By Pippin Latham (They/Them)
Content warning: Mentions of suicidal ideation and descriptions of restrictive practices in hospitals.
Don’t “Forget” the Wheelchair
I have been admitted to hospital numerous times in Melbourne, usually by ambulance, for my temporal lobe epilepsy and more than once for attempted suicide.
EMTs have, on multiple occasions, refused to bring my wheelchair.
I can move without it, but it’s painful. Without it, I could not go to the bathroom without the help of a nurse pushing me in a hospital wheelchair (hospital wheelchairs are objectively The Worst). The nurse would have to wait outside the whole time. Being pushed around when not requesting it is, as you might imagine, a dehumanising experience, and a complete denial of my autonomy as a wheelchair user.
Luckily, I kicked up enough of a fuss that they agreed to send another vehicle to my home to pick up my wheelchair. I am aware that many do not have the energy or self-advocacy to do this.
Who Committed Assault?
One time, at the same hospital, I self-admitted with intense suicidal urges.
While in the ward, I had a seizure (a thing that happens when you have temporal lobe epilepsy). The nurses appeared not to notice the convulsions.
Unable to speak or understand what they were saying, I panicked and retreated under the hospital bed.
I remember being told there wasn’t anything wrong with me – I was fine five minutes ago. I was being dramatic and selfish – they needed the bed for other patients.
A nurse tried to touch me.
I hissed at her.
She tried to move me.
I told her to stop.
She attempted to restrain me.
I tried to bite her hand to get it off my shoulder.
She did not stop.
I hit her arm … I think … I can’t remember clearly.
I know I was dragged out of there by a security guard, through a waiting room, while onlookers stared.
I was still actively at risk for both seizures and self-harm.
The latter resulted in self-injury.
I don’t know why they deemed me safe to go home; why they didn’t believe me when I said I had a seizure (it’s right there in my file that I have seizures regularly); why I was left alone, unable to communicate, in a hospital emergency waiting room, crying, unable to call my mum to tell her I was alive.
I don’t know why they don’t believe disabled people when we talk.
I don’t know the name of the nurse who charged me with aggravated assault.
I do know that I now can’t get a Working with Children Check.
“Why do I always get the crazy ones?”
I once had an hallucinogenic episode. I was screaming. My neighbours had alerted the police. Two officers knocked on my door, and my housemate answered. I was hiding under the bed, having had a history of traumatic experiences with police.
They called me childish for not being able to coherently talk, used ableist slurs amongst themselves (“Why do I always get the crazy ones?”), and continually misgendered me, despite my housemate’s corrections.
I was deemed a risk to myself and forced by a mixture of Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria EMTs to the hospital, where I was strapped to a bed by four doctors who didn’t introduce themselves as they loomed above me.
They held down my leg and injected me with something that knocked me out while all I could do was cry.
I still do not know their names, or what they forcibly injected me with. My medical records from that day hold no detail beyond me being admitted and released.
There is more I could talk about, but there are not enough words. Not enough words in this article, and not enough words in existence to express the guttural anger and desperation I feel about our broken healthcare system and the way it treats disabled and mentally ill people.
Thank you for reading.
Pippin Latham is an autistic, mentally ill, transgender wheelchair user – and possibly a cryptid. Their bread and butter is sex work, with occasional flits into performance art, spoken word and theatre under the name Pippin the Stripping Cripple. They ask you to be kind, as this is their first published blog post.
If you feel impacted by anything you have read here, remember you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
You can also call the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468. This service is set up specifically to support people impacted by anything related to the Disability Royal Commission.