Day 2 in the saga of the broken leg. We have no further information. Adrenaline is still coursing through my body and I startle at anything – the cat sneezing, the dog barking, a creak on the floor. I spent most of the night willing myself to sleep, but I finally dozed off all I could dream about was all the problems and how my hands were tied.
I have never felt more vulnerable in my life.
Went to work thinking a change of scene would be good for me. A long staff meeting, the perfect time to agonise over the ifs and buts and try to process, constantly trying to process all that has happened. In my break, I returned a call from Counties Manukau Police. The officer was lovely. Supportive, kind, helpful. In fact, ALL of the officers have been incredible. Shout out to Nia who reminded me I wasn’t broken just dented at a time when I really needed it.
I raised the problem of my husband’s car which is presumably in the small regional town down south. He advised me to ring their local police and they could help me locate it. The conversation went like this:
-Hi, I’m ringing from Auckland about my husband who was admitted into XY hospital yesterday. He had a broken leg and has been moved somewhere. Could you help me locate his car for him, please?
– Your name and date of birth? (Children are born before she gets to the end of the sentence.)
I’ve been through the drill five times since Friday. Until Friday I had only once visited a police station, and that was years ago when I was a witness to a bank robbery. Now I feel like an old hand talking to the police.
I give the details and pre-empt the next question and offer up my husband’s details.
-Stop bombarding me with information.
There’s more snail pace typing as chastened I sit shaking in the meeting room. Why do I feel as if I’ve done something wrong? I answer her questions, she finds the file and then proceeds to ask the very same questions all over again. Rattled I wonder if she thinks I’m lying?
-Why can’t your husband just drive his car home?
-Well, he has this broken leg and I don’t think he can drive.
-Is it a family car?
-Well yes, it’s his car and I’m his wife. We’re married.
-Yes, yes I get that. Please wait.
For swimming camels, and Haleys’ comet’s return and the second coming and all of the above.
-Ok, the file hasn’t been updated. Where was your husband found?
-I don’t know. I don’t have any details. I think he self-admitted but I don’t know.
-And what is his condition?
-I don’t know.
-So why can’t he find the car and drive it home instead of the police locating it for you?
-Well, he has this broken leg.
-Oh, I don’t want to disclose any details about the broken leg.
This conversation goes on for twenty minutes and by the end of it, I am drained. I feel like a criminal who’s trying to do my husband harm. I know it’s the broken leg poisoning his blood but all these people, the professionals, the ones with a duty of care shouldn’t they be more aware of this? When they first handed me a pamphlet for victim support I thought it odd. I’m not a victim. Now, I understand.
Driving home the police call back and I have to say I can’t talk. The officer sounds annoyed he will have to call again, but he does.
-I am calling with regards to your husband the hospital and his broken leg.
-He has the car with him and he has taken it with him to the new location.
-But how? He has a broken leg and most probably out-of-it!
-I cannot disclose any details at all because of the privacy act but he will return the vehicle to Auckland.
How the eff is he going to do that?
-But I cannot tell you when, where or any other details. Goodbye.
It appears likely that one of two things has happened – he’s removed me from his care plan or he hasn’t been asked to sign a release form. Both are likely and I am not entitled to know which it is.
I know the Mental Health System is under tremendous stress and staff work hard for very little reward. Burnout and turnover are huge. I understand why. It is in marriages where one partner is mentally ill too! I know the clinical teams are pressured to process clients (as patients are now called) as quickly as possible. They don’t have the resources to spend time or involve the whanau. They are constantly aware of falling foul of the legislation and potential for being sued. They are themselves in survival mode. They can only focus on stabilising the client, (usually with heavy duty sedation) then a little group therapy or perhaps some mindful colouring then two days later plonk a review form in front of them, beg them for a five-star review then ship them out into the exhausted arms of their next-of-kin.
Given that 1 in 4 people will probably suffer a broken leg of some kind in their lifetime that’s a huge toll on the families. I’ve seen elderly pensioners fearful about what will happen when they die to their 40-year-old Schizophrenic son. Who will look after him then? Who will look after the huge waves of people now reaching their thirties who have been permanently mentally damaged by Meth and are now struggling with a toxic mix of addiction and mental health issues?
The current system is dehumanising and exhausting and that’s just for the families.
Imagine how desperately hopeless it must feel to those return clients who keep being failed and keep going back to be served up the same old broken treatment and are waved out the door with a hearty ‘Next!’?