Could you survive against all odds?
It is this question and similar ones that KS4 pupils have been considering in some depth over the last half term. Our topic has been ‘Survivors’ and we’ve been learning about incredible people who have survived plane crashes, accidents, extreme environments and wars. What has surprised us all is just how much trauma a person can go through and not only survive, but go on to live life to the full and even be grateful for their experience.
Take for instance Aron Ralston: an experienced climber. In 2003, when he was 27 years old, he was climbing in the Blue John Canyon when he fell and trapped his arm under a large boulder. After five days he made the decision that the only way he could survive this situation was by amputating his own arm using a Stanley blade. He survived against all odds and has gone on to say in interviews: "Still today I look at it, I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t take a sharper knife, wouldn’t have a jacket, wouldn’t take more water. It had to happen the way that it happened."
We read parts of his biography - Between A Rock And A Hard Place - and looked at the language and detail he used to make us feel horrified by the description of the amputation. Below is one group’s favourite extract.
Little by little, I rip through the tendon until I totally sever the twine-like filament, then switch the tool back to the knife. There is also a pale white nerve strand, as thick as a swollen piece of angel-hair pasta. I put the knife's edge under the nerve and pluck it, like lifting a guitar string two inches off its frets, until it snaps. It recalibrates my personal scale of what it feels like to be hurt - it's as though I have thrust my arm into a cauldron of magma.