Thoughts with victims
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