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
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.
Debbie and Kevin Mellican.