Category Archives: testimony

October Four

An Update on An Update

In my last post – Four Months – which was an update on an earlier post – Blackout – I advised that an appointment with a neurologist could come as late as 2017.  Today, within the same week as the first letter, I received another letter confirming an appointment date: October Four.   Fourth of October.  4th of October.  4/10/2016.

That’s a relief, I tell you what.  For me.  And for my family.  A relief for my employer.  And a relief for ACC.  Pending this appointment I might be back behind the wheel of a motor vehicle within a month.  I would like that very much.

 

Four Months

It could take up to four months…

Twelve days ago I had an MVA.  A motor vehicle accident.  I still don’t know quite how it happened, though there is no double about what happened.  I wrote a lengthy blog post about it.  I guess this is a follow-up.

After catching a taxi home yesterday at ACC’s expense – because I am not allowed to drive – I opened a letter.  I knew the letter would be regarding a neurologist appointment that would result in answer the question “So when can I drive again?”

The letter didn’t tell me when the appointment would be except to say that while I was given high priority, it could take up to four months before I saw a neurologist.

No Driving for Mr. Ward

All the paper-work, from GP to ACC, says no driving until such time as I have seen a neurologist. That’s a long time in the scheme of things.  While I appreciate that the appointment could happen a lot sooner than the “up to four months” the letter promises, this takes me into 2017.

Between now and the end of the business year, there are 73 work days.  I am taking taxi’s to and from work.  That’s 146 taxi trips; 146 taxi fares.  It’s about $40 each way.  That’s over $5500 just to get me to and from work.  The blow is softened by the fact that this is at ACC’s expense.

That’s all for now.

Blackout

The Blackout

So last week, Thursday, I was involved in an MVA. MVA is code for Motor Vehicle Accident.

It had been a really good day at work – productive with positive interactions with co-workers. I was dispatched to take some equipment to an operator in the City. I decided at the same time to collect log sheets from others.

On my way back to Drury, I received a call asking me to swing by someone’s house to pick up some equipment. As I left his house I expected a service station to be on the right-hand side of the road, a few clicks ahead. But it wasn’t there. I wasn’t on the road I thought I was – or rather, the road I was on hadn’t morphed into the road I knew the service station to be on. I just wanted something to eat and drink.

I was slightly confused, but not in a way that was of any concern. I adjusted my plans, making my way towards where I was sure there was a supermarket. I couldn’t find a park topside so decided to park in the underground carpark. Easy enough.

I got some food from the supermarket and got back to the vehicle. I remember getting into the vehicle and doing the usual pre-journey things. The next 20 seconds remain a mystery. I simply do not know.

The Bang

I remember the collision. I remember wondering why I had stopped. I remember the van’s cargo shunting around. I remember the engine still running.

Somehow I had left the direction of traffic, crossing the centre line, and ending up colliding with a concrete pillar. There’s a reason it takes specialised diamond blades and high powered machinery to cut concrete. Concrete vs. van. Concrete will win every time.

The BlackoutI couldn’t get out the drivers door. The impact had bent the door shut. I had to climb out the passenger side. Somehow I was able to open the driver’s door from the outside, get back into the vehicle and attempt to move the vehicle out of the line of traffic.

The engine was still running. My intention was to reverse the van into a nearby park – but the van would only steer one way – right. With that being the case, I had to find a space to put the van accessible through a series of right-turns.

I rang my boss, and then I rang Ashley. They came to my rescue. Upon their arrival, I tried to explain my versions of events. I was incoherent, confused, unable to put together a sentence.

Bakersfield Accident and Medical was just around the corner. It was Ashley’s job to take care of me as my boss took care of the badly damaged motor vehicle.

The Mystery

There were several questions that needed answering.

Was the post-collision inability to turn left the cause of the accident, or a result? Upon mechanical inspection, it turned out to be the latter.

Was the memory loss, that 20 second period of time I can’t recall the cause of the accident, or the result? It is this aspect that is of real concern. The real concern is that I experienced a blackout. The blackout, a loss of consciousness, caused me to involuntarily cross the line of traffic and collide with the concrete pillar.

The Blackout

Another aspect of the mystery has to do with the direction of travel.  I was driving away from the underground carpark’s exit.  The reason for this choice in direction is as much a mystery as the blackout, as the cause, as the exact events that lead to the collision.

The Doctors

For the rest of Thursday, I was a progressively unraveling mess.  “Am I going to college/work/book club…?”  I wasn’t going anywhere.  Several phone calls made and received confirmed my incoherence, and heightened the concern that I had had a blackout.

The first doctor I had seen ordered blood tests in an attempt to ascertain why I had had the blackout.  These blood tests came back inconclusive – though did show that I have high cholesterol.   Apart from giving me the day off and asking me to see my GP, that’s about as much help as the first doctor offered.

The second doctor extended my medical certificate, told me to take it easy, prescribed some pain medication, and told me to report back in a weeks time.

Then there was the weekend.  It was okay.  I felt like I had a serious hangover, and struggled to concentrate, focus, balance, etc.  Foolishly I did a bit of driving on both Saturday and Sunday – though on Sunday I could only drive to the destination.  I didn’t feel up to driving back.

Despite medical advice to the contrary, I went to work on Monday.  I had stuff to do.  I quickly realised that this was a mistake and decided to bring the doctors appointment forward.  I left work to see a GP.  Doctor number three.

His concern resulted in an immediate referral to the Emergency Department with the intention on getting me a computed tomography (CT) scan.  The hope was of identifying whether the trauma had resulted in memory loss.

Middlemore Emergency Department

After a 5 hour wait, I saw a Dr who seemed to specialise in the kinds of trauma that brings people into the Emergency Department.   Thorough examination marginalised the probability that the blackout was caused by the trauma.  Having a CT scan under such circumstances carried greater risk (i.e. exposure to radiation) than it would render benefit.

His action plan was to issue a no-driving order, and send me back to the GP.  It was always my plan to go back to the GP, but with CT scan results.  The change involved insisting the GP make a referral to a neurologist.

The underlying reason for a change in trajectory was the concern concerning the blackout.  If it wasn’t trauma induced, then there’s something going on.  This something needs to be attended to as quickly as possible.

So today I will have my fifth doctors appointment.  Let’s see what happens.

cake.

A slow and glad process

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Romans 10:1-3

It’s been written of before.  It being the gap between expression and the realisation of an aspiration.  For, having voiced it, I expected circumstances to be so ordered that it’s reality would happen within a few years.  Again, having written about it before, ended up being at least 5 years before the road’s beginning was lightened up.

It’s a good thing that the universe is not ordered according to my expectations.  I find my own voice in Paul’s assessment of the Israelites.  I had a zeal.  And this zeal was palpable.  And, I thought, this zeal was something that ought to be repeated in others.

a slow and glad process

Zeal

Rather than the life-giving light of the sun, my zeal was like an inefficient light bulb.  More heat than light.  Artificial light at best.

Developments in technology bring the advent of more efficient forms of domestic, commercial, and industrial lighting.  Such development is certainly less taxing on consumers.

To this kind of zeal, something had to be added.  And that something was knowledge.

My zeal, like the zeal of the Israelites, was ignorance.  It was zeal without knowledge.

The continuing delay between expression and realisation is the context for a slow and glad process.  This process is the assimilation and appropriation of knowledge.  But this is far more than the expansion of intellectual capacity and content.  Rather, this acquisition of knowledge has been formative.

In words written to Titus, Paul speaks of a knowledge of the truth that accords (or leads to) godliness.  Such knowledge is dynamic in the sense that dynamite has power to change.

It seemed that zeal + knowledge over time would lead to an ever-increasing ministry of light into darkness.

This process is ongoing.  There are still classes to take, assignments to write, and hoops of fire which need passing through.  This in the context of a life characterised by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

A slow and glad process

This thing that some might call ministry preparation has taken many more times longer than I had initially thought.  But I, and those who know me, we are glad.  We are glad that no ecclesiastic body so foolish so as to unleash me on those committed to their charge.

With an ignorant zeal, I would burn victims rather than guide pilgrims.  Without formative knowledge that accords with godliness, I would remain a blind leader of the blind.

But praise be to God that He has opened my eyes.

For the unfolding of His word gives light.  (Psalm 119:130)

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

I wrote this back in 2012 for an online magazine – The Life Times.

Double Minded

No one ever said that mental illness and sound-mindedness were complementary.

On the contrary, James 1:8 tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Is it therefore a surprise to learn that at the age of 16 my first attempted suicide came as I tried to strangle myself?

Was I the only one who didn’t realise that self-strangulation is impossible? Did I not realise that as soon as there is unconsciousness through lack of oxygen to the brain that the grip I had around my neck would be released?

A Diagnosis?

Two years into the struggle with depression I was diagnosed with some ambiguous mood swing disorder. I wasn’t medicated but I did sit through several hours worth of counselling which actually made me feel worse about myself and the world in which I lived. I don’t know if this was passed on to me genetically, but there is a history of mental illness in my family to the point that my uncle committed suicide in his 40’s.

I grew up without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).

I knew nothing about being created in the image of God and having inherent value and worth.

I thought worth came through what you did, and because I didn’t do anything spectacular with my youth (wasn’t smart, wasn’t athletic, wasn’t creative), I felt that I had no such worth. What’s more, the only mantra I learned was “Do what makes you happy”.

The problem with that is that I had no idea what happiness was or how to achieve it on a consistent basis.

My family was broken—my father an adulterer, a drug addict with bipolar; my mother was caught up in a victim mentality and some warped new age view of the world. This meant I had no sense of purpose or direction. I didn’t have anyone telling me how to live, how to be a man, how to love others, or what kind of career I should pursue.

Studying Business

This all came to a head as I was studying business, having left school at the end of 6th form (year 12). I was interested in what I was studying but had no idea how it related to a real world career. I was involved with drugs and pornography and was incredibly lonely.

Depression wasn’t just something I felt now and then, it was a constant companion. No sense of worth or purpose, drugs and pornography, persistent depression —these factors seldom drive anyone to be studious and so when it came to exam time, I had little hope of success and at that time, every reason to bail out on life.

It was at this point where I did something that was totally foreign to my background and the course mental illness had taken me on. As I was walking to an exam, I cried out to God (at this stage I identified myself as atheist) and prayed the “God if you’re real” prayer.

The Ultimatum

I gave God an ultimatum that unless I did well on that exam, I would bail out on life (I’d do it properly this time).

Do you know what it’s like to get a B when you’ve only ever had D’s and C’s? Apart from the grace of God, I have no idea how I was awarded this mark as it wasn’t that I had just scrapped in.

Over the next few months I began exploring what it meant that there was a God. I found a bible, I started to pray, I even attended church. I began to realise that I was made in the image of God and that by virtue of the fact.

I had inherent worth—independent of my performance. In addition to that, I had a definite purpose—as defined by God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10).

The Ongoing Struggle

As a Christian, I have continued to struggle with mental illness. There have been dark nights of the soul where I have considered and even attempted to take my own life.

One occasion that stands out happened as I was living in an 11-storey apartment building in downtown Wellington. I was unemployed, hungry, cold, and lonely. I hadn’t quite kicked the drug habit and so I was vulnerable to the attacks of the thief who never lays siege to our strengths, but only ever our weaknesses. I heard him say “You’re a loser, you’re a loser” over and over again. So if I had lost everything, what else was there to lose?

I climbed over the balcony rails and was holding on, hanging off the 7th storey balcony. I was ready to let go when I felt what I can only describe as a surge of supernatural energy and before I realising what was happening, I was back in my room, standing on the floor.

Since Wellington

Nearly 10 years has passed since that night in Wellington.

Since then I have had some very low points in my life but the same power that put me back in my room has kept me from falling prey to the lies, schemes and fiery arrows of the thief.

As I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death (sometimes more dark and deep than others), I have experienced the sufficiency of God’s grace as He’s used the circumstances of an ambiguous mood swing disorder to humble me and grow my dependency on Him for the things I lack in myself.

His joy is my strength; I rejoice in Him; He is my hope and my salvation.

Darkness

Darkness has Descended

Poem for July’s First 8 Days of Daily Prompt

Forbidden Darkness

 

New Zealand Nurse Changes Her Mind about Euthanasia

I’m a NZ nurse who used to support euthanasia, but what I’ve seen has changed my mind

I’m a registered nurse, of admittedly only a short career of seven years. I worked for three years in the hospital wing of a rest home as I studied, and since graduation I have worked in various hospitals around the country.

When I began this career path I was on the fence about the issue of assisted-suicide and euthanasia. As a practising Catholic it was never a choice that I would make for myself, but I felt I could not in conscience deny others, who did not share my beliefs, this supposed ‘right’.

Yet, frighteningly, it did not take long for my opinion to completely change based on events I witnessed.

There was the family that stood in the corridor of a very busy ward and argued about why the individual who held power of attorney was wasting everyone’s time by requesting medical staff keep the patient alive, and that they instead needed to refuse treatment and let nature take its course otherwise, on discharge, the patient would have to go into care and that would eat into their inheritance.

What was this horrible disease that was stripping this individual of their dignity?

A chest infection, which was responding well to intravenous antibiotics.

Then there was the case of the elderly patient who suffered a stroke, nothing too serious, and they started to recover – they were actually a little more peppy, their quality of life rallying. However, the frustrations of adult children and a tired spouse resulted in this patient being placed on a morphine pump. They were dead within a week. While I was only a witness to this situation and obviously didn’t have the full story, to this day I doubt very much the patient was aware of their impending fate.

There was another patient, who, other than being elderly and frail, had no significant co-morbidities and was not in any way terminally unwell. They were not suffering from disease effecting cognition or memory, and they certainly weren’t in any pain.

Yet the choice was made by family, in conjunction with medical staff, to install the morphine pump under the official assumption that a cererbal event had taken place. Again, dead within a week. Again, the patient’s knowledge of this decision was questionable.

There’s been countless family members who tell me that the patient is no longer their parent, their spouse, their sibling, that they’re dead inside, and could I please just give them more morphine to hurry things up a bit.

Then there’s the recent media attention over the practice of “granny dumping”.

This is where a family, for whatever reason (usually frivolous), dumps their elderly relative at the emergency department so they can take off on an overseas holiday, or because they just can’t be bothered checking in on them over a long weekend.

I once overheard a family member tell their hospitalised relative to inform staff that they were experiencing chest pains so that they could remain in hospital in order that the healthy family member wouldn’t miss their flight to Fiji.

I have found myself comforting many elderly patients who, through heaving sobs, recount their belief that they are a burden on their families, that they’d be better off dead, that they are cutting into their family’s inheritance, that they are of no more use to anyone, or that they are a constant nuisance on myself and my colleagues.

They often relate their desire to die as if it was their own idea, free of duress and the heartache of abandonment by those closest to them, yet their body language betrays them and tells a completely different story about what is really going on.

Sometimes it appears as if the family’s desire for their hospitalised relative to pass is driven more by their own fears around illness, death and a powerful aversion to suffering, or even being around those whose suffering cannot be quickly resolved.

Then there’s the family members who have absolutely no shame in admitting they want their relative dead.

I had a family member even ask me once if I could just cut the fingers off a deceased relative in order to remove the expensive rings.

I have heard similar comments made more than once, and it was never in jest.

People in support of euthanasia speak of fear mongering by those in opposition to a law change, and that with adequate safeguards we can ensure the system is not abused.

The media bombards us with tragic stories of intelligent, beautiful people with terrible diseases seeking legal recourse to have a doctor kill them. We are shown images of these dying people from better, healthier days – stunning wedding photos, exotic holiday shots, a happy family celebrating a graduation.

These stories are all very well and good, and I empathise with them – I have seen people die utterly awful deaths due to delays in initiation of palliation. I know what these people could face if the system fails them.

Yet they have networks of friends who support them, family who love them, and oftentimes celebrities and high profile pro-euthanasia groups getting behind them with funding and public relations campaigns designed to change the law.

The problem though is that their personalities and their photogenic natures are usurping intelligent debate about this very serious life-and-death issue.

And these slick, cleverly marketed, and highly emotive PR campaigns aimed at trying to legalise assisted-suicide are also distracting attention away from the truly vulnerable people in this debate – the elderly widow with a lot of money and a touch of dementia, the adult with Downs Syndrome whose parents are now dead, the old man with cancer who is estranged from his children while a grandchild wants his property, the lonely schizophrenic with a history of self-harm.

Furthermore, a lot of what appears in the media presenting the pro-euthanasia view is very disingenuous.

I have never worked in palliative care, but I have been a part of the process for patients outside of a hospice setting, and there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it actually is. A patient is not just dumped in some cold bed in a creepy old house with a grumpy nurse who chucks a few paracetamols at them from time-to-time, while they wither away and die in agony wallowing in their own faeces.

With palliative care there is a beautiful attention to holistic nursing, a consideration of the entire person, their symptom management, and a care that encourages involvement from their Whanau and friends.

Likewise, some articles present the concept that assisting a terminally ill patient with powerful analgesics is somehow euthanasia when it is definitely not. Instead it is morally legitimate and a part of good disease management to ensure a terminally ill patient is provided with adequate pain relief.

There may come a time when those medications are increased in dose to combat the discomfort, with the unintended side effect of the patient drifting into deep sleep and then into death, but this is not euthanasia, it is not unethical and it is definitely not illegal in New Zealand.

There is not so much a reasoned debate going on as there is just a slew of stories and slogans designed to tug at the heart, to illicit sympathy and stir in us an emotional desire to demand death from our doctors for these beautiful people.

But what about the elderly? The mentally disordered? Those with intellectual and physical special needs? The lonely? The poor?

What will they get out of all of this? Humanity has gone down this road before, it didn’t end well.

There’s a saying: hard cases make bad laws.

To those who support euthanasia, please do the research, please look into the danger that your support for euthanasia presents to the truly vulnerable. Please look into the wonderful work being done by palliative health care professionals in New Zealand.

As I reflect on the many instances of heartlessness that I have seen over my career, it strikes me that there’s no predictive formula for abuse. It cuts across all demographics, all areas of life, all diseases and disabilities.

My experience tells me that there can never be any sort of effective safeguard written into an assisted-suicide law that will ever give protection to the most vulnerable members of our community.

That’s why we need to focus our efforts on ensuring that people live with dignity whilst dying, as well as ensuring that they are afforded care and protection when they are at their weakest by medical professionals who have been encouraged by the state to uphold life and it’s inherent sanctity.

Exclusive article cross-posted from The Leading Edge blog.

New Zealand Nurse Changes Her Mind about Euthanasia

Beehive Sails

Wellington vs Auckland – Beehive Sails

Invercargill had not been my only home.  In 2002, I moved to Wellington, where I lived for 7 months.  But I had done so alone and with little.

Moving to Auckland would mean the need to establish a home for myself and my family.  By this stage, we were three.  Benjamin would be born a couple months after our arrival in Auckland.  We wanted to be settled well before then.

We sold most of our earthly goods in order to finance our move to Auckland and our subsequent need to establish a home.

It was after staying with Ashley’s dad for a few weeks before we signed a tenancy agreement.  The rental market in Auckland is a hard market to be in.  We have times where we would ring a rental manager in the morning, to view a property in the next few hours.  By the time we got there to have a look, the listing had been filled.

Despite the fact that we had moved around a bit while living in Invercargill, we never had to house-hunt with haste or hassle.

beehive sails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In This Series

  1. The IRD was a Pain in the Back
  2. Aspiration
  3. Study
  4. Behive Sails

 

 

4.

3.

2. http://www.brendonward.org/aspiration/

1. http://www.brendonward.org/ird-pain-back/

 

Beginning to Study

Study

So I started studying at Grace Theological College, with Andrew Young, at Wyndham Evangelical Church – a half hour drive through the countryside from my house.

That continued for two years.  2010.  2011.  Then Andrew Young packed up and moved to Auckland.  In a sense, Andrew was the College in Wyndham.  Without Andrew, there was no College in Wyndham.

Years earlier, before meeting Ashley, who was born and was living in Auckland – I had vowed never to even set foot in the city.  If I was to continue my studies with Grace Theological College, I would have to follow Andrew.  This meant the need to relocate… to Auckland.

study

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In This Series

  1. The IRD was a Pain in the Back
  2. Aspiration
  3. Study
  4. Behive Sails

Aspiration

Aspiration

It was probably about six years ago that I first gave voice to my now held aspirations.  The question to “What do you want to do with your life?” was met by an expressed desire to pursue vocational ministry.

aspiration

Part of my story has to do with the various church (and pseudo-church) settings that I went on to be involved with.  Part of that story has to do with the fact that I was never sure that this group could even facilitate what I knew then was essential training.  Whether there was a place for a trained me to serve was thought of with even greater uncertainty.

I had been lead to a church where those uncertainties began to unpack and dissolve.  Here was a church that took the Bible seriously.  Here was a church whose commitment was reflected in every aspect of its public worship.

Here was a place that, though still quite infantile, had a suggested path between expressed desire and fulfilled desire insofar as it concerned my pastoral ministry aspirations.

But there was a problem.  I had to work.  There was no way I could have lived off of a student allowance.  And besides, I didn’t qualify for a student allowance, nor was it possible to receive one while studying through the college that lay along the path that had been opened up to me.

Medical retirement meant I would be able to receive financial compensation on account of my back injury.  This was especially the case as the job that I had changed to did nothing to make my pain less, or the problem better.

The Road Less Traveled

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forbidden

In This Series

  1. The IRD was a Pain in the Back
  2. Aspiration
  3. Study
  4. Behive Sails

The IRD was a Pain in the Back

I had hurt my back before I even started working there. My thinking was that a job change would somehow fix the problem.

Unknown to me at the time of job search and transition was the reality that sitting down all day is not a chiropractic recommendation.  Sitting added pressure to my spine. The sedentary nature of the job, the availability of junk food, and my own lack of self-control resulted in weight gain.  Such gains added additional pressure to my already sore back.

The sedentary nature of the job, the availability of junk food, and my own lack of self-control resulted in weight gain.  Such gains added additional pressure to my already sore back.

And so, at the age of 25, I was made redundant, though medical redundancy was what it was officially called.

How Did It Happen?

I had been working at Mitre 10, in Invercargill, since 2003.  In my three-and-a-bit years there, I had worked in a variety of roles.  In 2007, I was helping to put together some displays in the Seasonal area.

It was moving into winter.  Winter means Mitre 10 focuses its seasonal selling on heating.  One such product was a free standing fire place.

Putting together a free standing fire display involved lifting one from a pallet into position.

I did the lift right in terms of technique.  But it was just too heavy.  The resulting damage was a lacerated disc in my lower back.  Sadly though, it was a long time between when I had sustained the injury and when I had that confirmed by way of MRI.

back-injury

Not knowing in those early days what had really happened to my back meant that I didn’t get the most appropriate treatment.  No surprise the pain did not go away despite some fairly intensive physiotherapy.

The Road Less Traveled

forbidden

In This Series

  1. The IRD was a Pain in the Back
  2. Aspiration
  3. Study
  4. Behive Sails

for posterity