Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Outsize Me

Back in March, I was reading Fattie Fatterton's Blog and she mentioned The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. I was intrigued. At almost 400 pages, it took me awhile to make my way through it but the book was definitely worth reading.

What does the author say about the 145 pound grandmother who was able to lift a Chevy Impala off of her son?

In other words, we’re more powerful than we realize but we’re rarely – if ever – required to summon that force. (30)
The survivor's list includes the legendary Vesna Vulović who is known as The Woman Who Fell From The Sky. Vulović was a flight attendant on her first trip from Copenhagen to Belgrade when a bomb tore the airplane apart. As you can imagine, she had extensive injuries. As Sherwood writes:

To this day, her name appears in Guinness World Records for surviving the longest fall without a parachute. (82)
Other survivors include Katharine Decker Johnson who was hit by a 43,000 pound Volvo truck. Her Specialized bike was no match for the Volvo. (85)

Another survivor is Anne Hjelle who was attacked by a mountain lion. (130)

Doctors quickly determined that the lion’s fangs had nicked her spinal column and sliced within a hair of her jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe. They immediately treated forty deep bite marks in her neck and reattached her face using more than two hundred stitches and staples. (134)
What I love about Hjelle's story is that her friend (Debi Nicholls), you know another regular human being, grabs her and won't let go. Are you kidding me? Sign me up for five more friends just like that -- friends who will stay with you even when the lion might mistake you for the next entrée.

Other survivors include Tim Shears who fell off a cruise ship (210), the woman who became known as The Central Park Jogger (234), Cassi Moore whose personalized plate reads ONETHMB because out of all of her fingers and toes, she only has one thumb left after a flesh-eating bacteria wreaked havoc on her body. (279) Ellen Klor was going to meet some of her knitting buddies, stumbled and ended up with a wooden knitting needle through heart. (11) Her horrified friends wanted to remove the needle but Klor's instinct kicked in and she told them to just call 911.

When asked who survives in a plane crash, Cynthia Corbett, an investigator in cabin research at the FAA, responded “Young, slender men.” (64)

Sherwood went on to say that agility and strength make the biggest difference when you’re trying to wiggle through airplane wreckage or slip through a twenty-inch-wide emergency exit. Furthermore:

Women should travel in flats – no high heels – and they shouldn’t wear stockings or synthetic fabrics that can melt on the skin. Short pants or skirts are another no-no. In a fire, you’ll want your body covered. (76)
A lot of the survivors say that family, friends and love was crucial to their recoveries.

Sherwood interviews many folks including Professor Richard Wiseman who believes that only 10 percent of life is purely random. The remaining 90 percent is “actually defined by the way you think.” (190)

Other random gems in The Survivors Club:

  • Dr. Kamler, vice president of The Explorers Club, says that “All of us are descendants of survivors, he says, “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here.” (122)

  • In other words, if you’re exposed to enough hardship and pressure, you’ll build your immunity. It’s a variation on classic psychological conditioning: The more shocks to your system, the more you can withstand. (296)

  • Peanut butter is “the best survival food” in terms of cost per calorie.(297)

  • Dr. James Vaupel, an authority on aging, says there are modest changes that you can undertake in order to prolong your life like moderate exercise, eating fruits and vegetables and limiting saturated fat.(256)

  • Finally, I like how Sherwood describes Holocaust survivor Edith Eva Eger: she’s five foot four but her charisma is outsize. (162)

    Tell me. What about you is outsize? Your heart? Generosity? Tenacity?


    1. I remember that mountain lion story... her friend scared the lion away and saved her.

      I am a survivor :) in 98 I caught viral encephalitis and the fluid around my brain was swollen enough to make me unconscious for 6 days (coma)When I woke up I forgot about my kids and did not recognize my mom for a day or so....

      about 40 student doctors came to meet me later in the hospital because I was still alive and able to speak. I KNOW I survived to raise my girls.

      Lost 38 lbs in that coma :)

    2. Wow that sounds like an amazing read. Thank you so much for sharing. I too remember the mountain lion story. What immediately came to mind was that young boy who was the sole survivor of that plane that crashed last week. I think 103 people died and he survived. Incredible.

      I think that I survived my really difficult childhood to parent my kids in a healthy, loving way.

    3. I'm definitely a survivor. I took the quiz that the book offered online and my faith is my strength. It's not necessarily about religion for me (I'm more spiritual) - it's about my deep belief that in the end, it will be okay.

      I get through hard things by telling myself that in a week, a month, a year - life will be completely different.

      I learned a long time ago that panicking doesn't help anyone. So I'm great in emergencies. My entire family had always relied on me during those times.

      I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book - I really love it!

    4. @midlife_swimmer,

      What a friend, right?

      You ARE a survivor. I'm so glad that you recovered well AND that you were lighter when you woke up. Who can beat that scenario? :)


      I love it that you have emerged as such a wonderful individual despite the rough start...

      @Fattie Fatterton,

      I like your deep belief; I feel like I belong to your tribe. My mother told me many a time -- this too shall pass and I'm usually not rocked off my foundation too easily.

      Also, I'm glad that I saw the book on your blog. It was definitely a meaningful reading.

      @midlife_swimmer, Diane and Fattie Fatterton,

      I appreciate all of you sharing your stories. Thanks...

    5. I don't have an answer for your question, but I remember reading about that. A human being's power to overcome is much, much greater than we give ourselves credit for in emotionally or physically trying situations. Crazy how that works, isn't it?