Long road to re­cov­ery

In 2004, Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group fea­tured Deb­bie Free­man and her part­ner Kevin Mel­li­can nearly four months af­ter she was at­tacked by a men­tal health out­pa­tient. They were get­ting mar­ried later that year. Thir­teen years later, the cou­ple are still stoppe

Southern Gazette (Belmont) - - FRONT PAGE - Denise S Cahill

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

The Bel­mont cou­ple 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 then 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 but 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 ever hap­pened to ei­ther of them.

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

The cou­ple used their own men­tal health knowl­edge and train­ing dur­ing Mrs Mel­li­can’s re­cov­ery but the per­ma­nent dam­age in­cludes loss of taste and smell and her body can not 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.

“Men­tally I re­lied on Kevin be­cause with his years of ex­pe­ri­ence he was able to set me on the right track.”

The Mel­li­cans met when they worked to­gether at Gray­lands Hospi­tal in 1996, liv­ing in the west­ern sub­urbs be­fore get­ting jobs at the former Swan Dis­trict Hospi­tal in 1999.

They bought their first house to­gether in Bel­mont in 2002 with plans to ren­o­vate but even­tu­ally knocked it over and re­built be­cause the house was not suit­able for Mrs Mel­li­can’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

These days, Mr Mel­li­can is back work­ing as a psy­chi­atric nurse and de­spite re­turn­ing to work three years ago for a short pe­riod, his wife de­cided to re­tire and keeps her brain ac­tive with cross­words and sudoku.

De­spite los­ing her sense of taste, Mrs Mel­li­can en­joys cook­ing.

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d472889

Deb­bie and Kevin Mel­li­can.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.