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Risk Aversion

Kwa falls! Totally awesome. Have you been there before? It’s in Cross River State in Nigeria and you will be super wowed if you visit. I’ve been there once, over fifteen years ago and I still cannot forget that experience – going down the 234 steps to the area where the water is calmer and quiet and then climbing all the way to the main fall with the exposed roots of the tree as my main support. It was so much fun. There was a portion where a rocky formation extended over the water and to get across, you had to move along the rocky edge and risk falling into the water. Believe it or not, even though I wasn’t a good swimmer, I just did it. I thought only briefly about what could go wrong and then proceeded with caution. If the worst case scenario played out, I didn’t feel like there was a lot at stake.

Recently, a colleague spoke of jet skiing to the deep side of the ocean while on vacation in Malaysia. I asked someone if he was married and if he had kids and he answered in the affirmative. I really wondered about this, so I engaged him – what were you thinking… didn’t you worry about sharks, sting rays, drowning… He said he was trying to overcome his fears and just as I expected, he said he wasn’t yet married and had no children at that time. He sounded like he would think twice before trying that now.

You see, when I think back on my time at Kwa Falls, I really wonder. Would I be that adventurous now? I’ve observed that our risk aversion increases with a particular responsibility – parenthood. My mum once told me that my dad used to drive really fast in the early days but as the number of children they had increased, his average speed decreased. As adventurous as I used to be, I find myself doing a lot of risk assessing these days. I think about what could go wrong, what safety gear I have on, the safety barriers in place, the availability and effectiveness of emergency response in that city or town, and so on. Ultimately, I try to ensure that as much as it depends on me, I return home after all the excitement to take care of my kids. I’ll try to stay fit so I can catch up on the craze when they’re all grown and independent but I won’t be surprised to find that my new level of risk aversion has come to stay.

What do you think? Have you identified anything that makes you more risk averse?

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He fell down the spiral stairwell…. Yes. It all came back to me some days back; I looked at my eight year old and couldn’t help but be grateful to God that he’s still here and that he’s in great shape – no negative aftermath from that fall.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the spiral stairwells a number of apartment complexes have.  At a house we lived in sometime back, we had one that led from the kitchen balcony to the parking lot. It was our secondary exit and we were aware of the danger associated with this type of stairwell, so we kept the kitchen door and the safety gate just before it closed all the time to ensure our little one didn’t go out and get hurt.

You know how you identify the hazards in your home and put certain things in place as mitigation? Yeah. We had done that, and the barriers were well understood by all occupants of our home. Our home was safe, or so I thought, until that afternoon. I can’t quite remember what I was doing but I was upstairs when I heard the most heart wrenching wail ever coming from downstairs. My son was crying loudly and calling out ‘Mummy… Mummy….’ I raced down to the front of the house but he wasn’t there, then I quickly went to the back and found him at the base of the stairwell. He had fallen and bumped himself here and there but  thankfully he seemed okay.

We took him to the hospital for a check. The doctor said he was fine but advised us to do an MRI scan to confirm. We sought a second medical opinion and decided against the scan after being properly advised. Thank God for good counsel.

I needed to get to the bottom of this incident to make sure it never repeats itself. A number of things contributed to the incident but this was the most prominent – Someone had come to stay with us for a few days. On this occasion, this person left both door and gate open and my toddler on discovering this decided to go on a let’s see where this road leads adventure. After considering everything, I arrived at the root cause – we did not share this critical safety information/expectation with our guest. 

What barriers do you have in place for safety, security and your overall wellbeing at home, school, work, and so on? Are you actively communicating them to all stakeholders? You see, if people come along and defeat or bypass those barriers intentionally or ignorantly, those barriers are as good as not there in the first place. You can’t go to sleep after putting barriers in place, no matter how strong they are. Barriers must be frequently checked to ensure they’re still functional and in place.

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