Sunday, January 6, 2008

2008. Apartheid Addington Hospital, 1987, Neuroleptic Brain Damage

< 1988. Jake & Leah Esslemont & our VW Golf GTS, Mooi River snow storm, KwaZulu-Natal.

One Friday evening, I found Fraser in a dark, empty hospital room foetally curled on the concrete floor. "Look after me," Fraser said. "I need to hide."

I called a nurse, showing Fraser to her. She wasn't worried.

Saturday night: Fraser lay abed convulsing, sweating, limbs jerking amok. Fraser was attached to a transparent plastic feedbag with a clear plastic connection tube, and a needle jammed into his arm. His arms were tied down to his metal bed-frame, stopping him ripping out the needle. Clear liquid dribbled into Fraser's vein. Fraser's urine dribbled through another plastic tube shoved up his penis, connected to another plastic bag.

A nurse, whispering to a young, male doctor at Fraser's bedside, shooed me away.

Fraser convulsed, sweated, writhed...

Sunday night: Fraser convulsed, sweated, jerked. Red skin. Flushed face. Stiff legs. Feet pointed forward. A nurse sidled up mumbling. "It would be better if Fraser died."

"Fuck you!" I thought.

No one explained what was going on. Doctors and nurses avoided me.

Next weekend: Fraser's convulsions had stopped. He lay abed silent, stiff, unmoving, staring at the ceiling, and would remain so for many months.

A nurse waved me into an office saying, "Fraser's had seizures and high temperatures. We've taken him off neuroleptics. [New word to me. I was learning fast]. We've stabilized Fraser. It'll be months before he recovers."

Nurses fed Fraser. Nurses removed Fraser's body wastes. The plastic tube stayed up his penis a long time, and he just shat in bed. He lay in his shit. His mouth stank. Masticated food clung to his teeth. Nurses swabbed his speechless mouth out.

Next weekend: Fraser lay stiff, silent, unmoving, staring. Stiff legs. Feet pointed forward. Right hand, fingers and wrist slowly clawed. Pale skin, like a dead fish.

Fraser lay abed stinking in his own shit. I called a nurse to clean him.

Why didn't hospital physiotherapists massage or exercise Fraser's stiff limbs?

Tsotsis stole my new Nissan E20 panel-van parked outside Addington Hospital. Never recovered. Probably chopped up, or used as a minibus taxi.

After 6 months QwaQwa residence during a State-of-Terror, I got a personnel officer job at De Beers Koffiefontein diamond mine, about 100 kays south-east of Kimberley and 130 kays south-west of Bloemfontein.

Koffiefontein mine had been closed for five years. I began the job evaluation section, by writing scores of job descriptions, and training an Afrikaner personnel officer to do likewise. I was also corporate journalist and editor for the monthly in-house journal Koffiepit. I published 10 Koffiepits before handing over the work to someone else. Koffiefontein had been a POW camp during WW2, interning Italian POWs as well as other stirrers, like Afrikaner Ossewa Brandwag Nazi sympathizers, Roman Catholic priests, civilian fascists. Future prime minister BJ Vorster was interned with some of my colleagues' Afrikaner dissident dads.

After three months without a car, I paid insurance money as a deposit on a red VW Golf GTS, which would carry us swiftly and safely through the next eight years.

Thereafter, once a month I donkey wagon trekked a 1400 kay round trip to Durbs to visit silent, stiff, staring Fraser. For many years I'd ride the KwaZulu-Natal mental health donkey wagon.

I learnt that life-threatening temperatures and convulsions which Fraser had experienced were caused by anti-psychotic (neuroleptic) drugs carers had fed to Fraser. The medical euphemism was Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS), which usually struck males, sometimes fatally. NMS was a euphemism for medical drug brain -damage, as NMS could also cause parkinsonism, ataxia and dementia. (HI Kaplan & BJ Sadock, Clinical Psychiatry, Williams & Wilkins, Hong Kong, 1988).

NMS caused Fraser to lie abed, stiff, grimy, speechless, staring. He barely moved, lying naked under a white sheet.

Nurses fed Fraser.

Fraser's muscles wasted, his limbs withered. He became pale, ageing, geriatric.

Other death-rattling males in Fraser's ward had had strokes, or other brain-damaging conditions. A fat old man slumped in bed after a leg amputation, due to alcoholism.

Another spastic man jerkily fed himself, mostly soiling himself, when food slopped from his cutlery onto his bed, or on the floor.

Another brain-damaged young man (drugs?) perseverated for hours, twisting at raised grilles around his bed. Before bed confinement, he'd wandered corridors and wards.

SAP chief Adriaan Vlok declared that 50 000 people were detained, without trial in the last three unrest years (1985-1987 inclusive) 50 000! (K. Asmal, et al, Reconciliation Through Truth, David Philip, Cape Town, 1997).

ANC-Inkatha Zulu massacres continued in KwaZulu-Natal's undeclared civil war.

Four month's after Fraser's Verulam road accident, Addington's psychiatrist Dr. Luiz said to me: "Fraser needs a curator bonis lawyer to manage Fraser's financial affairs, as Fraser is brain -damaged, unlikely to recover, is incapable of coherent speech and coordinated movement, has a fixed stare, and needs nursing care for feeding and personal hygiene."

Dr. Luiz didn't mention NMS. He'd avoided me for weeks. I'd already arranged for a curator bonis to be appointed.

< 1987. Mackintosh family, Leah in middle. 294 Freemantle Road, Hillary, Durban.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS).

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