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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Battling the Crab By Leslie Wright

A mother’s worst nightmare

Family Money: Tracking Managers

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Many investors fall into the trap of buying funds on the back of past performance league tables. Understandably, it is assumed the funds that came top over the last one, three or five years are probably the best ones to pick. Unfortunately selecting a good fund is not as easy as that.

Apart from the fact that the source of your information may be biased (who’s giving you the information, and to what end?), or inadequate (even the financial trade papers only publish performance figures of those funds they’re paid to list), there’s a lot more to selecting a particular fund to represent a particular sector in your portfolio’s strategic mix than last year’s performance ranking – although I grant that this is an influencing factor. Indeed, for many amateur investors, the one and only deciding factor.

But one should also ask: how did that fund achieve its result? Was it good judgement, or good luck? And how did the manager perform the year before, and the year before that? Has he shown consistent above-average performance, or has it been like a roller coaster? If so, why? Nature of the fund? Nature of the market? Or personality trait of the manager?

One of the main reasons why it is so dangerous to act on past performance tables is that staff turnover in the fund management industry is very high. When you study a performance table there is a high chance that the numbers you are looking at were achieved by someone who has since moved on.

In a recent survey of the worst performing onshore UKbased funds, it was found that 77% of the funds identified had experienced at least one change of fund manager over the past three years. For expats investing in offshore funds the implications are just as pronounced.

There are numerous reasons for the high level of turnover. Consolidation among financial institutions has been a major global trend and some managers inevitably leave in the resulting reorganisation. Another factor has been a brain drain from mainstream fund companies into hedge fund boutiques. A further driver of fund manager turnover has been the fostering of a “star manager” culture that means the leading performers become highly poachable.

Do individual managers really matter? The answer is a qualified “yes”, though the extent varies. At one extreme there are funds designed simply to replicate the behaviour of an index or that operate according to a rigidly defined quantitative model. In these cases, the impact of human judgment is minimised so change in personnel is less important.

At the other end of the spectrum are funds where the managers have considerable freedom: essentially investors are being asked to back the personal judgment of a “star”. This especially applies to many hedge funds.

Most funds are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, requiring their managers to operate within certain parameters and constraints. For example, the extent to which a manager can take a bet for or against a sector or major stock in an index may be limited to a specified percentage. Other managers must primarily select their stocks from a company-approved “core list” or “model portfolio” drawn up by the institution’s research department. (This restraint commonly applies to private banking services which claim to provide personalised portfolio management services with your own portfolio manager – but typically put your money into the bank’s one-size-fits-all conservative portfolio designed by The Powers upstairs.)

But even in these cases, the buck ultimately stops with the lead manager; individual fund managers are, therefore, still the most important ingredient in the recipe. So when you are selecting an investment fund it is essential that you link past performance to the manager you are buying today. Only a handful of funds have been managed by the same individual for more than a decade. And these managers may be nearing retirement or burn-out.

A further problem with analysing a manager’s past performance is whether or not they have simply been lucky. Many investment advisers will assess performance on a three- or fiveyear view, but you should never underestimate the role of chance when looking at such relatively short periods. (Yes: three years is considered a short period in the investment world!) It has been demonstrated statistically that over one year, a group of monkeys can select as many winners as a group of professionals. Even over three years there remains a significant probability that out-performance is simply due to luck. Only over longer periods – 5, 10, 20 years – do the professionals consistently outperform the monkeys.

Of course, no matter how sophisticated an approach you take to studying a fund manager’s past record, this will never be a precise predictor of the future. For example, even managers with long records of out-performance at acceptable levels of volatility can still be lured away to run a new fund with an unattractive structure, remit or high charges. And qualitative research can also highlight other concerns such as growth in fund size (very large funds may become more difficult to manage, or simply have too much money to invest – as happened with Fidelity’s giant Magellan Fund.) Or a manager may now have too many other distractions (directorships, additional management responsibilities and so on). It is essential to dig behind the figures and take a view on these issues.

The key message for investors is that it is important to be sceptical about buying a fund purely on superficial past performance. Of course we all know the caveat that’s on every fund brochure: “Past performance is not an indication of future performance.” That same caveat should perhaps be attached to the manager, not just the fund he is managing. So it is very important to have a clear idea of who is running the fund today before committing to a purchase. Once you have invested, it is vital to monitor the fund for personnel changes: former top performing funds can deteriorate if the manager leaves and the replacement is not of sufficient calibre. A change of manager always requires a thorough reappraisal as to whether you stay in the fund or take your capital elsewhere.


Personal Directions: Presentation is everything!

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Incorp Trining Associates

Did you ever catch a quick glimpse of yourself in a window or a mirror whilst shopping or walking in a street during rush-hour and then gasp to yourself, “My goodness is that me! Do I really look like that!” then hurry along not wanting to repeat the same experience - not wanting to bump into that person again? I know we can’t all be looking our pristine best all of the time, but we shouldn’t be creating shock waves either.

I really do think that there is a lot to be said for the way we present ourselves no matter what the occasion or moment.

Sure, the shopping trip on a weekend is a time when we all relax and let our hair down in terms of appearance and dress and some people are great proponents of this - that’s fine - and indeed there are casual times when it’s comfortable and easy to hang out without too much formality attached to it. But we don’t need to transfer it to the weekday when it’s business as usual and there might be cause to look a little more refined. Believe it or not some people do get confused with what day it is!

Lately I have been working on some projects concerning how to develop and project a positive and professional image and the enhancement of presentation styles and skills. I tend to find these areas of training quite fascinating because of the way people perceive themselves and the way they behave in front of a camera or on tape and then react on replay! It might seem unusual, but the fact remains that we are still struck with amazement when we watch ourselves walk or hear ourselves speak, despite all the technological innovations that surround us and are at our fingertips.

I find that the videotape recorder is the most valuable piece of equipment anyone can have the experience of using and it’s pure brilliance, not to mention absolutely essential, for any training program that involves presentation and public speaking skills. It doesn’t tell any lies, it’s true to every movement, every sound - every wrinkle too! It understands moods, attitudes, and patterns of behaviour and is a tool that can frame and chart the process of building and developing existing skills.

One client I worked with on this particular subject was astounded at the difference in results he found with his employees once they had become used to being videotaped and saw how it could help them improve. The staff involved in the program were all highly qualified in the field of sales and marketing and customer service, but were lacking in some of the basic skills of personal presentation, techniques of speech, delivery and body language. So much so, that it was having a marked effect on the end of month sales figures and causing some customer enquiries and complaints that he really did not want to have. This was a case where qualifications and experience were at a serious imbalance.

In order to address these problems, we designed a specific program that combined theory and worked on the principle of “practice, practice and more practice!” The training facility was set up for a period of three days (yes it was an intensive and dramatic schedule) and looked more like a stage set than a training room. It was very effective because it produced results! Every single participant was literally put “on stage” and went through periods of rehearsals, filming and playback, instructor and peer critique and review - until they got it right. Learning by doing, learning by this pure and simple approach worked wonders in terms of boosting confidence as well.

I am a firm believer in, “practice makes perfect”. And I also am a believer in bringing out the best in people - people do surprise you with ability that you never thought they had. Quite often management writes people off all too quickly because they have not taken the time to do one simple thing, and that is to provide enough encouragement and nurturing to help draw out the capabilities of their staff. This effort does take effort - and commitment - on the part of employers.

Some people need a lot of encouragement in the area of public speaking and delivering presentations be they selling a housing project, selling space on a satellite or selling advertising concepts. It’s all to do with representing their company, being out there and being at their best. And that requires them to be “exposed”, one could say, up-front where everybody can see and notice every little mistake, hesitation, flaw in appearance, roughness in technique. It’s bare bones time and it takes a lot of inner strength and gumption to overcome the fear that most people have whether speaking to a hall of 300 listeners or presenting to a closed group of six potential buyers.

But when the techniques are refined and polished; when the subject matter is word perfect and professionally prepared; when the voice is crisp and clear and captivating; when the methods are exciting, dynamic and hold the audience’s interest; then the results can only be positive ones and ones that will not only lead to excellence on the part of the speaker or presenter, but lead to successful results and rewards for the company as a whole.

Every company needs to excel in selling themselves. And every person in a company from the Chairman and CEO, all the way down the management ladder, to the sales staff and telemarketers, to the van drivers who deliver goods - is selling the company to a certain point. To represent a company in a successful way requires good presentation skills.

There are some very famous hotels where the “doorman” is the face of the hotel. The doorman has become so highly valued by the management that in many cases he earns considerably more than them - because he has refined the art of presentation and representation. At all levels, presentation is important. It is, or should be, a required and necessary skill because of the power it has to either make or break a sale, keep a customer satisfied and simply turn minuses into pluses sometimes on a grand scale.

The way we look, the way we walk and talk, the way we regard ourselves and carry ourselves, our body language - these are all elements we need to look at from time to time and take stock of. So much of the time we forget about how professional or unprofessional our appearance is. We think that what we have on “will do”. We think that it doesn’t really matter if our hair is a bit untidy (it’s windy outside - that’s my excuse) or the shoes need re-heeling. No-one’s going to look are they? No one will care about how we drag our feet or slump our shoulders - it’s who we are! They won’t notice all the hand waving and the drifting eyes or monotone voice - not at all - they there for the product!

Well - yes indeed they are. And YOU are the one who presents it - or have you forgotten? So if they, the customer, are not impressed by you and what you have to say and how you say it, then you can call it a day! They won’t be back and quite possibly nor will you.

Presentation is everything because it sets the tone for what comes next. It’s not about outward beauty and good looks, it’s about being in touch with who you are, having a presence and an aura about yourself, being fit spiritually, mentally and physically, having an ability to draw on and hold people’s interest and being in control.

Should you like to inquire about Incorp’s Presentation Skills and Public Speaking Programs, please email me at [email protected] ing.com or contact me directly at Incorp Training Associates in Bangkok, tel. (0) 2652 1867-8, fax; (0) 26521870. Program details can be found at www. incorptraining.com


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Cataract

The official definition of Cataract is an opacity in the ocular lens that reduces visual acuity to 20/30 or less (normal is 20/20). Put in simpler terms, the lens in your eye, through which you see and focus, becomes opaque.

When you are a younger adult then your lens is perfectly clear and able to be ‘bent’ by the muscles in the eye so that you can focus the eye to read. As you get older, generally after the age of 40, the lens begins to get opacities and the ability to ‘bend’ the lens enough to read at close distances is lost. This is why most of us, over the age of 45, need reading glasses to see the newspaper clearly. Either that or longer arms.

Cataracts themselves are actually classified in four types, depending upon where they are in the lens, but you can have more than one type in your lens. As time goes on, the lens opacities increase and eventually you cannot see properly, even with glasses. The condition, though progressive, is painless.

So apart from age, what else can predispose you to getting cataracts? Guess what? Number 1 on the list is smoking, followed by poor nutrition and steroids and exposure to UV light.

There is no ‘magic tablet’ either to reverse the process in the lens, the only ‘cure’ is removal of the opaque, hardened item and replacement with an Intra Ocular Lens, known in the ophthalmological trade as an IOL. IOL’s have been around since the 1940’s, but it is fairly recent that they have become cheap to manufacture and the surgical side has become so exact.

To show just how commonplace the operation is these days, 1.5 million cataract extractions were done in the USA in 1992 and of those, 1.425 million received an IOL. The operation these days is very quick and almost fool-proof, and can even be done under local anaesthetic if required.

During the operation, the capsule of the lens is opened and the cataract affected lens is extracted (sometimes it is liquefied by laser) and the new, clear plastic IOL inserted. With modern techniques there sometimes need be no sutures either. Amazing. There is also no need for the patient to wait until the cataract matures. Once the vision has deteriorated, the timing to do the IOL is elective, worked out between the ophthalmologist and the patient. Cataract surgery is considered to be one of the most successful surgical procedures that can be done, with 95% of the post operative patients having excellent vision.

However, one patient who had his cataract surgery done here told me afterwards he was going to sue the ophthalmic surgeon. When I asked him why, he replied, “Now I can see how ugly my wife is!”

By the way, there is an interesting phenomenon known as “Second Sight” where the lens hardening produces short-sightedness, which goes to ‘balance out’ the difficulty with reading that is normally expected. The result is that 6-70 year olds suddenly find that they no longer need reading glasses! Unfortunately this is short-lived.

Associated eye diseases such as conditions that affect the retina, for example, diabetes, can be a contra-indication to IOL surgery, and this is why it is important to have a full ocular check, including examination of the retina before the decision to operate is done.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

While the rest of the world seems to have discovered sensible shoes for women (take a look at what the lady tourists are wearing) it seems that Thai women have not. Everywhere you look there are these young girls teetering along on those outdated platform shoes. It is not a good look, as far as I am concerned. Is there some reason that Thailand got left behind after the platform trend died off in the west? Or is it another of those Asian inscrutables?

Curious

Dear Curious,

You appear to be an observant chappie - up to a point! You have spotted the footwear, but now have a look at the rest of the person on the elevator clogs. Thai women tend to be small, if you haven’t noticed, and to get on an equal footing they need those 10 centimetres, Petal. This way they can get up to being level with you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. If you whisper sweet nothings doing back, then they’ll totter off on their stilts and find someone else more their own size! You mention a “good look” and also suggest we girls should be looking at what lady tourists are wearing. My Petal, that is an oxymoron (look it up, it is not a mentally retarded buffalo). Hillary does not wish to be seen in velcro strapped sandals and hairy legs. Sorry.

Dear Hillary,

The other night I was friendly towards a girl in a club (domestic staff, not a bartendee) and the next day a letter was delivered to my work written by her sister telling me that the girl had no boyfriend but had two sons and she wanted to see me because she thought I was a very nice man. I had just finished reading the note and the next minute she appeared and I must admit I was totally unprepared for this. I just wanted her out of my workplace as soon as possible, I was so embarrassed, so I thanked her and said I was busy, gave her 40 Baht for the taxi and told her to go. The guys in the office are still laughing at me and say I am a fool, while my other friends say she just wants money. What do you think, Hillary?

Frank.

Dear Frank,

There are a couple of ways of looking at this. Sure, she may have decided that you are an “easy touch” and will bug you to death until you either weaken and give her money or get angry and tell her to go. On the other hand, you are talking about a single parent with two children and you were not only nice to her, but represent huge wealth, compared to her circumstances. Why should she not pursue the almighty dollar? You would have to give her 10 out of 10 for effort. You will never know which of these alternatives is correct (some of the great mysteries of life in Thailand) and if you do nothing she will undoubtedly disappear. It is up to you. Finally, may I be frank (Ooh, some days I can’t help myself!) the other lesson you have to learn, young Frank, is how did she find out where you worked? You didn’t give her your business card, now did you! Never, never flash your business cards in bars, pubs or clubs. They will return like homing pigeons and poop on you just when you don’t want it!

Dear Hillary,

My Thai wife and I have been on the road the last three years, working in Malaysia, Indonesia and now Korea. Our home is on the outskirts of town, that we only get short visits to every couple of months. I very much look forward to the end of the week when I can read your latest edition on your website, not as good as the hardcopy, which I buy whenever I’m in your city, but a good second best. My personal favourite is you, Hillary. I can’t believe you really receive some of those silly letters, and suspect you make them up, but it doesn’t matter as they are entertaining regardless. Do you mind answering a question from me? Did you ever race cars? Anyway, thanks a bunch for making life away from home a little easier and best regards from a very chilly Korea.

Art

Dear Art,

Aren’t you a sweet man! But a little deluded too, Petal. Of course I get all those “silly” letters - just the same way that I got yours too, didn’t I? I must say I feel sorry for your wife - all that commuting from your house to foreign countries! No wonder you only get home every couple of months! All that travelling “on the road” as you say - that really is doing it the hard way. Getting back to your question - did you wonder if I raced cars hoping that I could show you a quicker way between here and Korea? My dear Art, I think it is much better that you just settle down and get a real job closer to home. Two months travelling time is just too much.


Camera Class: Composition - part of the photographic conundrum

by Snapshot

Sometimes photography can be just a case of grasping an opportunity. In fact, in the world of Public Relations they even use words such as, “There will be a photo opportunity with the President after the Press conference.”

Take a look at this week’s photo. This was a straight out case of seizing the opportunity and had a humorous result. Harry had been approached by a hopeful young model who was looking to get a portfolio together. This is a bundle of shots they drag around the modelling agencies, hoping that they will get some work. The rewards can be enormous, but only a very few get to the top where the enormous rewards are.

I had also been approached by a young make-up artist who wanted a bunch of photographs to show the same modelling agencies just what she could produce. It seemed a natural to bring these two hopefuls together for a session at the studio.

On the appointed day we looked across the street and some aerosol can bandit had sprayed “Violence grows” on the wall - and the first opportunity presented itself. “Let’s use the wall as the background for a shot where the model is made up to look like a punk rocker.”

The make-up artist went to work while my assistant and I scoured the wardrobe area of the studio. The model already had the black tights and white boots, her boyfriend had the leather jacket and we had the string vest and the chain, a regulation hardware shop item.

We also decided that we should have a couple of aerosol cans to do one shot as if the model were the graffiti artist, so we added those to the equipment we would take down to the shooting area. Harry even remembers the colour - Planet Purple - an important part of this tale.

We set up the model in position, the camera was on a tripod because I wanted to take some slow shutter speed shots to give an impression of movement in the chain and the assistant had the flash unit. We had taken only a couple of shots when up draws a police car - “Who’s in charge round here?” said the most gorgeous lady police officer Harry had ever seen. “I am” said Harry sauntering over to the car.

By this stage Harry is thinking that the greatest opportunity of all time was presenting itself. Gorgeous police officer “arresting” punk rocker photo - all the ingredients were right there. This idyllic notion quickly disappeared with the words “I am going to arrest you for defacing public property” from said gorgeous police lady!

Still hopeful Harry laughed and said, “It wasn’t us, we’re just taking a photograph of this young model.” “So where did the aerosol cans come from?” she barked. It was then I looked at the colour on the wall - white. Our cans were Planet Purple! Eventually gorgeous police lady believed the story and they moved on. Harry did not suggest she pose for the ultimate shot seen in his mind’s eye.

So we photographed the model without the aerosol spray paint cans and just relied on the make-up, outfit and the chain for the effect. The shutter speed selected was
1/8th of a second and this was slow enough to show a little movement in the chain, but not as much as I had hoped, but the model did well to remain still during the exposure. Harry thinks you will agree that the end result was good and in fact the young lady and the make-up artist both got work from that day of seized opportunity. However, like fisherman, the opportunistic shot that “got away” still lives on!

Of course, the moral of this story is that you should always look out for shots that may present themselves to you. It also means that you have a camera at the ready. And it also means you have to have your excuses at the ready too! Think on your feet!


Recipes from Rattana: Deep-fried Coconut Batter Cakes

This is a quick and easy Thai dessert, but not one for the children to experiment with, since it is a deep-fried item and cooking oil burns can be very dangerous (and painful). The batter for the cakes can be used to dip bananas (or other fruits) in and deep fry them as well. Resist the urge to pour chocolate syrup on top. It is already sweet enough and loaded with calories!

Palm sugar 100 gm

Water 3 cups

Rice flour 250 gm

Egg 1

Baking powder 2 tspns

Salt a pinch

Grated coconut (fresh or desiccated) 150 gm

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Cooking Method

Warm the water over a moderate heat and dissolve the sugar in it to form a syrup. Make a paste of rice flour, the egg, baking powder, salt and coconut. Add the syrup and beat the mixture to form a smooth batter.

In the deep fryer, heat the oil and then drop large spoonfuls of the batter mixture into the oil. Heat till golden brown then drain and serve when cool.

Ingredients serves 4-6


Battling the Crab By Leslie Wright: Part 3 of a 6-part series about fighting cancer

Dispensing negativity

The next morning I met my medical oncologist for the first time. A highly regarded consultant and teaching doctor, I found her manner imperious and domineering.

But I’m not alone in this opinion: another of my clients coincidentally had had an unpleasant experience with her two years earlier. Indeed, it seems she adopts the same attitude to all her patients.

Her first words to me were not the expected “Sawasdee kah” or “Good morning,” delivered with the ubiquitous Thai smile, but: “You know what you have?” And when I told her what the professor the night before had told me, and that I had less than two years to live, she interrupted: “Oh no,” she said. “Between 9 and 13 months.” I had just had my shortened life expectancy effectively halved, and the sentence delivered as if she were counting cabbages.

On another occasion she told me that I should be more like the Thais. “In what way?” I asked. “You should learn to accept your destiny,” she declared in her typical matter-of-fact way. Yes, ma’am. Forgive my low person still being alive, ma’am. So sorry to take up space in your office, ma’am. Let me just curl up in the corner and die, ma’am.

If you ever get this sort of treatment from your doctor, I would strongly urge you to get rid of her or him. One of the secrets of success in fighting cancer is to fight it both medically and mentally - not simply accept that it is going to kill you. Just because your doctor has degrees which you don’t, and is successful and respected in his or her profession, does not make him or her omniscient or omnipotent. Remember that he or she works for you, not the other way round.

I put up with this oncologist’s doom-&-gloom attitude for six months because the other doctors kept telling me what a good doctor she is, and that’s just her manner.

But everything I read about fighting cancer told me to maintain a positive attitude at all times, and surround myself with positive attitudes - and here was my own consultant doctor exuding negativity!

What really distresses me is that someone with less fighting spirit than I - especially a Thai who culturally has been brought up not to question a doctor’s authority and pronouncements from on high - might easily have just given up hope.

One example of this doctor’s negative attitude that particularly sticks in my mind was at the end of February, three months into the treatment, when a CAT-scan showed that my tumour had got smaller. My radiation therapist - a bubbly lady doctor with a radiant personality (if you’ll forgive the awful pun) - told me: “I have good news - your tumour has shrunk!” Immediately afterwards I had to go in to see my oncologist, who as usual sat there like a slender icicle. I said: “I’ve been told the tumour is shrinking.” To which she responded: “Yes. I expected that. But it’ll come back in three months.” Dig hole, enter grave. Lay still, quietly.

At the end of April, upon completing my sixth and final round of in-patient chemotherapy, I was given another CAT-scan and MRI-scan, which showed that the tumour had shrunk further, to the point where my friendly radiologist came especially up to my hospital room to give me the good and most unexpected news that my cancer was effectively in remission. In remission! I had never expected to hear those words. Only 5% of carcinoma patients go into remission - which is statistically such a small number that the doctors usually don’t even mention it. I was of course delighted and my morale boosted no end. Indeed, it was like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

But a fortnight later, immediately after a positive review meeting with my friendly radiologist, I raised this good news with my oncologist, Dr Doomengloom (as I had nicknamed her), and asked her whether I might now last longer than her predicted 9~13 months. As I had rather expected, she curtly answered: “Who knows.”

Then I asked her what she thought were the chances of the tumour coming back. She said, “Oh it’ll come back for sure, or metastasise elsewhere.”

So, just to goad her a little, I asked: “When do you think it will come back, statistically speaking?” To which she shrugged and said, “Could be any time.” Lots of hope and encouragement there. And even though I fully expected her to be typically negative, these responses destroyed the good mood I had gone into her office with, and depressed me for three days. It was then that I decided to dispense with her services and request another oncologist to monitor my progress in future.

An important lesson I’ve learned during my Battle with The Crab is to think positively and surround oneself with positive influences, and eliminate negative thoughts and influences - which includes all doomsayers.

As I have experienced first-hand, your doctors’ attitudes will have a marked effect on whether you feel positive about your fight with cancer - that you can beat it - or negative, and accept that it is going to kill you.

You don’t have to - and indeed, shouldn’t - give up hope just because a doctor tells you to. Many people beat the disease against all the doctors’ dire predictions, which after all, are only statistical probabilities, not certainties.

(To be continued next week)


A mother’s worst nightmare Part 3

By Lesley Warner

The hospital supplied a family room and that is where we stayed morning and night for a week. Taking turns to sit by Emma’s bedside and talk to her. Have you ever even imagined what it’s like to talk to your unconscious child and wonder if she can hear? You watch these hospital movies so often on the TV portraying the distress and nightmare that families go through in these situations. Believe me it’s far more difficult to know what to say to an unconscious loved one than the movies make out. But you know you have to talk, it might be the only thing that will make her want to wake up.

On the 5th day she eventually started to come round in a delirious state but it only lasted for a few hours. She was struggling to pull the tubes from her mouth that prevented her from speaking and were making her gag. The readings on the many pieces of equipment went from bad to worse and she was soon unconscious again and deteriorated through the night. The next day the doctor came into the room and said, “I’m sorry Emma cannot survive the next 24 hours the way things are. We have to take her down for a CAT scan to try and discover what’s causing this decline in her condition. Moving her is in itself is a considerable risk.” At this moment I felt this was not real; it’s ridiculous this is my daughter he’s talking about, he must be mistaken, but he wasn’t, it was very real.

They did a dummy run first with a nurse and all the life support equipment, then it was for real and they took her. We waited what seemed an eternity not knowing if she would come back dead or alive. The doctor came out and spoke to us again, with another “I’m so sorry we can’t find a cause for her decline. I’m afraid it’s up to her, there’s no more we can do.” I can understand why people pass out, I felt near to the breaking point and for the first time my solid front crumpled, but all we could do was wait.

Several more interminable hours passed and then the doctor came out smiling. He said, “We’re not out of the woods yet, but don’t ask me why, we don’t understand it, she is the 1 out of 10 that has turned and she’s fighting back.”

For the next 5 days hospital staff fought to keep her stable and Emma fought to live. It was the longest 5 days of my life. They decided to perform a tracheotomy so that the added distress of having a tube in her mouth would not upset her. Then one morning she started slowly to come round. It took 2 days before we could talk to her (she couldn’t talk to us because of the tracheotomy). She’s says now that she doesn’t remember those times. The morphine and assortment of drugs and painkillers kept her in a dream state for quite a while.

As I washed the blood out of her hair and held her poor crushed hand while it was bandaged, I was so grateful that she was alive.

I had commitments in Thailand and needed to return; it was the hardest thing in the world to leave her, but by this time I knew she was off the critical list. She doesn’t remember the first days of consciousness so didn’t know I was there in person. But she tells me all the times I said to her, “I’m so proud of you, you are such a strong girl and can fight this, please come back.” She says, “I thought that I was dreaming it.” So it is true the words that you say in frustration to someone that’s unconscious can have a great impact on their survival.

Now 6 weeks after the accident it is time for me to return to England to help Emma through the surgery that she is due to have during the next 2 weeks. She has the added complication of the infection MRSA, which we are obviously concerned about, but she has proved herself a courageous girl with a strong will for survival.

At some point in the future I will continue the story of Emma’s recovery. Emma has said she will talk to me about her side of it and what it’s like to lose two and a half weeks of your life and know that your life will never be the same again.