I believe the poor public health care system led to my father’s death.
That is one of the reasons I will be voting for a Labour/Greens government.
Strong statement to make, huh?
Here is what led me to that conclusion.
My father was diagnosed with Lewy Bodies Dementia in 2011. It’s a kind of dementia that not only worsens over time, you lose your memory and it usually goes hand-in-hand with Parkinson’s Disease. That’s the gist of what he had – if you want to read more about it check out the Wikipedia page.
He was doing OK. He wasn’t allowed to work or drive anymore, he got night terrors, was shaky but you could still hold conversations with him. It took people a while to get something was up.
One year ago I had moved home to help take some pressure off of mum and just generally spend time with them both. They had gone out for their weekly grocery shop and I was sitting at the kitchen table. As I mentioned earlier, dad was quite shaky. I was just heading downstairs to bring in the groceries for them when I heard this loud scream and a crash. I started to run. I got to the scene, and dad was in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, with bags of groceries everywhere. Mum was standing in shock and yelling my name. I managed to pick dad up and sit him on the stairs; he seemed dazed. There was a hole in the wall where he landed. We thought he had collapsed under the weight of carrying too many groceries. He said he was OK and just needed a minute to compose himself. I insisted on calling an ambulance. “Just in case,” I said.
And there it was. The mistake I made that led him to not only die within a month, but also in pain the entire time. I would never have thought it was a mistake to involve public health care.
Dad was kept overnight for observation.
And then another night.
Mum was with him every day, but I had been working and kept being told he would be home the next day. Mum came home on the 6th night in tears. “ I don’t know what’s wrong, but something is terribly not right.” I went in there on the 7th day and was in disbelief. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t walk. The nurses had him nearly upside down in his bed because he kept trying to get out of it – even though mum had constantly pleaded with each nurse to not to do that because he had such a bad back and it was exasperating it. Each day we went back, each day they were badly understaffed. Each new nurse we spoke to had not been informed about his history. Some of them didn’t even know he had Lewy Bodies. If mum wasn’t retired and able to spend every day there, speaking for him, I truly believe their incompetence would have killed him.
Instead of coming home, after two weeks he was transferred to a retirement village with a hospital unit attached. This place, this dreary, understaffed under skilled place is where my father died.
I could make a huge list of everything they did wrong. But I will stick to the main two points. Firstly, they starved him. By the time he was in this living hell of a place, surrounded by staff that didn’t care about him, by dying old people that seemed to be abandoned there to rot – I think he wanted to just die. He could no longer speak, he was skeletal and the only time he was responsive to the staff was when he was fighting to stay clothed. And they would sit a plate of food in front of him, this man that could barely lift his hands and just take it away when he didn’t eat it. This took a few days for us to find out, as the staff was never clear with us if he was eating when we were not there. Once we found out, I demanded to speak to the doctor, to get my father a damn drip at least and I was told I would need to wait a few days because the only in-house doctor was away on a conference. That’s right, the only Doctor they had wasn’t there, and he was the only person who could sign off on a drip. So my dad literally had to starve a few more days. My dad was in pain, couldn’t eat, couldn’t even swallow water, and all I could do was sit with him and watch him waste away.
The second thing they did was not telling my mother he was dying until a few days before he died. The way they told her was with a meeting (that I had to demand and then was charged for because it was an ‘extra’) with the doctor, who mentioned they were now doing palliative care.
And that’s how my dad, my fucking father, died.
It wasn’t really the staff’s fault. A huge portion of them, at both the hospital and St John’s’ were fine. The doctor, once we saw him – was great. It was the facilities, the lack of knowledge, lack of training on how to deal with these situations, not speaking English clearly enough, and severe understaffing that was the problem.
It’s now thought that he had a stroke, while he fell, or soon after in the hospital. And that’s why he deteriorated so quickly. A simple stroke, which NO ONE picked up. All that pain he went through which could have been relieved if we either had the money to go private or the health system in New Zealand wasn’t such a mess.
I think he was let down at so many turns, all things that could have been prevented or fixed if only the resources were there.
And basically, that’s it. That’s why I’m voting for a government that sees the flaws in public health care and wants to fix them. Sees the importance of protecting the marginalized old.
I know my story isn’t unique. I know there are thousands of Kiwi’s that can not only relate, but also have a worse story to tell. And that’s what’s really scary to me. And why I’m whole-heartedly hoping Labour win this election.