Success For Harrison

IMG_3549A few weeks ago I wrote an article, Harrison’s Plight, about a friend of mine who was donating one of her kidney’s to her son.

I am happy to report that the surgeries were a complete success and both patients, mother and son, are now recovering well. But the real fight itself has only just begun.

Harrison will probably need five more surgeries before he’s 21. These surgeries are very expensive, complicated and often dangerous. This first procedure was carried out in two stages and in two different parts of the hospital. The surgery on Rory, the mother, was a four hour event that saw her kidney being removed and then transferred to the Pediatric ward in that same hospital. Rory’s kidney was then transplanted into Harrison, a surgery that took even longer than hers. Both patients were at risk during these procedures and now Harrison remains confined to quarantine for the next few weeks to ensure that his new kidney remains stable and free from infection.

The family have begun to raise money for this surgery and all future surgeries though a site sponsored by COTA, and so far the donations have been pouring in. This organization is a fantastic tool for all of those who require organ transplants and would urge you to take a look and if possible, donate a few minutes of your time, to look at what they are doing to assist families like Harrison’s.

We all with Harrison, and of course his mother Rory, a speedy and healthy recovery and a prosperous new life with the miracle that this transplant has given them.

And You Think It’s Easy?- Part 2

images (5)Lo Wu station border crossing, even today, it’s the last bastion of civilization and the first breath of pure relief when entering and exiting China. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve crossed that border, probably hundreds, if not more, and each time I enter China there’s a certain amount of trepidation that circulates my whole being and then each time I return to HK, I’m blessed with such a feeling of overwhelming joy that I’ve returned safely back into the bowls of western society once again.  The transition in 1980 was more intricate than it is today. Back then there were so few people trying to cross into China that when we arrived at the customs check point which signified the beginning of that great divide between west and east, I could count the people entering with us on one hand. Today however there’s a huge station on either side of the border and trains arriving every 4 minutes filled with thousands who then swarm in or out of China, depending on their pleasure. It’s far more lax, and even though travel restrictions still exist on the Chinese side for those with ‘real’ China passports, when I first crossed it was impossible for anyone with Chinese citizenship, other than diplomats, to travel. No one had a passport and no one knew what a passport was. 1 billion people, land locked. It’s always hot and muggy and the actual border line is a river with an enclosed bridge that’s always navigated with one eye on the HK side as you leave and the other aiming defiantly towards China, all thoughts on what might happen as soon as you leave the safety of everything you’re used to. You know you have to cross, you don’t want to, but you know you have to. Again, that is now, but back then, 1980, I was so excited to escape and explore this mainly unexplored country, that leaving HK mattered not. Gung-ho into the breach, as we exited the west and entered China, all 6 of us, led ably by our HK guide who was soon to vanish into the murky world of dingy roadside restaurants to gouge his appetite on dog and cat and all sorts of crap that we would surely not want to be a part of. Our new guide, Fong, was introduced to us as we left the safety of China customs. A tall chap, thin and very well-educated with a fluency in English that surprised us all. Fong quickly learnt our names, and then ushered us out into blazing sunshine that would remain our nemesis for the next 8 hours.

My very first impression, other than searing heat, was the stench of acrid sewage that filled the air. It was vile, it was overwhelming and it was there, never to leave and never to get any better than it was at that particular moment. There were very few people around, but those who were seemed extremely keen to find out who we were and why we were there. We were surrounded by curiosity, from those who wanted to smell us, to some who just stood and smiled, we were the focus of all their attentions, their eyes transfixed. We would smile back, but that just provoked an even greater reaction and one that included looks of complete disbelief from the locals, making us feel like aliens from another planet. We could have arrived from Mars and the reaction would have been exactly the same. Small people, lightly tanned, slightly yellow, some with no teeth, some with a few and some with many, all however, polite and very interested to come and talk. “Hello” was the one word they all seemed to know. Repeated regularly with a familiar grin in the hope we would stop and allow them to explore us. Nerve-racking at first then amusing after that, it never stopped. this was an education that no schooling could ever give. Entering a world that was untouched and backwards, at least backwards in my mind and completely alien to anything I’d ever seen before.

imagesFong was in a hurry, ushering us onwards at every moment. Answering our questions, and yes, we had many, and then moving on once again. We passed fruit stands selling fruit that had already been half eaten, we passed all sorts of meats being mutilated by the largest knives I had ever seen. We passed duck, chicken and dog, all on spits, gently roasting in the early morning sun. There were vegetables everywhere, green and yellow and red and all of a variety I’d never seen before. We saw fish, alive and in tanks, lying dying on the roadside, and sometimes being cooked right in front of our eyes. There was what seemed to be a tsunami of bicycles, and very few cars. Donkeys, rats, cats, and all things vermin. I even saw an alligator with his nose all taped up, sitting in a box, ready to be purchased then eaten. It was an eye-opening experience of all that’s good and bad in life. there was time to see a park, a fishing boat and someone’s home. We toured for three hours and then it was lunch, served in person by Fong and his wife. During lunch I ate rice, rice and rice. I didn’t trust any of the meats or the fish, and with all the best will in the world, those who did, did so at their own pearl. After lunch we walked some more, touring this small fishing village, which has now become a huge metropolis. It took all afternoon and at 3 PM, Fong called a halt and told us we had to head back to the border. I asked him, as we arrived at the end of our tour, “what would you like me to send you from the UK?”, and his answer, “magazines, we need to see what’s happening in the world. We need magazines”

Bidding goodbye, with I have to say some sadness, we were offered back to our HK guide and bus driver Tommy. Tommy by now had his fill of all the delicacies Shenzen could provide and he looked like he’d put on 10 lbs by the time we were reunited. We exited China, back into HK and at that time, British territory, and sped back towards the sanctuary of our 4 star hotels in Hong King. I recall siting on that bus as we drove the 45 minutes back towards Kowloon and thinking how lucky I was not to have been born in China. It was such a shithole, (sorry, but it still is, and my previous article confirms that feeling), but the people were so nice and warm and friendly. Unfortunately over the next 20 years as Shenzen grew, along with the rest of China, things changed dramatically, as they always do, and crime along with the populace increase, started to mount. I can say with absolute certainty that my first trip across was gently mind numbing, but thereafter every trip I made became more tedious and certainly more uncomfortable.

images (4)This is the border crossing as it was then and as it is now.  and also a picture of Shenzen as it is now, which is indicative of how China has progressed over the last 30 plus years. It looks wonderful and marvelous and certainly modern, but I can assure you, it comes at a price. As you have probably heard before, “you can change the place, but you can never change the people” China has changed and so have the people, but not for the better, in my opinion. China and especially Shenzen, is filled and brimming with everything that’s wrong in our world. Crime, pollution, and a complete disregard for humanity. Perhaps one day things will change there, though I fear it will be change for the worse and not the better. In the meantime, I still cherish my passport stamp, one that means a lot to me personally, and the experience, if only brief, that I had when crossing over the border back in 1980.


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And You Think It’s Easy?

downloadI’ve had so many people reading my post, “Why China Will Always Be a Shithole”, over the last few weeks, that I thought it would be good to do a follow-up.  I’ve been going to China for over 35 years, in fact the very first time I was able to cross the border from HK into Shenzen, in 1980, I had to get a special stamp in my passport which at that time was nearly impossible to obtain. I recall being in the Kowloon Cricket Club one evening, a place I grew to despise over time, but that’s another story, and I began chatting to an Australian chap called Dave. he was recounting his China adventures in all their glory, out loud and in a very boastful manner. In fact, he wasn’t even directing his brash and overly aggressive manner to me personally, his voice just seemed to engulf the whole bar area of that club. Dave had a fascination with the Vietnamese, especially their women. and indeed was married to one. He had complete disdain towards the Chinese, bragging that Vietnamese woman were far better under the covers than their Chinese counterparts, and Vietnamese woman gave the most subservient blow jobs of any nation on earth. He really was a piece of work, but my curiosity was peaked, not because of his sexual comparisons, but because at that point in my life I’d never even thought about going into China, and because Hong Kong was still the primary manufacturing base for all of Asia, their really was no need to venture across a border that reeked of Communism. “Dave” I asked, “how do I get a visa to go into Shenzen for the day?” I’d had a few drinks by then, well perhaps half a beer, I’m not the world greatest drinker as all my friends will attest to, and I was really interested in making a quick trip just to confirm that life in China was as crazy as Dave had made it out to be. “I’ll get you a visa mate” replied Dave, “my buddy’s a big shot at the China Visa services office in Kowloon. I think I can help you out.

And he did. That very next day, Dave made the introduction and I toddled along to the Visa office to hand in my passport and $20 in the hope that 3 days later I could return and I would have the permission required to ended Communist China. Back then getting a visa wasn’t that easy. You needed to wait for two to three days in the hope the Chinese authorities would approve your application. It wasn’t a given that you’d get the green light and rubber stamp automatically. It was hit and miss, but thankfully, three days later I returned and found this shiny large red stamp that took up a whole page in my British passport. I had received permission, and now all I needed to do was find a tour group to take me in!

imagesFor those of you who don’t know much about Shenzen, I will give you the two-minute summary according to Alan. Shenzen was a fishing village as you can see from the pictures above and below, there were only 12000 people living there until the early 1970’s when the government decided they might just start negotiations to bring an ‘Economic Free Zone” into part of that city. With that in mind, and into the early 80’s, many people, mostly HK businessmen, decided that it might be the opportunity they’d always been looking for, cheap labor and government assistance, so they embarked on moving manufacturing from their famous HK bases into Shenzen and then beyond. The growth of Shenzen as a city was unimaginable and within 20 years from the date that I crossed the border into China, its population increased from that paltry 12 to 15,000 to what is now a staggering 15 million. Obviously there have been growing pains, too many to mention in this blog, but quite honestly if you had witnessed this growth first hand, which I had the pleasure of doing, you wouldn’t believe how the Communist government have literally bulldozed their way through mountains, valleys and beyond to create one of Asia’s foremost economic zones. It’s nothing but a miracle that this happened and nothing but a disaster for those who lost their homes and farms to make way for more efficient manufacturing and production outlets, none of which the world really needed. Shenzen’s birth in the early 1980’s is solely responsible, in my opinion, for the way we all live today as consumers of a global marketplace.

downloadThis stamp got me across the border in March of 1979. I have asked many people who I know inside China to tell me what it says, but no one can. It’s faded now, but the fact that it was issued in the first place was in itself, a miracle. It was so hard to get one of these unless you were booked on an official tour. I wasn’t booked on anything but a curiosity trip, enhanced by the need to tell everyone I knew that I’d crossed the border into a Communist country, my first! I would later walk through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin before the wall fell, and also go to Vietnam before democracy took hold, but that would be some years in the future. That stamp meant a lot, it still does, and it meant I was on my way to a culture shock that I have never recovered from.

I was introduced by a business associate, Bugie Dahber (pronounced Budgee) to one of his family members whose business was taking people with similar curiosities as mine, across the border for day trips. I signed on immediately. I only had 2 days left in HK before my return to the UK so I needed to act fast. With the small fee of $50 paid, and my visa stamp double checked by all concerned, I was primed and ready for what would turn out to be a day never to forget. I could hardly sleep that night, nothing new to me in HK by the way. I have never managed, in the 35 years plus I’ve been going, to get a really good night’s sleep there. I rose early, was collected by a mini van filled with 6 other people who were as curious as I to see what life was like in the real China, and headed north, about 45 minutes, to Lo Wu, the border crossing.

To be continued….

Incredibly Inspirational

Please watch the video in the link below. Not only is it an incredible inspiration to see this man do what he does, it just shows you how little you and I really have to complain about. So the next time you can’t get out of bed or your back hurts or you are bored at work, remember this video and watch is agin until you realize just how well off are!


IMG_0136About 6 months ago I was helping out at Wheels on Fire in San Jose on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Wheels on Fire is a club of sorts. It’s a place where athletes of all ages can go and play different sports each week under the supervision of wheelchair bound and non wheelchair coaches. I’d been enjoying my regular visits to WOF for many years, assisting many of the young athletes achieve their personal goals by raising money to buy them sport wheelchairs. If you’ve read previous articles on this blog you’ll know that I have personally funded or been able to raise funds to help over 15 disabled athletes ditch their regular wheelchairs, one’s which are virtually impossible to play sports in, and upgrade them into sport chairs,  opening up a completely new dimension for them when it comes to games participation. It’s been an incredible experience, not only for me, but for all the other’s I’ve introduced to WOF, other’s such as the softball team my daughter played on, Bay Blizzard, another team from San Jose City College coached by Debbie Rooney and a soccer team from Silicon Valley coached by my friend Ben Maxwell. On each occasion the disabled athletes have been challenged by the athletes from the teams mentioned above to play their sports in chairs and not on two feet. It’s an eye-opening experience for all and an experience that the able-bodied have come away from with a new appreciation on just how difficult life is when you are permanently wheelchair bound. When you talk to Alicia, Lee, Anna and the other athletes at WOF, they are super positive, superbly optimistic and genuinely overwhelmed by the support provided not only by me but by everyone who has had the privilege of competing with and fully understanding the difficulties these athletes face on a daily basis. And so, on that particular Saturday all those months ago, I walked into the gym on Union Ave in San Jose and I met Michael.

Michael was shy at first but then within moments became a fierce competitor in the games we were playing. At that time, Michael had a regular chair, although it cost an absolute fortune to purchase this for him. At 6 years of age, I could tell immediately Michael was a true competitor. I walked up to his mother Tricia and suggested that we try to raise funds to buy Michael a new sport chair. Tricia was hesitant, but knew that I was being very serious and after a few moments, when the realization sunk in that my offer was serious, she accepted. I wanted to know more about Michael, and as you will read below, this is how his condition was described to me by his mother.

Michael was diagnosed at age one with Central Core Myopathy, a genetic disease that affects the muscles throughout his body. In conjunction with this he has scoliosis of his spine and problems with his hip sockets.

By age two he had two surgeries to correct his hip dysplasia and was in a full body cast each time for six weeks. At age four and a half he had his first spine surgery to place rods on each side of his spine to straighten his spine.   Every six months he continues to have surgery to lengthen the rods to accommodate for his growth.

He has physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions weekly since his very first surgeries.

And, in between all of these medical procedures (and because of these procedures) he can participate in sports activities. In fact, his sports activities have become his “life.” He participates in wheelchair soccer, and little league baseball where he has made numerous friends and thrives on the team spirit with his teammates and coaches. He takes swimming lessons and even goes bowling. He is an avid Sharks, 49er and Giants fan.

As an example of sports being so important to him, he recently had surgery to lengthen the rods in his spine. He was signed up for sports camp for two weeks after his surgery.   There were some complications and he ended up in the hospital for eight days and had two surgeries during those eight days. Hope was dwindling while he was in the hospital that he would be able to go to camp. He was released from the hospital on Saturday and there was nothing that would keep him from going to camp on Monday morning – he went!

He is in his wheelchair for all of his sports activities, but he does have leg braces that allow him to stand and walk a short distance. When he graduated from kindergarten earlier this year, he walked with his braces part way across the classroom to receive his diploma (refusing an outstretched hand to help him for balance along the way.) His future goal is to walk across the entire stage to receive his high school diploma.

He’s just a six year old kid with a desire to do everything (especially sports) that any other kids his age can do. It just takes him a little more effort of which he seems to have an unending supply. Sports camps and activities in the community provide him that opportunity to be just like every other kid.

Michael Chair 5I called my friend Debbie Rooney, she’s the coach for the softball team at San Jose City college. Debbie had helped me raise money in the past to buy two other chairs that we’d presented to athletes in 2014. “Debbie” I said, “you told me you wanted to go out and raise money, as a team, for another chair, well I have the perfect candidate” And so it was initiated. The team started fund-raising and within 4 moths all the money to purchase this chair for Michael was raised and banked. These chairs don’t come cheap. They cost over $3000 each. They are custom-built for each athlete and take 4 months to manufacture.

Last weekend, Michael finally received his chair, presented to him by Coach Debbie, and some of her San Jose City college players. Michael was ecstatic, as were his family, and now he, as the rest of his teammates at WOF, has a new lease on his sports life!

It’s not hard to see from Michael’s face how this will change his life and the lives of all who adore him. It’s a blessing that we are able to do this for him and for so many others in this program. WOF is part of Far West Wheelchair Sports, and just by going to and nominating FWWAA, you too can change a life with every purchase you make. Amazon donate part of your spend to this very worthy cause, and you don’t have to do any more other than buy your favorite items on their site.

From my past experience and the experience of those who I’ve brought into this program, we all feel that this is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding charitable causes on the planet. I hope that Michael will grow into a super Paralympic athlete, and one day make us even more proud that we helped support his growth into the fine young man I am sure he will become.


Harrison’s Plight

UntitledToday I am introducing a guest writer to my blog, and a very good friend, Mary Ehlert. Mary is a resident of Portland OR, and we have known each other for a very long time. Mary and I are getting involved in fundraising for the child of another good friend of ours. His name is Harrison. Harrison was born just three years ago and he has a very rare kidney disease that was going to kill him unless he received a transplant. That transplant has now come to fruition and is all set up for November 8th, just a few weeks from now. To get this stage has been a physical and logistical nightmare for all involved, and the cost, as you can imagine, has been incredibly steep, not only from a financial standpoint, but from the effort involved in making it happen, the testing, the ability to find the right doctor and hospital and the toll it has taken on not only his parent’s life, but on Harrison himself, who, bless him, has been a complete trooper thus far.

I’ll let Mary take over from here and I will rejoin the blog at the end.

Hi Everyone, I am Mary, and I’ve known Harrison since he was born. Below is a brief description on both Harrison and his condition. Harrison and his parents need your help. Alan will tell you more at the end of this article on how we plan to raise the money required to keep Harrison alive. In the meantime, enjoy my brief description of the most wonderful child.

“Cartoons on You Tube are the best! And ‘Shake It Off, Shake It Off’ is THE BEST song.” Name a video parody of a top ten hit and Harrison has found it on the interwebs…


Harrison is a rambunctious three-year-old and a tremendous source of pride and happiness for his parents, Travis and Rory.


He has all this energy with only one kidney functioning at 10% of full capacity: only one kidney and it’s teeny, tiny.


“My project’s at school. I’m in the big classroom”, he says crashing trucks, demolishing the clean kitchen. Grayson is his best friend. “He pushes me. I push back. Collin is my new best friend.” says H (as we call him).


I think that this last phrase sums up Harrison’s gentle, but fighting spirit!


Harrison’s mom and dad knew from their 20-week pre-natal check up that H had bronchial auto renal disorder (that’s doctor talk for a very small kidney).


Before his birth on August 20th, 2012 all the specialists shared worst-case scenarios with Rory and Travis: every horrible, scary complication that can occur with kidney disease. There were dozens. Doctors weren’t even sure that H would make it to delivery. Rory and Travis were left wondering if they would ever share a smile or a cuddle with their first baby.


Harrison needs a new kidney. He needs it soon. His kidney function has diminished significantly and this finally qualifies him for a transplant.


Harrison’s parents are each a match to donate a kidney to him. Rory’s superior powers of persuasion and tenacity (you won’t win an argument with her, but good on you for trying, Travis!) mean that in only a few weeks, she will undergo surgery to donate her right kidney to be transplanted into their son.


For the rest of his life, H will have to take a daily regimen of anti-rejection medications.


H has had to undergo painful daily growth hormone shots for more than a year in order to grow large enough for the surgery. Why? H’s abdomen has to be big enough to accommodate his surgeon’s entire hand while he gently places the new kidney.


This will be H’s third surgery.


He has already had brain surgery to reduce an accumulation of fluids and surgery on his neck to close open ‘pits’.


H is brave.

H is gentle.

H is resilient.

H is patient.

H has gorgeous blue eyes and eyelashes that are so long, dark and thick.

H calls me ‘my Mary’


And all of us who love him can’t wait to see him healthy and tearing up a kitchen, a playground, a pool near you soon…



Thanks Mary.

To find the surgeon, the hospital and the money to make all of this happen, took over a year. We have made pins, just like the picture below, that cost $100 each, and which enter each and every one of you who purchase one into a raffle draw to win some incredible prizes which have been donated by some very worthy donors. The family have also set up a link to a donor page at the Child Organ Transplant Association, and I will post that link at the very end. The cost to keep this 3-year-old alive is over $300,000 and insurance will pay for less than half. The family have spent their life savings to keep Harrison alive and now need your help. It’s not very often, if ever, that I will write a blog asking my readership for their help, but I feel deeply for the plight of a child I have grown to adore. If you have any questions or comments, or you would like to purchase a golden pin, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog and I will do my best to assist. Thanks for reading and thanks again for your support. Everyone involved appreciates it!

Help Harrison Pin-2



downloadHillary Clinton, cheater. Tom Brady, cheater. Bill Clinton, cheater. Lance Armstrong, cheater. Ben Johnson, cheater. Halliburton, cheaters. Enron, cheaters. President Nixon, cheater. The list goes on and on and on, but yet some of the list of notables listed above are to this day, revered and loved, even by those self doubters who would prefer to look the other way while controversy rages. Look at Hillary, running for the highest office in the land, if not the planet, and look at the ‘crooked’ influence surrounding her life. Look at Brady, guilty as heck and now allowed to continue in his profession with a clean slate and vindication from those who should really have no say in the matter.

Life today is ridiculous. If you have the money, if you have the connections, and of course, if you have the money and wherewithal to apologize and look remorseful in public, you are set free with all the kudos that the world can throw at you, while everyone around you just accepts that you did it and it no longer matters.

Well of course it matters! Why are we, the public, so gullible? Why do we just accept that these people are world-renowned personalities and because of that they should be treated differently? Why do we all jump on the forgiveness bandwagon when really we should clear to all those who have cheated that enough is enough and if you want to bend the rules, go do it somewhere else. Ashley Madison for example. What a joke that is. 30 million men and about 12,000 women. All for what? And not the 30 million are running around like headless chickens trying to apologize for their sins when really all they’ve been doing is chatting to computer generated ghosts. Its pathetic.

Hillary, you want to be president, but how can anyone in this country trust a person who deleted over 10,000 emails, some of which we classified, just because you felt like it? And then you have the audacity to publicly state that nothing you did was wrong and that none of the emails carried any importance to national security. Do you think we all came up the river in a banana boat? In other words, do you think we are all stupid? You obviously do and most of your supporters obviously are! And Tom, you deflated all those balls and the fans in NE, those who are blinkered, still trust you and pay your wages every week? Come on people, get real. Let’s all move on from this star struck life we seem to live and call these cheaters out for what they really are. Let’s not give them the time of day. I’m sure that any of you out there reading this who try to hold down regular jobs working for regular companies or those of you who are regular athletes trying to achieve moderate success at a moderate level and decided to cheat,  you’d be fired on the spot, no questions asked, no court hearings, no pay and no more respect.

This nation we call America was supposedly built on trust. Whether that’s true or not is hard to tell because none of us was around to see it happen. But look at what we’ve become. A nation filled with greed and a nation topped up with disingenuous moronic behavior by people that we all want to look up to. No wonder the country is going to the dogs, and no wonder those who have so little will never every get too much.

I’ll end with a joke, because that’s what all these cheaters are. I give them no respect and I certainly won’t be voting for Hillary or watching any games that Tom Brady plays in.

A woman was in bed having sex with her husband’s friend when the telephone rang.

After hanging up, she says, ”That was Harry, but don’t worry — he won’t be home for a while. He’s playing cards with you.”