Stress

About 10 years ago my daughter unexpectedly knocked at my front door one evening and said, Tom’s Dead. Tom is my son and I suppose he would have been about 17 at the time. Why did my daughter tell me this, well she had a phone call from her mother who told her so. I calmed her down and said lets find out for our selves if it’s true before we get upset.

Tom had the previous year been sectioned due to mental illness becoming evident for the first time whilst he was living with me. It was not yet known what was wrong with him but he was later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I suppose in hindsight his mother suffered something similar. Of course she was lying and Tom was perfectly okay, she had just had one of her random episodes.

Events like this were already a common thing ever since my daughter Samantha had rung me from their home village puffing and panting as they ran up the hill from their mothers house 25 miles away from me to ask me to come and get them, they would be hiding in the ditch at the cross roads. Fifty minutes later as I approached the cross roads in the middle of the night with temperatures below zero and a hard ground frost covering the country side in a blanket of white, Sam and Tom emerged from the ditch without coats only T-shirts and trousers. Their half sister having regretfully decided to stay behind due to the cold. The erratic behaviour of their mother had become too much to bear.

As Tom’s condition deteriorated he was moved from hospital to hospital at least five times. The rapid change from having a normal happy son to seeing Tom looking obviously very ill with a blank stare and lack of understanding what was happening was a very painful situation for me to handle. His sister was exceptionally strong and did all she could to liaise with all the authorities and visit Tom when ever she could taking into consideration her full time job.

Shortly after Sam and Tom had arrived to live back in Malmesbury I took voluntary redundancy to look after them and take them daily the 25 miles to their respective schools to complete their exams. One hundred miles a day in petrol soon left me with no money but it was only for about a month until the schools finished for the summer holidays. Having run out of money Sam went to live with her Gran in Crudwell and Tom stayed with me.

There were a few years of pure Hell with social services before Tom became ill and Nicole eventually escaped to come and live with her sister Sam. Tom was now in his third or forth mental hospital still under section when Sam again unexpectedly knocked on my front door and this time said, Mum’s Dead. When Tom heard this he began punching the concrete wall of his hospital room and it took three or four male nurses to hold him down.

Tom attended her funeral with an escort from the hospital and was returned the same day. Sam organised the whole affair including the service and organising the transfer of the body from autopsy to chapel of rest in Malmesbury. Sam and Tom and possibly Nicole when to see their mum in her coffin in Malmesbury before the funeral in Crudwell.

There were several occasions during the following years when Tom attempted suicide one being while he was living with me after release from his section and his may be seventh hospital, I lost count. Any how I was up stairs in my room and I heard a very unusual loud crashing noise and rushed down stairs to see what Tom was up to. When I opened the door to his room I could see the light fitting missing from the ceiling and Tom stood with a belt done up in a loop in his hand, he said the light fitting appeared not to take his weight! Shortly after the police arrived and he was taken back to hospital.

He had been staying with his mother who at the time was sleeping rough in the park in Cheltenham, the Gloucestershire metal health authority would not help him as they said he was under Wiltshire’s care and they had no room for him as a voluntary patient so he came here and tried to hang himself.

Sectioned again and back in more hospitals he eventually was deemed normal and fit for release having been diagnosed and prescribed suitable medication after many trials. Tom now had his own sheltered flat and was doing very well living on his own having chosen himself to live in Trowbridge. Things didn’t always go smoothly and when depressed Tom sometimes took too may of his tablets or not the recommended dose. This led to me getting a phone call from Tom requesting I come to Bath Hospital to collect him as he had over dosed on his medication.

Tom met a girl fellow patient in one of his hospitals and later they got together when Tom was living in his flat and she lived in the neighbouring town. He was staying with her one night at her flat where she was also still dealing with her illness and having to take daily medication with its side effects too. Come the morning he woke up next to her to find her blue and dead. He called an ambulance for her immediately and then called me to come to him as quick as I could.

He attended her funeral and managed to cope for several months then decided he’d had enough, took all of his weeks medication, changed his mind, rang the ambulance and ended back up in Bath Hospital where he rang me in the middle of the night to come and collect him. I’m losing track of all these events as I don’t wish to dwell on them daily as they are too depressing therefore this story so far is just the main points of a much longer list omitted so as not to lose track of what I’m trying to convey.

Again Tom spent a few more weeks recovering from an over dose in RUH Bath. Then he had several months where he said he was the happiest he’d ever been having met yet another girl fellow patient whilst a voluntary patient himself under observation to slowly get him back onto his medication as its side affects need to be monitored daily by the doctor before its safe for him to be sent home.

His new girl friend came to live with him and weeks went by but the doctor did not prescribe the same medication which it had taken years of experiment to find the successful formula to keep Tom relatively normal. Tom managed for a while as it takes a few weeks to get used to new medication but this one wasn’t working. Tom then gave up taking it for a week as it had no effect and asked to be put back on his usual medication but they feared if he got depressed again at any time then he would be in danger of over dosing on it again.

The second week without it, Tom rang the Mental Health Team and begged for his usual medication but was refused four days in a row so on the fifth day his girl friend rang up and explained how he was and begged herself for the correct medication. They did not send any and so he deteriorated further. Two days later his girl friend tried to explain to Tom, who was now rapidly losing control of his mind, that she was leaving for the safety of her mother’s place.

Twelve hours later Tom was hearing voices saying awful things and telling him to do awful things. Tom then rang a taxi, put his dog on a lead and and asked the lady to take them to Malmesbury. At eleven o’clock that evening I had gone to bed and was now asleep. Then I was awoken by a bang at the door. I got up and looked out of the window and saw Tom. The previous evening Tom had rung me as usual to tell me all about his day and everything was normal. So I was surprise to see Tom outside now walking back towards the taxi. I called out Tom’s name and he replied in a normal voice, come on down.

I quickly got dressed and ran down the stairs, unlocked the door and began to open it. Then a split second later came a huge crash as he smashed into the door and shouting in a blood curdling voice that was not his and one I’d never heard before. My reflexes pushed as hard I physically could to get the door closed but he was already squeezing through. Tom is taller, bigger, heavier and stronger than I am. He got in within seconds. He had his arm raised and some sort of sharp weapon in his hand and he began striking at me attempting to stab me. Again my reflexes had me grab both his raised arms with both my hands. I fought with all my strength but he was over powering me and able to strike me a total of eight or more times to my left shoulder and head.

Standing with the bottom of the stairs to my right and Tom stood with the front door to his right, I could no longer hold off the blows and my reflexes made me sprint up the stairs, turn 180 at the banister, take two strides across the landing and into my room. I turned and slammed the door shut the split second he crashed into it right on my heals. I managed to hold the door handle very tight with all my strength and put my shoulder to the door. Probably about eight seconds had passed between when I first unlocked the front door and slamming the bedroom door shut. Tom was now pounding and kicking at the door which split around the handle. Again reflexes had me shouting out to Tom that the police were on their way.

Tom then left the building, I can’t remember hearing the front door shut or how I knew he had gone. Somehow I knew it was safe to let go of the door and turn to the other side of the room and grab my mobile phone from the window sill. I saw him outside walking towards the steps to the next street. The taxi lady on hearing the commotion had already left. I rushed down and closed the front door and locked it then ran back up to my room and rang 999 whilst holding the bedroom door firmly shut. I looked in the mirror next to the door and saw blood running down the side of my face and ear and down my neck. That’s the first time I realised what ever his weapon was had made contact with me.

I was puffing and panting as if I was back at the school area sports 50 years ago having just sprinted the hundred yards. The woman on the switchboard answered after a while and asked which service I required and straight away said sorry but they are having a very busy night so I will put you through as soon as someone becomes available. Having seen the blood and not knowing the damage, I kept repeating my address. The operator kept saying I will put you through as soon as someone answers. After what seemed several minutes the police answered and I immediately gave my address. I then explained someone had just tried to murder me. They asked if I needed an ambulance and I said no just the police.

Then I was able to end the call and wait for the police to arrive which seemed like 15 to 20 minutes or even more. Mean while I rang my daughter and told her Tom was on his way in her direction, what ever you do, do not let him in, he’s just tried to kill me. She replied that she was already on her way here in her car having received a call from the taxi driver who had picked up Tom’s phone which he had left in the taxi and the driver had called the first number she found on it explaining what she’d heard and wondering what to do with Tom’s dog.

Sam arrived, then the unexpected ambulance and then the police. Sam then went to find the taxi lady to retrieve Tom’s phone, the police followed a while later and they took the dog and also took Tom’s phone, Sam returned here, the ambulance said they were taking me to hospital, I enquired how was I going to get back, Sam offered to come and get me when I called. The police went off in search of Tom.

A while after Sam had returned home, Tom turned up and asked to be let in but Sam refused and Tom asked for a drink of water. Sam threw him out a bottle of water and then Sam called the police who then arrived. Tom laughed at them and threw all three of them into the bushes. Sam came out and helped them bundle Tom into a van and take him off to Melksham police station.

I went to hospital and was put in a cubicle for four hours waiting to see a doctor and then I got so bored of the farce I walked out to reception and asked them to sign me out. They tried to persuade me to stay. I asked how much longer it would be before the doctor saw me and they went off to enquire and on their return informed me it could be quite a while yet. I signed my release and left. I got out of the hospital and rang Sam to come and collect me.

When Sam dropped me back off back home about five hours after arriving at the hospital, I went in and took a look in the mirror to see the damage which didn’t look bad at all although I couldn’t see the back of my head I could see the one slight shallow puncture mark on my shoulder, it looked insignificant the only blood having come from my head. I took off my shirt to go to bed and too my surprise saw about six other slash wounds to the left shoulder not even detected by the ambulance crew or the multitude of nurses in all types of uniform continuously taking my blood pressure at the hospital which as it turns out was normal compared to my own readings as I have high blood pressure for which I’m prescribed medication.

I was far more stressed worrying about Tom’s welfare and the nonsense in the ambulance and hospital than I was at being a split second from death due to the failure of the Metal Health Team to look after Tom’s requests for Clozapine. If Tom had been given the medication he knew he required then none of this would have happened and he’d have been sat happily at home in his flat with his girlfriend beside him.

Update : 27 July, 2017

Tom spent the following month or more worrying that the police were going to charge him with attempted murder. He was now back on his medication and seemed to be back to normal. He would call me and I would reassure him that I was not bringing any charges and had not given any statement to the police as I considered him not in control of his mind and actions at the time due to his illness and lack of medication.

His girlfriend had returned a few days later and they were getting along fine and he had also got his dog back from the kennels. His dog was very important to him as he had it from a puppy and it had helped him get through the loneliness of living alone for the few years until he had met his girlfriend.

Since having a girlfriend his phone calls to me had gotten fewer and more random. Then one night he rang and asked me to point the camera at my ceiling, I asked why but he said it didn’t matter and he would ring me the next day. I thought it odd but not unusual as he’d often say strange things due to his illness.

Tom would usually ring me, some days it would be dozens of times a day when he felt like it but the calls dropped off rapidly now he had a girlfriend and if I rang him, he’d ask me what I was doing calling him and would say they were busy doing something and that he’d call me back later. Sometimes it would be an hour, or a day, or several days later and that was common.

Days had passed and I hadn’t heard from Tom. Then if I remember right and I’m not sure I do, I had a call from his sister. Samantha said that Tom had been taken into custody by the police and that his girlfriend was in intensive care having been stabbed by Tom, as once again he had failed for some reason or other to take the most important part of his medication.

The last I heard was, Tom was in prison on remand awaiting possibly two charges of attempted murder. Tom wrote a letter saying he was looking at 10 years inside, either prison or a secure mental hospital. I haven’t heard from anyone since for the last couple of Months. I doubt if I shall ever see him again now before I pass on.

Our Days Out

Every Tuesday I’d visit Tom in Trowbridge. Some times it would start with a walk around the block, or a visit to Co-op over the railway, to walk his dog and get some electricity credit for the meter. Then we’d drive into town and sometimes go to the housing association to pay a bill, then on into the centre and park up. Then we’d walk around the town visiting various shops where he’d buy things he needed. He would walk with great confidence and cockily acknowledge all the people he knew scattered all across the town using lots of youthful slang sayings, calling elderly ladies “Love”, using Jamaican Patois to greet young people and bits of foreign languages for people such as the large Polish community. We’d call into a coffee shop, then sit out side with our drinks and he’d greet everyone he knew who passed buy in the town centre. Then we’d go to Wilko, do some more shopping, collect the car from the free multi-story next door and go for a drive. We’d go out into the country, a different direction out of Trowbridge each visit and often ending up on top of Westbury White Horse to take in the views. On our return to Trowbridge we’d visit Big Tesco and do a weekly shop and then I’d take him home and help carry all the shopping into his flat. He lived in a sheltered housing block surrounded mainly by very old ladies whom he all knew by name and would have a little chat to in passing. We’d may be take another walk around the block with his dog and then I’d set off back to Malmesbury.

Younger Days

While he was still a teenager and living with me, he came home one day from a walk up town and came into the house trying to cry but shear panic preventing it from happening. He was stumbling with a strange gate, back twisted to one side and arched over backwards. With tears streaming down his face he had staggered all across town like this, and was now pleading for my help. What had happened was the experimental combinations of mental health medication he was receiving before they had diagnosed what was wrong with him, had caused his muscles to spasm distorting his body out of his control. He did not understand what was happening and was absolutely terrified. I managed to calm him down and I called out a doctor who changed his medication and the effects slowly wore off and he returned to a fit and healthy physical state, not what I could say for his mind though, it was also a great shock to me also.

Tragedy

Imagine the two best friends you’ve made in hospital dying whilts you’re there, later life now seems to be perfect, then you wake up one morning next to the one you love, only to find she’s stone cold dead.

I’m missing Tom hugely and it’s hurting like Hell to think how he was leading a near normal independant life for six years until suddenly it all went wrong.

15 April, 2017
All images and written works by David Forward are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License