BRILLIANT NATURAL history
filmmaker, Malcolm Douglas, has won a desperate battle to save his
sight. For two pain filled months the man who has built a formidable
reputation with superb documentaries like Across The Top, Follow The
Sun and North To Niugini lay in a darkened room at his Sydney home.
His only supports during those shattering days and nights were painkilling
drugs, antibiotics and his family. Malcolm had suffered a particularly
severe attack of shingles, the inflammatory disease of the nerve ends
which spreads around the body. It entered Malcolm's left eye and it
was feared that the right eye would also be hit. A Specialist told
the 42 year old professional adventurer: "You have more than
an even chance of losing your left eye, I'm afraid." "You
just can't imagine what it was like during those weeks," said
Malcolm. "To just have to lie there in that room, trying to get
used to the idea that I was going to go blind in at least one eye.
"For the first time in my life I was really terrified. I can
remember thinking: 'Why can't it be my right eye! You see, I'm left
handed and I was about to lose my 'camera eye'."
set in suddenly, just after Malcolm got back to Sydney after three
tough months filming at and around Mount Kosciusko in the snow. The
result of that Douglas expedition will be a special for the Seven
Network called a Season of Snow. Getting the necessary footage for
this survival type documentary meant that Malcolm, in his usual daring
style, spent three months living in rough-hewn igloos and bleak caves.
"It was pretty rugged going," admitted Malcolm, who has
been attacked by crocodiles, sharks and snakes, survived boat capsizes
on the open sea, floods and unfriendly native warriors in his perilous
line of business. "A few times there it looked like the cold
would get me. As a matter of fact, when the shingle first hit, I thought
it was an aftermath of the Kosciusko trip, "I started getting
these migraine headaches. . . or that's what I thought they were.
"Then suddenly ... wham, There were all these red blisters all
over my face and head and shoulders. The pain was unbearable -just
like being on fire." “The eye became so swollen you couldn't
see the lashes. I can also remember thinking it was just as well I
wasn't the suicidal type."
For Malcolm Douglas, January 28, 1982,
was without much doubt the most dramatic day in a lifetime filled
with drama and danger. "I can tell you the exact time on that
day that I'll never forget," he said. "It was spot on 4.03pm.
Even though the inflammation had settled down quite a bit, there were
still doubts about the eye. "When the specialist gave me the
old thumbs up I don't remember what my exact reaction was. I think
I may have blubbered a little. And that stung too." After such
a jolting experience it would be natural to assume that even a stoic
like Malcolm is going to take it a bit easy for a while. Not so. He's
just taken off again on another typical Douglas mission. This time
it's another trip up to New Guinea. He and an unusually fit journalist
called Sean Dixon, who only recently paddled a kayak from Townsville
to Thursday Island, headed for the remote Strickland River.