You are 28.
Married 4 years.
No babies yet?
Your mum’s bursting with unspoken questions.
The answer arrives finally.
A perfectly miraculous baby.
Born to you, so ordinary.
He’s way beyond your dreams.
Your life’s now embellished.
He’s much loved and cherished.
First grandson on both sides.
That smile! Those cackles!
Those big bright brown eyes!
He can’t wait to grow up.
As if in a big hurry,
He rushes into walking, talking.
Loving mangoes and chicken curry.
You work hard for your family.
That’s the way you’ve learnt to be.
From the life of your Papa and Mummy.
So many new houses, schools and friends.
So many new towns, cities and trends.
He takes all of them in his stride.
Builds up a repertoire of languages
from far and wide.
He learns to play the drums
Lovely unfamiliar melodies he hums.
Spinning red cricket balls on summer afternoons.
Reveling at night to heavy rock tunes.
You split your sides
with his impressions of accents
and caricatures of the brown, the black,
the yellow and the white.
Paul Choudhary and Russell Peter.
He loves their comedy.
Their lines he recites to perfection
At every opportunity.
Two things delight him most – friends and food.
Stars at GCSEs and A levels come easy.
He’s quiet the dude.
Uni takes him away to Durham.
You miss his laugh, his wit and his hum.
You find it painful to cook for one.
And long for his cocktail –
The old-fashioned rum.
Two years go by.
You think you are learning to comply.
The holidays come by.
Each and every moment you enjoy.
One day his closest friend, Hugo calls to say,
“The guy I’ve known most of my life?
Saagar is not that guy.”
The summer soon turns scary.
You find yourselves in A&E.
His laughter replaced with
Anger and paranoia.
The Liason Psychiatrist calls it ‘hypomania’.
He starts him on ‘Olanzepine’.
Puts him under the Home Treatment Team.
They keep you well out of the scheme.
They know what’s best for him.
Two weeks pass.
He responds well to the pill.
He’s told he has Bipolar Disorder.
You’re told nothing. Nil.
As his mood returns to somewhat normal,
He wants to return to University.
He is discharged to your GP.
The GP receives a discharge letter.
With no diagnosis.
No mention of signs of getting worse
No list of warning signs.
No safety plans or designs.
He’s just another number to quote.
A delivery note. Completed in rote.
He went back to Uni but just for 2 days.
His mood slumped.
He is too quiet. You are stumped.
At the next visit to the GP
You describe his sadness.
You are weepy.
Then you hear the wise doc say
Take more pills, Citalopram and go away.
In 3 or 4 weeks
They will start to play.
Rome was not built in one day.
“Would you please refer him back to the psychiatrists? You plead.
“They will do exactly what I am doing.” Says he.
“This is not the first time I’m treating someone like this.”
Take this slip please.
You remember the look on his face.
It’s now clear
As if in front of you right here.
The lines you thought were concern,
As advised, you go for walks and have a routine.
Weekly CBT, daily gym, nice food and TV.
Multiple episodes of ‘Office’ and ‘Friends’
Didn’t bring about any upward trends.
He is but a hollow shell.
You don’t know what to do.
Who to tell?
This is your NHS.
It’s honest and good.
You know it.
May be waiting is the best thing to do.
If they say he’ll get better
It must be true.
One Thursday afternoon you return from work.
An A4 sheet lies flat on the fourth step from the door
“Sorry. I can’t take this any more.”
The hand writing unmistakable.
The implications unthinkable.
A dash upstairs. Screaming his name.
A call to 999.
He’s only a child. A sweet child.
And he’s not well.
Surely they’ll find him.
All will be swell.
Standing bare feet
in the middle of the street
A festival of autumn all around me
Red, orange, ochre and green.
A car pulls up in front of our house.
Two uniformed men with his
Keys and wallet … talk about
Brown skin …
Grey hoody with a penguin …
No one said anything about death or suicide
What was there to hide?
10 weeks from the first hospital visit.
2 days from the last GP visit.
Later you find out they knew.
But they didn’t tell you.
And they didn’t know what to do.
They sent him home with you.
They call it ‘Care in the community’.
Do we know the difference between
Treatment and care?
If this is your community,
What a pity!
These are your colleagues.
You trust them implicitly.
With your baby.
Like they would have trusted me.
I grieve for his guilt,
His shame, his self-blame.
Him. All alone. Forlorn.
His quiet desperation.
His terror. His fright.
Night after night.
Behind a hood.
No one should have to suffer so.
“To be or not to be”
That comes up for me.
Time goes round and round pointlessly
Never too far from complete insanity.
Oh! The finality.
I wonder if this is a movie or reality?
The official investigation says
everything was 'thorough and reasonable'
despite all the missing bits and
complete lack of clarity.
The doctor stands up in Coroner’s court
and announces boldly
“Suicides are not predictable or preventable.”
I shudder in disbelief. Here stands a lay person.
The only one who could have helped.
I marvel at Saagar for staying alive
for as long as he did.
The Coroner sees the gaping holes
that swallowed him alive.
Same old themes.
Listening to understand.
Closing the loop.
Meaningful sharing of information.
She asked the Service Improvement manager of the distinguished Mental hospital what he would do to make things better.
He said he would discuss it at the next Business meeting and then spewed such jargon that I could have puked all over the floor of that spotless court room.
I meet with other parents of deep loss.
Story upon story of utter tragedy.
Avoidable, preventable travesty.
Immense outrage and consternation.
Let’s start afresh with compassion.
They say when something good happens, learn.
When something bad happens, learn.
At a random conference, over coffee,
I shared Saagar’s story
with a seasoned doctor of Psychiatry.
He said plainly
”This has been happening as far back as my memory ... ”
I read somewhere:
The opposite of love in not hate.
The opposite of art is not ugliness.
The opposite of faith is not heresy.
The opposite of life is not death.
I questioned everything about me.
Every decision, every word spoken, unspoken.
Every move. Every choice.
I even questioned our love.
But I learnt.
I learnt to write. To speak.
I learnt that there is no ‘they’ or ‘thee’
No ‘you’ and ‘me’.
There is no other.
It’s just ‘us’ and ‘we’.
Saagar was our future. Our own. Our community.
Despite everything, I’m learning to love me.
Did the others learn anything?
Did my son, your son die of nothing. For nothing?
No. There is a Saagar shaped hole in my heart.
There is an Ed shaped hole in the NHS.
There is a James shaped hole in A&E.
At least seven thousand and fifty
more holes in the world since Saagar.
There are too many holes in this net.
In fact, there is no net.
So, one and all, Mind the Gaps.
And let’s please begin
To close them in.
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