23 October 2013

An unexpected death and an unexpectedly good response

| Beau Locks
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Hullo Rioters,

A few months ago one of my mum’s best friends and her husband were visiting from Queensland. Mum and B had been mates since 1969, a pretty good innings. B was a few years younger than mum, a very healthy 66. In the morning her husband woke up, chatted to her, told her he’d go down and get breakfast, and returned half an hour later to find her dead. We still don’t know what happened, presumably a stroke or heart attack; the autopsy didn’t reveal anything.

At any rate, the reason I mention all this is to note that what was a terrible experience for us all was made a lot better by the people we encountered who were doing their jobs in the aftermath. Firstly, the ambos were just lovely. There were two young women first, and then another male and female pair. They were all amazing. I certainly wouldn’t have had anything like their level of compassion, understanding, or professionalism at their age (nor now, probably). We were just amazed at how they managed to do their job as well as put us all at ease. I found the same earlier in the year when I was one of the people that tried to resuscitate a bloke that drowned at Uriarra Crossing. They had to hang around until the cops came.

My mum has had a few bad experiences with the cops over the years owing to the treatment that a mentally ill family member has experienced. Not good at all. Anyway, these two young blokes that rocked up were incredible. Again, sympathetic, professional, and kind. I suppose everyone responds to death differently. In the case of B’s husband, he was a total mess, walking in circles and not making a lot of sense. Mainly he couldn’t sit still. I Suggested to the coppers they walk around with him while they take his statement, which they duly did. The ambos left, the cops stayed.

Next up was an absolutely lovely guy from SupportLink, an NFP counselling service contracted to rock up in these sorts of situations. He sat and had lunch with the family, gave people the space they needed, and had some pretty solid words of wisdom when it was appropriate. He hung around for many hours, and also followed up with us all over the next few days. The cops couldn’t leave until the forensic medical officers rocked up.

They were the weak link in the chain, although I suppose they were doing their jobs. A word of advice: if you go into someone’s house, introduce yourself, say who you are, and ask permission before you go into the owner’s bedroom (which is where B died, in mum’s bed). They stayed until the stooges dudes from the funeral home rocked up to transport B to the forensic medical centre. (They were lovely, but kind of oafish big chaps with a practiced look of respect / concern that we’ve all seen at funerals.)

Finally everyone left, and we were left to our grief. I should also note how totally awesome Qantas were with providing us discounted fares to get family members down from various parts of Queensland, making sure they were all looked after on the way and sat next to each other when their flights connected on the Canberra one that evening.

The people at the forensic medical centre were also lovely by all accounts, tho I didn’t go in and talk to them or see B, preferring to remember her as she was when she was alive. Also, I ride past the back of the joint every other day on my way to work, and figured I’d be reminded of B instead of prepping myself for a day of wage slavery and policy wonkery. The forensic joint was also really helpful with arranging to move B back home to be buried.

Well, that’s my story of experiencing the ACT Government’s machinery of death, for want of a better way of putting it. I rant a bit about the local guvman (chip seal silliness etc), but in this instance I was just amazed. They pull out all the stops when it really matters. Thanks.

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Condolences to you and yours, Beau.

You’re spot-on, though – we’re quick to criticise and slow to congratulate. Well done.

Lookout Smithers11:17 pm 23 Oct 13

Thanks for this, it was a really useful and honest post. One I really appreciate you taking the time to write about. Condolences for the loss.

Thank you for sharing your experience and I’m sorry for your family’s loss. It’s nice to read about a good experience (through a bad experience) for a change.

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