She Who Missed The Last Step is the first to fire up and get offended when people, on observing her magnificently bruised face, thoughtlessly imply that I might have done the damage. I’ll get into that later, but let’s say for now that neither of us finds domestic violence remotely funny.
Laurel (SWMTLS) went head first from the second-last step of the internal stairs into the edge of the (open) back door about 11am last Friday. The impact was felt through the house. Our son was first on the scene, sensibly counselling his mother to lie still until we had assessed the damage. I rushed in saying something like: “Oh Mother, what have you done to yourself?” which says something about me (but it’s not about me).
Once we got a good look at Laurel’s head, we made a fast dash to the Maleny Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, which just happens to be two minutes’ down the road. Laurel is well known around the hospital for her involvement with Meals on Wheels, but nurses being nurses, they assumed she had been there before as a patient.
“We can’t find your chart,” they said. “That’s because I’ve never been admitted,” she replied. While nurses attended to Laurel, it was down to me to fill in the chart and I never cope well with such administrative tasks when stressed and in shock (as we both were). There was little bleeding and the point of impact required only a couple of butterfly stitches. Concussion was mild, so it wasn’t long before we got triaged and other emergencies began taking precedence.
I had my own doctor’s appointment at 2.40 pm, so headed off to that and went home afterwards to organise a few things that had been left unattended. In the interim, Laurel,in her words, “came over all queer” – or in nurse speak, had a vasovagal incident – which basically means fainting. So it was decided to keep her in overnight. The nurse who called to tell me hastened to add: “She’s OK now – she asked if you could bring her most presentable nightie and toiletries.” Then I got a text: “Bring Scrabble…and chocolate.”
Our neighbours and a couple of other friends went to visit around 5pm while I made a pizza and got organised to visit at 7pm. She seemed in good spirits, although complained about a headache (not surprising to anyone who has checked out her Facebook page). Then we had a game of Scrabble. More often or not she would beat me by 300 points but on this occasion by only 27 points. “I had all the good letters, I just couldn’t figure out how to best use them,” she observed.
One of the nurses coming to do the hourly checks, as you do with someone with a head injury, looked at the board and said “Nothing wrong with your brain”. This had been ascertained earlier, when Laurel was taken to Maleny’s new pathology and X- ray clinic for a CT scan.
When I read that back, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that our public hospital system is a miracle. It is true that public hospitals are under-staffed and people presenting with broken bones and contusions may have to endure lengthy waits while doctors and nurses deal with more critical patients.
If you have any kind of accident over the holiday period, chances are you will end up in the ER of a public hospital. While you’re there, think about those people pulling 12 and 16-hour shifts at a time when the rest of us are stuffing our faces and sleeping off blood-sugar/alcohol overload.
As for the dozen or so men and women who suggested I may have given the old girl a whack around the scone, I’m sure you did not mean it in an offensive way. But I suggest you think about why that was your first reaction.
Until this happened, I had not thought much about domestic violence, probably because I find it a confronting subject. One way for men to become aware and make a statement at the same time is to join White Ribbon Australia. Men wear the white ribbon as a personal pledge that the wearer does not excuse violence against women. Sunshine Coast Hinterland White Ribbon Australia Ambassador Bill Richardson (pictured), provided me with some research for this column. He also told me something the media tend not to mention – Australian of the Year, Aboriginal AFL player Adam Goodes, is also a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador.
Bill wrote to the local newspaper this week, reminding readers that there is a substantial increase in domestic violence at this time of the year. It might be a bit of a downer to recount domestic violence statistics, but in some ways, what better time? It is commonly known that oppressively humid weather, coupled with the stresses of Christmas (the expense, the expectations, the over-indulgences), can trigger incidents of domestic violence. Then there is the Sydney siege to think about and the warning flags which went unheeded.
Let me run these numbers past you and then try to understand why we have no sense of humour at all when people say: “You could come up with a better story than that,” or “Oh, the old walked into a door excuse.”
First, 72 women are killed in Australia every year by a partner or ex-partner. Second, more than 340,000 women say they have experienced physical violence in the past 12 months. A third of women surveyed had experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Unhappily, 64% of women who experienced physical assault did not report it to police.
Domestic abuse is a major issue in all Australian communities and levels of society, and this is as good a time as any to acknowledge it. The notion of abuse also applies to those of us who would never raise a hand, but readily run off at the mouth with cruel invective.
Meanwhile, we have just been up town doing some shopping and getting the odd stare. Laurel’s still got a headache, but that didn’t stop her going to work this morning, or singing Christmas carols with our choir at the nursing home on Wednesday and she’ll be there when we perform again on Sunday.
So let’s say “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men, women and children.” Be aware of relational dynamics over Christmas and make an effort to be nice.