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: