally (so far there has never been a drought that hasn’t bro­ken) and then those with brim­ming tanks of clear wa­ter will be able to smile smugly and feel as sat­is­fied as a busi­ness­man with a bil­lion in the bank.

Imag­ine the pride of be­ing able to of­fer guests “a lit­tle wa­ter with your whisky? We har­vest our own, you know”.

And the day will surely come when the most sought-af­ter ur­ban sta­tus sym­bol will be to own a so­lar pow­ered still in the back yard.

But un­til that happy time, the triage con­tin­ues.

Last Laugh

A neigh­bour spot­ted Koos, the lo­cal pig farmer, wear­ing a new suit and push­ing a wheel­bar­row loaded with ma­nure.

The neigh­bour stopped his car, rolled down win­dow and shouted to Koos: “Hey, man, why are you dressed so smartly for farm­ing?”

“You see,” said Koos, “my daugh­ter is get­ting mar­ried this af­ter­noon and I have to give her away but I have to fer­tilise the toma­toes first, so I thought I’d save time and put on my suit now, then when it’s time to go to church all I have to do is change my vest and un­der­pants and I’m ready.”

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