The person I did not think of as becoming the new Mayor of Struggletown was the Dadman. I have seen him battle with osteo-arthritis, causing him to retire from work at age 55, and have three replacement operations on the one hip. I have seen him battle two lots of bowel cancer and survive. One was with the love and support of his wife, the other was on his own. Through all of these life changing events, he pulled himself through, with each of course having an impact on him.
When Mum suicided in 2007, it was the biggest hit he has ever taken, bigger than the cancer, and it hit him hard. So hard in fact that with his second cancer, the doctor misdiagnosed, and told him that it was all in his head, he was depressed, imagining it, and that there was nothing wrong. So yes, I knew he could get low, and I knew that he missed her, as he should, they had been together for close to fifty years, but I guess I did not really the understand just how deep, and eventually, how quickly, he would sink.
He had spoken of having suicidal thoughts previously, but always assured us that he would never attempt it, as he had seen what it does to those left behind too many times now, and was also scared that he would not get it right, and end up in a worse position. He also said he would not be brave enough to even try, but I knew this part at the very least to be wrong, as his continued battles with illness proved how brave he actually is.
The sadness and sorrow of missing his wife, partner, and best friend had been weighing on him constantly since Mum’s death. The home in the suburb that Mum had always wanted to live in was getting too much for him, the house and yard too large, and it was all getting out of control. We’d spoken quite a bit over the last few years about the house, and the possibility of moving in to something smaller, but it had to be a decision that he came to himself, I did not want to have to make the decision for him.
After another of his falls, where he was in the front yard and had to call for help from a tradesman nearby to get up, we decided it was time to get serious about it. There was some accommodation being built nearby that he was going to have a look at, with a view to moving in there once it was built. Then he saw in the paper that the retirement village where one of his aunties lived for many years was having an open day, and had three vacant units available for immediate sale.
He went and had a look, decided that yes, he did like it, and could make the move, and signed up to buy the unit he liked, subject of course to the sale of his house. This was a fantastic and brave move by him, as they had lived in the house for thirty years, but it was also another massive stressor for him. How was he to get the house ready for sale, as well as downsize the contents of a large house, into a small unit. We assured him that we could do it, and between Sarah and myself, we took on the task of making it happen. The amount of work required was incredible, and there is no way it would have been possible without Sarah.
During the course of this, the Dadman was battling with the decision to move, relishing the chance one moment, regretting the decision the next. Appreciating the efforts of Sarah and myself, then berating himself for letting things get the way they had, but we pushed on, we had to, contracts had been signed, dates had been set, and we had to make it happen.
In the weeks leading up to settlement, a good friend of his had become quite unwell, and he was extremely worried about her. He had been a good friend to her for a long time, helping her as much as he could, and having long chats, either over a cup of tea, or over the phone. In the last week before we were to clear everything out and move him in to the unit, his friend got worse, and they had a disagreement over her going in to hospital. He wanted her to, because she was not well, and she refused to. He knew that he could not force her, and had to say to her in that last week, that he was going to be busy at his place, and that if she did not want to go to hospital, then there was nothing more he could do for her.
Sarah and I had booked a four day weekend so that we could pack and clean for three days solid, then move everything on the fourth day. The Dadman rang me on the Thursday to let me know that he had just read in the paper that his friend had died during the week, and that the funeral was to be held on the day he was moving. This weighed heavily on him too, as he felt he had let her down, that in some way he could have done more. We could not convince him that there was any more as a friend he could have done for her, that it was up to her family to force any issues on medical care, and that if she was refusing treatment, that was her decision.
We got to his place on the Friday, and as soon as we arrived we knew something was amiss. It was around 10:00am, the newspaper was still in the driveway, his dog was barking, the back door was unlocked, and he hadn’t come outside to meet us like he normally would. I called to Sarah to stop, to let me go in first. I know she is far more qualified than I am, but I felt I had to go in first, just in case something was wrong. It was, we found him on the bedroom floor. He was able to understand us, but not really able to communicate with us.
I called for an ambulance as Sarah tended to him, which worked out well, as I could pass the relevant information on to the telephone operator. We still weren’t sure what had happened, because of his position, we thought at first he’d fallen out of bed. When the paramedics arrived, they also treated it at first as if he had fallen, but nothing was adding up. They did all sorts of tests, and questioned him as much as they could, but still could not work it out. They even thought at one stage that as there was nothing visible physically, that it could be a behavioural thing, as when they went to sit him up, he was all floppy, and not supporting himself.
We finally got him to talk a little more to us, and tell us what he had done, and roughly when. As they went to move him to take him out to the ambulance, I found the note he had left for us, hidden under where he was lying. He said he was missing Ann, that he felt guilty over the death of his friend, and that he just wanted to go and be with Ann now. When I found this, I went searching all of the bins so that we could at least know what he had taken, and that way know what treatment he would need.
When we left the house, he was doing ok, but as we were travelling towards the Royal Adelaide, he started to deteriorate, and they had to hit the lights, and dose him up on more medication to combat what he had taken. The ambos had been in touch with the RAH whilst we were in transit, so they knew what was happening, and had everything ready for our arrival, and rushed him straight in.
The ambos and the RAH staff were all awesome, and were keeping me informed all the way with what was happening as best as they could. Dadman was able to communicate with us after a while, in a fashion, but he can remember none of it. Even though he ended up becoming quite lucid and holding some form of conversation with us, he was still out to it, and really stayed that way for about three days. During this time we went through all of the normal processes that you would expect. Relief that he had not been successful, upset that he had not been successful, almost angry that we had found him, to relieved that it was us who did find him.
When he was no longer a medical emergency, they moved him to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, then eventually got him a placement at the Repatriation Hospital. He was relived to go there, as the other option was Glenside, and he was against going there, as that was where Mum had spent six months, and it brought back too many bad memories for him that he had locked away.
The Repat was awesome, the facilities were all clean and modern, and the staff were great. They helped him out immensely, and in the space of only a few weeks, they had helped him get back to pretty close to how he had been.
He was lucky this time. He survived, and was able to move in to his new home, and keep on living for a while longer, and take the opportunity in his new surrounds to make new friends. We’re hoping that the move will keep him going for a bit longer, that he will find the will to live that bit longer, to know that he has an important part to play in our lives, as he is special to us.
So now we wait, and we hope that he will not try again, that he will find new meaning and a nerw purpose with new people around him.