Monday, February 04, 2002

I am very glad to be able to write this today. If things had gone a little differently on the weekend I might not have been so lucky.

I have become a victim of violent crime. I hate that word victim; it makes me feel weak, vulnerable. So lets try that again; I am a survivor of violent crime.

The short version:

I was mugged and stabbed and have spent the weekend in ER, then Ward 2 West of Sydney Hospital. I underwent surgery on Saturday night and returned to Canberra last night. The nightmares and flashbacks continue.

The long version:

This will read a little differently to my normal style; it's almost word for word the statement I gave to Detectives yesterday - the dialogue is verbatim. I fell back into my QPS/Uni mode for this and the D's were really pleased to have a coherent and cooperative person to talk to - Redfern LAC is a pretty rough area & they have to deal with shitbags 24/7.

On Saturday morning I got an Explorer train from Canberra to Sydney. The train got into Sydney Central at about 10:50am. I called my mate Ben, had a chat & bought a ticket to Kogerah and headed to platform 25 as he'd suggested.

At about 11.02am I stopped for about 30 seconds to check the timetable at the information screens in the tunnel. I remember the time as the screens displayed "Next train on the Sutherland Line departs at 11.11am" and "Next train in 9 minutes" in a big pink font. I began to walk down toward platform 25. About 2 metres from the screens I turned & noticed a thin pale girl harassing an Asian woman for money. I heard the girl say "C'mon haven't you got anything? You must have some cash". I felt sorry for her (the Asian woman), but kept walking. I stopped at the small newsstand, picked up The Weekend Australian and went down the stairs, through the ticket gates and down the escalators to platform 25.

At the bottom of the escalators, I turned to my left and walked down to the end of the platform from which the train would be arriving. I still had just over five minutes to wait, so I opened up the magazine insert & flipped to the horoscopes for a chuckle. Sitting there flicking through the magazine, I looked up a couple of times to people watch the others on the platform. This would become advantageous.

Tip 1: Keep your eyes open, notice things

To my right, standing next to the escalators about 10 metres away I noticed a well-built man of aboriginal extraction talking to someone. I couldn't see who he was talking to, but they had a white top on. He then walked along the platform in front of me & stood facing the approach-tunnel close to the yellow line. He had a large black vine-like tattoo that wound up around his left leg between his ankle and knee. I went back to reading the paper, and heard a female voice behind me (moving from my right to my left) say something (I don't recall what) to the guy that got his attention. It was the same girl who I'd noticed harassing the Asian woman upstairs in the tunnel, and her tone was more agitated, more restless than before.

Tip 2: Always sit near somebody else

The train came into Sydney Central. I folded up my paper, put it under my arm, put my grey backpack on my right shoulder and picked up my brown weekend bag with my left. I got onto the last or second-last carriage and went down the stairs (Sydney trains have an upstairs and downstairs compartments). Big mistake; the only other people on the carriage were getting off. I sat down on the second three-person seat from the front (on the platform side). I had my backpack on my right and my brown weekend bag on my left.

I looked out of the window (to my right) & saw legs in black pants. Her feet were at my eye level. The girl then bent over and looked at me through the window. Same girl again. She came on to the train, down the stairs and stood next to my seat in the aisle. "You got any money?". I replied "No, I've just used the last of my cash to buy this train ticket". She said "Well what's in the bags then?" and grabbed my brown weekend bag and started to lift it up. I grabbed it with my left hand & told her "Just clothes, there's only clothes in here.". She took a step in front of me and lent over the brown bag and myself and with her left hand attempted to grab hold of my backpack by one of the shoulders straps, turned towards me and spat "Just fucking gimme something!". She stood back up as I said "I don't have anything for you, I'm sorry, I just don't have anything for you.". During this conversation the train started to depart Central station.

She turned and walked down the aisle behind me approximately four rows. I turned to my left to watch her and it was then that I noticed the man I'd seen earlier on the platform (with the tattoo) was standing four rows back in the aisle facing me. He said to the girl "Don't worry" and then mumbled something else. Then I distinctively heard him say "Next station". This was the last time I saw the girl. I turned back, put my backpack down between my feet on the ground and continued reading the paper.

In every other encounter of the junkie kind I've ever had in Brisbane or Canberra, when you tell 'em you're not giving them anything they give up & move on; not these two.

Tip 3: Always keep $5 in your pocket to give to them to distract them from the actual valuables

As we came into Redfern station and the train started to slow down the guy came at me from behind and blitzed me from my rear-left. "Give me you stuff or I'm gonna fucking kill you". I swivelled to my left whilst still seated and slid back until my back was pressed against the window. I did this because he was jabbing at my abdomen and I thought he had a syringe. With his left hand he grabbed the top handle of my backpack (still on the ground). As he lifted it up I grabbed the top handle of the backpack with my right hand (instinctively - I wasn't thinking "Oh gee, I'd better grab that"). As I did this he swung down with his right hand toward my right hand. He slashed my right hand between my thumb knuckle and wrist. Needless to say it was extremely painful. I immediately released the backpack (another instinctual response, not wanting to see where he'd slash next); he grabbed it and ran off the train at Redfern Station. I didn't see where he went, I was too busy looking down at the wound which by now was oozing shitloads of blood. The wound was about 6 or 7 cm long and 2cm wide at its' widest point. Deep? I could see the bones in my hand.

I immediately put pressure on it with my left hand and slid down the seat into the aisle & called to another passenger who'd been sitting in the middle-level entrance/exit of the carriage "Call security!". He looked at me with the "what?" look so I yelled "For gods sake call security I'm bleeding out here!". He then called out to a conductor & came down to help me (for which I will be forever grateful). He got into my weekend back after asking for something to stop the bleeding with; I'd told him to get my blue towel - he wrapped that around my hand, kept pressure on it & kept it elevated. An Indian man also came to help me; he got a tshirt & some shorts & put them under my head so I could lay back. The conductor with the white flag then returned with some railway officials who were on their two-way radios. One asked me to move off the train as the Police and Ambulance people were en route.

They all helped me to a seat on the platform, and someone had grabbed my bag for me. I initially spoke to a uniform constable and gave him a description of the couple, the sequence of events and a list of items stolen. They looked surprised, probably because as soon as they were taking out their notebooks I was giving them detailed descriptions faster than they could write - I was afraid I was going to pass out and I wanted to get all the details to them before I did (too much time around cops I guess - I've worked at Qld Police Service HQ and almost all my uni colleagues are now state or federal cops, so I knew what they needed). I guess they were expecting an incoherent hysterical person blubbering "It all happened so fast" or something like that.

Thank god for the Ambulance Services

When the Ambo's arrived they wrapped up the wound and helped me upstairs to the ambulance, told me they were taking me to Sydney Hospital as it was the best place in town for matters requiring hand microsurgery. They also whacked a drip-line thingy in my left hand so that the hospital could connect bags of saline or antibiotic if need be. Then Tracey (the ambo in the back with me) gave me a funky green whistle-looking thing which turned out to be an oral anaesthetic that gave me one hell of a headspin. Tracey asked me how I felt & I replied "This must be what Mr Mackey feels like".

The ER

I spent most of the day in the emergency area of Sydney Hospital. I gave more details to some uniform officers who came to visit & just basically laid around talking to the nurses and the very cute Doctor Romy (Romey?), but promised not to make any High School Reunion jokes, for which she thanked me. This was when I began to come out of the numb shock and fight-or-flight adrenaline-run response and into the retrospective mode. It all came back. I started hyperventilating and shaking. You see, during the time I was pulled off the train, into the ambulance and my first few hours at ER I hadn't remembered all the details. Now I was having vivid flashbacks and remembered the guy saying "I'm going to kill you". There was hyperventilating, there was shaking, there were tears. I talked to one of the nurses about how she'd been attacked & how she'd worked through it & calmed down with some more painkillers.

I had to wait a couple of hours for the hand registrar (?) & realised that I no-one would know where I was. The cops had called home in Brisbane, but Ben was still waiting for me to call to meet at Kogarah station. I couldn't use my phone in the room so I went outside (there weren't any monitors, there was just no reception). I checked my voicemail & laughed when Ben's two messages were "Has the train derailed?" and "There are bodies all over the tracks!", so I called him up & told him, had a chat & said I'd call back when I'd talked to the specialist to see if I'd have to stay in overnight & have surgery. I then talked to Dad at home & then Ms S who was in town & sent a message to Bob in Canberra who'd cut out when he called about some sms messages from our night out the previous night - I told them all the same things - basically fine except for the hand wound, in shock, may have to stay in overnight for surgery, will call back later. Had a good long chat to Mick, Ms A, and Kelly who were really good & kept me distracted for a while.

Sometime mid-afternoon I was doped up on more painkillers an a tetanus shot (ouch!) & managed to have a short sleep. Woke up after more flashbacks. Thankfully then the Registrar showed up. He undressed the wound and had a look. Pain? Oh yes please, please give me some more. Did I have a neon sign on my forehead? No. The specialist had to actually open the wound up to have a look inside. I looked and was almost sick - lots of blood, lots of bone. I was writhing around - it really really hurt.

Aside 1

I'd slept through my alarm that morning and in my rush to get dressed the thought "Hey what's the big deal with clean underwear anyway?" popped into my head as I ferreted around in my clean laundry basket. (I did wear clean underwear incidentally) I didn't remember this until I was bent over getting Hepatitis shots in the butt, & it amused me in a funny-coincidence-combined-with-drugs sort of way as I realised that this was why people worried about clean underwear everyday.

Nurse Sarah then redressed my wound & I was given a hospital gown to change into; all my blood-soaked clothes were put in a big pink plastic bag & kept with my other bag. The specialist said I had to have surgery and that the theatre roster was pretty full, so I'd either have surgery late Saturday night or Sunday morning. The thought of going under general anaesthetic was a bit scary to be honest. They gave me a couple of pethidine injections in the butt (right side this time), and wheeled me up to the ward.

Ward 2 West

I was met in the ward by Nurse Sue. Sue was very friendly. I chatted to the other guys in the room with me for a while. One guy had his wife visiting - it was good to talk to them; he'd sliced off the top of his middle finger (can't remember which hand tho) in a concrete mixer accident. I'd told people not to come in earlier as I didn't want anyone to go to any trouble in the assumption that I'd be stitched up and released from the ER. By the time I was in the ward things were starting to happen so fast I didn't have a chance to call anyone in before I was doped up & being prepared for surgery. I don't remember much from Saturday night.

The Block

As part of my prep for theatre, I was wheeled into a room to talk to an anesthesiologist. The ran me through my two options:
1 - go under general and have a breathing tube forced down into my voicebox;
2 - the 'block' - an injection under my arm would stop me feeling anything in my whole right arm. I would stay awake but would have other relaxant drugs administered. No tube down the throat, no chance of me spewing up & possibly choking.

I went with option 2.


I remember being wheeled into the theatre. I remember having the oxygen mask and a hairnet put on me. I remember asking the Doctor if oxygen masks in planes were really used to just sedate people rather than the cabin-pressure-loss-and-inability-to-breathe reason. I remember him giving me the cabin pressure story again. I don't remember getting any more injections.

The next thing I remember is being wheeled back to the ward.


Woke up. Don't remember what time, but Sue had gone & the night nurse was there. I don't remember her name. I managed to reach for the remote button pad, hit the call button and turned the tv on. The nurse came & poured me some water & propped the bed up a bit so I could see the tv. She also put me glasses on me; I didn't want to sleep any more - the nightmare was the only thing on in my head & it was on repeat. Rage was playing the hottest 100 & I watched that & fell back into some short spells of deep dreamless sleep. I even managed some bed-dancing to Little L when it came on.


The nurses had turned the phones off between 10pm and 8am. This was so we could rest. This also caused almost everyone else to freak out, as people were trying to call & the nurses wouldn't release any details. I got a whole lot of really nice messages of support when I woke up though - thanks everyone!

I talked to Mum in Brisbane for a while. She offered to fly me home if I wanted a short break. I declined, I just want everything to get back to normal as soon as possible. As always, it was good to talk to her & the chat made me feel better.

Bri came and visited with her other half Steve for a while which was also nice. They left when the Doc came in mid-morning with my post-op report.

...and the winner is...

The good news is that while the slice was deep, it missed the nerves and tendons; the numbness I have is most likely the result of swelling around the digital nerve in my thumb. The stitches come out in 10 to 14 days if all goes to plan. I haven't seen the wound since Saturday arvo - I don't know how many stitches I have in there.

The nurses had given me some pamphlets on victims support services - the psychological effects would take longer than 10 to 14 days.

Redfern Police Station

While Doctor Joe and Nurse Lucy prepared my discharge paperwork I was able to have some lunch and talk to Detective Phil on the phone. As it turned on, my initial descriptions really helped; the couple were picked up by Bondi police as they were stealing from people on the beach and were in custody.

Once I was discharged I called Detective Phil and he came and picked me up from the hospital. We talked shop in the car & I spent a couple of hours at the station giving a full and detailed statement and a DNA sample as they'd found the knife and would be able to match my sample to my blood on the knife.

Homeward bound

Ben came & picked me up from the police station, took me to a chemist to fill my panadine forte prescription, then back to his place to hang out & watch the cricket to kill time. We joked around for a while then headed into Central Station where I was to meet Ms S for the train ride back. I found my seat and Ms S, stowed my bag and farewelled Ben. Hopefully he'll come down to Canberra in the next couple of weeks. The D's also said they'd visit as they'd need to bring down a photo-line-up for me to identify Mr Scumbag and Miss White-trash junkie bitch.

I'm tired now, it's taken me all afternoon to type this with only my left hand. If you have found any typos, I don't care right now. If you have any questions, send 'em in. I'm hungry, time to click 'Post'.

Posted by Dean @ 2/04/2002 06:31:00 pm

...Survey says...


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