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Remembering Steve Starchev

Steve Starchev

Looking through the Wayback Machine just now I stumbled upon a bit I’d posted about my friend and colleague Steve Starchev. The old version of this blog imploded a few years after posting about Steve, rendering these memories inaccessible, so, because Steve was a special guy, I thought I’d dust them off and get them back out into the light of day, where they belong:

Life is Fleeting

Filed under: LifeThe CBCGenius Friends — February 20, 2006 @ 11:13 am

I got this in my inbox this morning:

It is with great sadness that I write to you today to inform you that our colleague Steve Starchev passed away this weekend after a long illness.

Steve will be greatly missed by both his friends in the SRC/CBC radio services and by the music community of Toronto to whom he gave so much delight over the years.I worked closely with Steve for four and a half years up in the French department of CBC Radio. He was charming, affable, a really pleasant person to work with, and he introduced me to a lot of great music. He was also young, older than me but damned young, too young to die. They diagnosed him with kidney cancer this past August and now, six months later, he’s gone.I didn’t even get to say goodbye, which is my fault, because I didn’t make the time. Shame on me.

Goodbye, Steve. You will be missed.

8 Comments »

  1. Palmira:
    February 23rd, 2006 @ 7:15 pm It’s been nice to see such lovely things written about Steve Starchev…amazing isn’t it? I am his aunt and there seems to be an entire life he led that I didn’t know about. I knew about his radio program and his love of music, of course. But the vast number of people that he knew is something I was not aware of. Many members of Steve’s large family are also musicians and so his love of music was not a surprise to anyone of us.Steve, his sister Lili, my brother Rudi (also his uncle) and I grew up together, as only four years separated the oldest (me) from the youngest (Lili). We were more like brothers and sisters than an aunt, uncle, nephew and niece. I visited Steve in the hospital and told him he had to get better, that any other alternatives were unacceptable. He said no problem….he’d just bought a new pair of shoes and he planned to wear them. Good I thought, that’s the right attitude. His passing has left a huge void in our family, especially in his Mother’s heart. He fell out of line. It should not have been his turn. Not yet. There is a natural order to life and when that goes awry, hearts are broken and lives are changed forever. Because of his suffering, Steve’s passing was a blessing at first, but now it just hurts to know he’s gone. I hope he’s in the good company of the many musicians who have gone before him and I also hope that he’s playing whatever instrument he can get his hands on at full volume and wearing those new shoes. Steve, you are missed.
    P.
  2. Kendal:
    February 25th, 2006 @ 10:35 pm I am Steve’s oldest niece. It’s so nice to know that my uncle was loved by so many people. I lived in Toronto for about a year, and coming from a small town, I didn’t know much. He was such a caring person and was always there when no one else was. That’s the way he was, though. Obviously not only for me, but so many people I didn’t know about. I miss you so much.
    Love Kendal
  3. Leslie Soos:
    February 28th, 2006 @ 4:09 pm I knew Steve since our days at Central Tech. He was a good friend, and I will always remember him as a kind, intelligent individual. I regret not keeping in closer touch, but sometimes we don’t realise how quickly time progresses.If anyone can please put me in touch with his sister, Lili, or his family, I would greatly appreciate it. I know email addresses are not displayed on this site, but would request that mine be given to Steve’s family, or vice versa, so I can pay my respects.
  4. Syl Lebar:
    March 2nd, 2006 @ 11:42 pm I am Steve’s youngest uncle. In fact the only uncle that is actually younger than he was…by 3½ years. We used to talk about how odd that was and the fact that it was due to the nature of our large family. There was a time from the late 70’s going into the late 80’s when Steve and I were more buddies than family. We did everything together…concerts, girls, a beer, and often sitting and listening to great music together, and discussing it. One thing I will never forget Steve for was his constant encouragement in my musical endeavours. He was one of the few family members that would sit and listen to me play the piano. His comment was often, “what I’d give to play like that!” His sense of humour was for me one of his most outstanding features…he’d have me in stitches with a mere glance. We were in a video arcade once and I started playing a ‘disco’ pinball game. Steve put on an act of embarrassment with simply a facial expression, and even at 20 paces his ever so sideways glance had me laughing so hard I was in tears. I remember many a time when he got me laughing so hard it literally hurt. My son happens to be the youngest grandchild while Steve was the eldest. I got a great picture of them together at his Mother’s place over a Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the moment vividly when Emil went and stood beside him, and the thought suddenly occured to me that these two were cousins at opposite ends of the age spectrum. 41 years to be exact. My son believes that Steve is playing his Hurdy-Gurdy for St. Peter right now. Knowing Steve that’s probably right, and he most likely has St. Peter in stitches too! Steve, you will be fondly missed. Thanks for leaving me with such great memories of the times we spent together.
  5. Lili (Starchev) Brands:
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 2:35 am Hi, I am Steve’s sister. It is so wonderful to know that Steve was so well thought of by those whose lives he touched. I miss him so terribly already, and feel so very privileged that I was able to be there with him and for him during his last peaceful moments. I remember all the fun times we had as kids, and the many friends we shared due to being only 14 months apart. Steve is forever embedded in my heart and I am so thankful for the time I had with my “big brother” Thanks to everybody for your kind words and condolences it means a lot to me and to his family.
    Seka (Little Sister)

Here’s Steve performing

Steve Starchev performing Fortune My Foe/Salterello with the Early Music/Folk band Fools Dance at the Mill Race Festival in Cambridge Ontario in 1994. Fools Dance are: Steve Starchev-guitar, Michael Franklin-flute and recorder, Ben Grossman-drum and tar, Laurence Stevenson-fiddle and bodhran.

Crash!

Thank God for airbags

It was just supposed to be a short trip to pick up some Thai take-out.

I headed south on Brock toward the FreshCo in my 2019 Hyundai Elantra. The one that I’d purchased for its safety features and drive-ability, mindful that my two daughters would be learning to drive in it.

The light turned red at Dundas. A Durham Transit bus pulled up beside me on my right. On my left, a guy crossing the street waved at me. I waved back, until I realized he was waving at the bus driver to wait for him. I smiled at my foolishness. The light turned red. The intersection was clear. I pulled out in front of the bus.

Safely through the intersection, I headed down Brock for another block. Bowman & Gibson Insurance Brokers sits on the northeast corner of Colborne and Brock. It’s a single story brick building that obscures much of what might be westbound on Colborne. It shouldn’t matter; there’s a stop sign there. You should be able to proceed north or south on Brock without worrying about anyone on the side streets.

I don’t know what I was thinking about in those few seconds between Dundas and Colborne. Whatever it was, BAAMM!!! it was violently knocked outta my head (and possibly into the next province) when a thunderous crash and an enormous impact assaulted my reality and rattled my brain. In that same instant I found myself in a sea of white, my vision completely obscured as (I realized later) multiple air bags deployed around me.

“HOLY F***!!!” I shouted.

It seemed an apt response.

Not a good day for my Hyundai Elantra (blue car in foreground)

My past didn’t flash before me. My future did. Was I about to die? Was I badly injured, crippled maybe?

I felt no pain. I knew that pain might come, once the shock of whatever had just happened wore off.

My vision in front of me and to the left was almost completely obscured by the white air bags. I don’t remember bringing the car to a halt but I found myself stopped, the car still in gear. After a few seconds I had the presence of mind to take the car out of gear, but I didn’t think to turn it off.

I didn’t appear to be physically injured but I was pretty emotionally shaken up. I thought about getting out of the car. There was an air bag in my way. It was enough to deter me from getting out. I thought, I’ll just sit here a bit and collect myself. I wanted to get to the point where I could talk without my voice sounding all shaky. I knew it would be a while.

A guy showed up in the driver’s side window. “Hey buddy, how you doing?”

I thought he might be part of the emergency response team, even though it had only been about a minute since the crash. It was his manner, pretty calm and collected. Turned out his name was Brett and he worked at the Brock Street Brewing Company just down the street a bit further. I will be going there for a drink someday where I hope to buy Brett a drink.

“Blew through the stop sign,” Brett said.

I started to panic. “I blew through the stop sign?”

“No, no, the other guy!” Brett clarified. “He blew through the stop sign right into you. Now he’s buying some smokes in the corner store.”

I was relieved that I wasn’t at fault. There was definitely something amiss with the other guy, though… blasts through a stop sign onto a major road in downtown Whitby, crashes into another vehicle, and then before doing anything else goes into a convenience store to buy a pack of smokes.

“I’m gonna go make sure he doesn’t get away,” Brett said, after making sure that I was more or less okay.

I did seem to be okay physically. I tried to think how I could get the Thai food I’d ordered, then realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. I still wasn’t quite up to getting out of the car. I remembered a friend telling me about a similar accident and how he’d made the mistake of deciding he was okay, and telling the paramedics he was okay, only to have them all leave him alone while he gradually went into shock. I thought I would just sit tight and then get myself checked out.

Brett came back, said they’d got the guy. He suggested I turn off the car’s engine. Sheepishly, I turned it off. I told Brett I’d better call my wife and let her know that I wouldn’t be coming back with the Thai food.

“I’m okay,” I told her when she picked up. “But I’ve been in an accident. It’s pretty bad but like I said I’m okay.” I was sounding pretty shaky but there was nothing I could do about that. “Can you call Thai Delicious and tell them I won’t be coming?”

She told me she would and that she loved me. I told her I loved her too.

We resolved to give Thai Delicious plenty of business later to make up for it.

Brett gave me a note from a witness with a name and number. “She wanted you to have this in case you need a witness,” he said. I tucked it in my wallet.

A paramedic by the name of Tristan (I think) showed up and checked me out. Turned out I had a nasty cut on my right leg and some scrapes on my right arm. There was what looked like a bad carpet burn on my left elbow. Looking at the pictures of the airbags that were deployed, it’s obvious that all my injuries are a direct result of the airbag deployment. The airbag beneath the dashboard cut my right shin . The one from the steering wheel cut my right forearm. The one from the driver’s side door burned the skin off my left elbow. Presumably they all prevented more serious injury.

Later I would find other scrapes and the distinct impression of a seat belt running up my side. The paramedics took me to Oshawa hospital where I was also checked out and given a relatively clean bill of health and released back into the wild, though I was warned that some whiplash could develop over time.

I was kinda surprised that the hospital did nothing for my cuts and scrapes. When I asked about them, the doctor’s assistant just said, “Clean them and they’ll heal up nicely.”

The following day I had an opportunity to speak to the investigating officer when he kindly came to my home to return my driver’s license and insurance papers. He explained to me that no police are required for minor fender benders, but police are required when there are injuries involved. In this case the injuries turned out to be pretty minor (I don’t think the other guy was hurt at all), but at the time of the accident it looked to witnesses like the injuries would be far more serious.

All the witnesses the officer questioned thought I’d been killed, such was the violence of the collision. I had been struck on the driver’s side, toward the front of the car but the impact had included part of the car door. It had probably looked pretty darned dramatic. (Sure wish I could get my hands on some security footage, if any exists!) Our Hyundai Elantra’s safety features performed as advertised and I sure am happy about that.

Although the other guy claimed he’d been waved onto Brock by another driver, all three witnesses said he blew through the stop sign and right into my car. The police officer told me that if he hadn’t hit me he could well have struck and killed pedestrians crossing the street. It turned out the fellow was driving with a suspended license and had taken the family car without permission. He’s facing three charges, including careless driving. The other two charges are personal in nature and the officer wouldn’t tell me what they were (I didn’t pry).

Despite what happened to me and my car, it appears there were other factors at play that make me feel some sympathy for the guy, and his family… I think he has a rough road ahead of him.

Whereas I’m back on the road, a little worse for wear, but still intact, mobile, and enormously grateful to be alive.

As seen the following day

Pandemic Questions

(Image courtesy of Pexels and Anna Shvets)

People love to tell me that there are no stupid questions.

Well, there are, and I ask them.

I think it’s important to ask questions. I think it’s especially important to ask questions even when you think they might be stupid. Chances are somebody else is wondering the same thing. And once you know the answer, you are less stupid than you were before.

So here’s a list of questions I have about the virus officially known to the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” and “SARS-CoV-2”, or simply as the disease Covid-19 to the rest of us.

I am under no illusion that any of these questions are particularly astute or original. Some of them are obvious; others might well be stupid. Some have probably already been answered. Others, I know, nobody has answered yet, though scientists and medical professionals the world over are hard at work trying to come up with answers.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s what I’ve been wondering about:

A pangolin
  1. Once you’ve had Covid-19, can you get it again?
  2. If you get it and do become immune, how long is that immunity likely to last?
  3. Are there different strains of Covid-19 out there? The answer appears to be yes, though the differences are minute. And it doesn’t appear that one is more dangerous than the other. Will yet more strains emerge? Might they be more or less dangerous? I would like to know.
  4. Considering that Covid-19 is a novel coronovirus, a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans, why do otherwise healthy people respond differently to it? Why do some succumb to it, others get very sick, others experience minor symptoms, and yet others show no symptoms at all? Not talking about the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions; just wondering why healthy people respond differently.
  5. Just how infectious is Covid-19? What are the actual odds of getting it if I’m talking to someone who’s infected and I foolishly touch my nose, eyes, or mouth? Will I definitely get it, or am I just likely to?
  6. How exactly did this begin? We know that its origin was natural. Apparently there are two primary possibilities. It could have evolved through natural selection in a non-human host (most likely a bat) and then jumped to humanity through an intermediate host (such as a pig). This is the most likely scenario, and if indeed this was the case, it could easily happen again. A less likely possibility is that a non-pathogenic version jumped to humans (from an animal such as a pangolin) and then, once inside humans, evolved a ruthless ability to bind to human cells, and became the super-villainous virus we all know and hate today.  So… which was it? Or was it some other natural phenomenon altogether? Whatever the case, what can we do to reduce the possibility of it occurring again?
  7. Approximately one third of the planet is currently in lockdown because of the pandemic. What are the rest doing?
  8. Are people still fighting wars while the pandemic rages? If so, where? And more importantly, why? And what will the impact of that be? Nothing good, I would imagine.
  9. Will there be a second pandemic wave? If the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu is any indication, the answer is yes. How do we prepare for that?
  10. When will it be safe to emerge from our homes? The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted two years (though the worst of it was one three month period in 1918). We know more than we knew then. We are responding in an unprecedented fashion pretty much worldwide. One has to hope this will result in a much better outcome.

If I stumble upon any answers, I’ll let you know.

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