Friday, 13 March 2009

Lies, damned lies, crocodiles, trees and statistics

This is a shortened version of my column in the Bath Chronicle of March 12.
I am sure you will all have heard the phrase “there are lies, damned lies and statistics”. Indeed, I have it on good authority that this phrase has been used 1,233 times before in the introduction to blogs like this.

But as the above comment proves, 67.4 per cent of statistics are made up on the spot so I think we should take ALL figures with a pinch of salt – unless they come from highly reputable sources.

Well, I’m happy to say a group of statistics released this week by a very creditable source – the NHS – has thrown up some amazing, intriguing and totally believable numbers which prove that yes, facts can be stranger than fiction.

The NHS’s Hospital Episode Statistics report has revealed the many reasons why people spend time in hospital - and trust me some are very odd indeed.

For starters, did you know that in a year, more than 1,000 people below the age of 60 had to go into a hospital bed because they had fallen out of their own bed? Or, that 404 people had to go to the hospital having had accidents with mowers? The one that really intrigued me, however, was the fact that 1,243 people had to go to hospital in a 12-month-period after falling out of a tree.

Out of as tree!

What on earth were they all doing up there? What is so great about being up a tree that makes you risk life and limb to do it? If your response to this is ‘kids have always climbed trees’ then answer me this – how come 12 of these people were aged over 75? I want you to picture somebody of the age of, say, the Queen falling out of a tree. Now you can see how weird it is.

If these physical mishaps are ones you can at least relate to (accidents will happen etc etc) , then there are other unusual reasons why people enter hospital which are probably a little bit more worrying. Did you know that in the period this survey covered (2007/2008), 21 people had to spend the night in hospital after being bitten by rats.

Does that unnerve you?

If not, then how about the fact there are also instances in the report of people being hospitalised (here in the UK remember) after bites from lizards, snakes and spiders? Best of all (although certainly not in his case!), there is also details of one gentleman who had to spend three days in hospital after being bitten by . . . a crocodile.

Try explaining THAT one to a nurse....

A little bit of research shows that even our super-fit sportsmen get hospitalised for the oddest reasons. I have seen reports of the great and good of the sporting world having to face doctors after injuring themselves doing everything from rupturing a knee cartilage after stretching to pick up the remote control or even getting injured while doing the ironing which hardly fits the macho world of sport.

Probably my favourite instance of a sporting injury, however, concerned a Red Sox baseball player in America. He wore false teeth and always took them out every time he went out to face a pitch. Sadly for him, one day he forgot to put the dentures back in his mouth and he left them in his back pocket.
As a commentator famously said, when he later slid onto second base, he then quite literally ‘bit himself on the ass’.


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