Music Wednesday

In October, my parents put into practice their ill thought out, poorly conceived plan of retiring to Crete. Almost immediately, and without precedent, my Mum started suffering from severe paranoid delusions, although my sister and I were not aware of the full extent of them, and had been reassured that she was ‘fine’. Last Monday night, Mum jumped off a 10ft wall, trying to escape from the imaginary people she thought were coming to kill her. On Tuesday, despite severe back pain, she refused to go to see a doctor or to go to hospital. On Wednesday morning I arrived in Crete. That day, Mum went to hospital willingly enough and after many hours it was established that she had fractured her spine and required a short hospital stay. Her anxiety had been building all day and this news triggered all the paranoid delusions again.

For the next 3-4 hours my stepfather and I kept watch over my mother as she stood in the corridor. She refused to return to the ward or to sit down and was clearly waiting for one of us to leave or be distracted so she could make another break for freedom. She denied both our identities, although we had offered proof in the form of scars, knowledge of important dates or simply of information only family would know. It did cross my mind that if, indeed, I was not her daughter, life would be suddenly much more simple. Occasionally, we physically restrained her from leaving the hospital until she had seen more doctors. Finally, despite her obvious mental condition and the fact that the spinal injury required she lie flat, the doctors could not force her to remain in hospital when she was adamant that she wanted to leave.

We had to force her into a taxi, and then out of it. My stepfather kept watch all night, while I lay in bed, grasping at sleep, jumping at every noise and thinking that if my Mum did suddenly burst into the room and come at me with a sharp implement, I’d try to deflect it with a pillow.

On Thursday morning I called a helpful Greek neighbour of theirs, went to the public prosecutor’s office and signed forms to say that my mother was not compos mentis, and that if deemed a danger to herself or others, the police had the authority to take her to a psychiatric clinic, and the doctors then had the authority to keep her there. Following another failed attempt to get her into the hospital, I called the local police. They called an ambulance. The ambulance driver found space in a psych ward in Heraklion and we all got into the ambulance for the roughly 2-hour drive to the other end of the island.

During the next several hours we repeated the process we had first gone through in Chania hospital: telling the story of her increasingly strange behaviour,  persuading her to have X-rays and blood tests. Mum remained reasonably calm, except for the odd reference to the voices she was hearing, and agreed to stay in the psych ward for 48 hours.

She is still in the psych ward, where she has seemed to get a little better every day, thanks to the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals.  I don’t know the results of the CT scan or if she had the MRI the hospital was so insistent was necessary. It has taken a week to get an orthopedic surgeon up to the clinic to reassess her spinal injury. No one ever complain to me about the NHS; Heathrow is substantially cleaner and more efficient than either of the Cretan hospitals I have seen, but I suppose it is also significantly better funded.

I flew home on Sunday, and my sister flew out to do her stint. The latest news is that Mum is probably being discharged tomorrow, with a brace for her back. Our aim is to get her back to the UK as soon as possible, so that she can continue treatment, but she’s started getting paranoid again so that could be difficult. The situation changes with every visiting hour and at this point, we are playing for low stakes. Can she be kept calm enough to get on a ‘plane?

So hat tip to NA for this track, which has just become my theme for the rest of the year:


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I've run out of books. Again.

14 thoughts on “Music Wednesday”

  1. This story…wow. I had to check to make sure I was still reading your blog. I am so sorry to hear about your mom – I can’t imagine how difficult this must be on you and your family. I will keep you all in my thoughts and hope for a vast, quick improvement.

  2. Ugh. I’m so sorry about this. It’s bad enough having to deal with one of these episodes without having to do it at a remove of hundreds of miles. Sending good thoughts your way.

    Oh, and anyone who complains about the NHS has no idea how lucky they are. No. Idea.

  3. My heart goes out to you. My mother has had paranoid attacks (and refuses to own them) all my life. The damage it does to you is really hard to describe. Your mother sounds like she is in a more severe condition than mine has ever been, and to compound that with a back injury must be a hellish cherry on top of the cake. I am so sorry. I’m hoping you have a good bond with your sister and your stepfather – any sort of solidarity will make it a little bit better, although knowing your mum is having the right care and treatment will probably be the best peace of mind. I’ve got everything crossed that the situation improves very soon, and drastically.

  4. Very sorry to hear this. I hope you get her safely to the UK, where at least you don’t have the language barrier to contend with. I have also contended with mental illness in my close family and it is very scary when someone you know and love suddenly turns into a different person.

  5. Hi everyone – Thanks! The situation is getting better, and we hope mum will be on a flight back to the UK on Tuesday.

  6. Ye gods. What a hellish week you had. Fervently hope that being back on UK soil helps your mum. Hope you have a nice weekend planned to gather your strength before she gets back (though fingers crossed all will go smoothly, and not much strength will be required). I agree, we really don’t know how lucky we are to have the NHS, even with its occasional foibles and failings.

  7. Wow that must be so hard for you lot. Good luck and I hope you manage to get your mother back to the UK, that she receives great treatment and that her mental state improves.

  8. What a sad story – and a frustrating and tiring one too, I’ll bet. Hope all goes well with the flight on Tuesday and you can relax a little once you know she’s on home soil. The psychiatric system there sounds deeply flawed and the sad thing is that not every patient will have family as attentive as yours to be their advocate.

  9. I’m glad things seem to be improving, and that your mother must be back in the UK now — just arrived, I guess. I hope the transition back home is okay.

  10. I hope your family had a smooth trip back home and that you are all receiving helpful support from the doctors and nurses you are dealing with. It must be so difficult and I hope that you all are able to rest and care for one another as you care for your mother.

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