Thoughts with vic­tims

Ellenbrook Advocate - - FRONT PAGE -

In 2004, Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group fea­tured Deb­bie Free­man and her part­ner Kevin Mel­li­can nearly four months after she was at­tacked by a men­tal health out pa­tient. They were get­ting mar­ried later that year. Thir­teen years later, the cou­ple are still stopped by well-wish­ers on the street and want to show peo­ple there is a light at the end of the tun­nel.

EV­ERY time Kevin and Deb­bie Mel­li­can hear of another as­sault or onepunch at­tack, they think about the long jour­ney to re­cov­ery for the vic­tim and their fam­ily.

They know that jour­ney well.

On March 6, 2004, Mrs Mel­li­can was at­tacked by an out­pa­tient at the for­mer Swan District Hos­pi­tal where she worked as a psy­chi­atric nurse, leav­ing her in a coma at Royal Perth Hos­pi­tal for 38 days.

The 42-year-old had 200 frac­tures to her skull.

Des An­zac Ju­nior Ta­rau was found not guilty of at­tempted mur­der for rea­sons of in­san­ity.

Mr Mel­li­can, also a psy­chi­atric nurse, said that ever since the in­ci­dent, it was “dev­as­tat­ing” to hear of an as­sault or one-punch at­tack.

“We can only wish and hope that most of those vic­tims don’t give up hope,” he said.

“For the rel­a­tives and friends, if they can see that some­one like Deb­bie can come out of some­thing like that, they can have hope.”

Mrs Mel­li­can nearly died twice when she was in a coma; twice Mr Mel­li­can ig­nored ad­vice to turn off her life sup­port.

When she fi­nally woke from the coma, she called Mr Mel­li­can by the wrong name.

But when she said the word “eu­topho­ria”, he knew ev­ery­thing would be al­right.

It was the code word they had cre­ated to use if any­thing hap­pened to ei­ther of them.

“It was one of those weird mem­o­ries but it’s when I knew she was back,” he said.

Mrs Mel­li­can suf­fered per­ma­nent dam­age to her sense of taste and smell and her body can­not reg­u­late tem­per­a­ture.

The dam­age to her brain also caused her to start swear­ing.

“Ev­ery sec­ond word I said was ‘f’ or ‘c’ so I put my­self through a pro­gram I put pa­tients through and I man­aged to stop,” Mrs Mel­li­can said.

Th­ese days, Mr Mel­li­can is back work­ing as a psy­chi­atric nurse. Mrs Mel­li­can re­turned to work three years ago for a short while but then de­cided to re­tire.

She keeps her brain ac­tive with cross­words and su­doku.

And de­spite los­ing her sense of taste, Mrs Mel­lica still en­joys cook­ing.

Deb­bie and Kevin Mel­li­can. d472889

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