We all have our share of things that happen in our lives, that are hard to explain or reason as to why they happen.
We have set-backs on the home front or at work, families split and go their separate ways, children leave home, we loose older members of our families and we can understand the reasons for that loss but when it comes to the loss of younger members of our families we tend to think in a different way. They should not part this life before we as Parents, go and meet our maker, our children should out live us, it is not right that they go before they have experienced their dreams of what they want out of life.
In my case I have had to live with the loss of three of my children, two in tragic circumstances and one understandable but very moving and so sad.
The loss of my son Baden to suicide at the age of 31 was an event that even after 7 years, I fail to understand the reason why he had to take his own life when there was a family around him that loved him and was willing to help with the mountains of baggage that so impacted his every day life.
Baden would not open up and tell no-one of his troubles but would nullify his problems with drinking and drugs maybe thinking in his own mind that being drunk and stoned, his problems would all suddenly disappear. The sad truth is that he only made the problems worse, his shoulders carried a heavy load of guilt, insecurity, and a feeling of helplessness. Baden never felt that his dilemma could be over-come by opening up to his family and friends.
We could have helped, but were not given the chance to understand the reasons why he did not wish to live and that is the reason why we as parents get so upset and pissed off when suicide happens to a family member.
I wrote this poem for Baden’s funeral and I feel it has a message for the young men and women out there who have a problem that they feel they have to carry alone. There is always help around, you just need to ask.
ODE TO BADEN
Kevin L Fairbrother
Baden, Baden our best Mate
What gave you the right to decide your fate
You left this life much the same as you lived it
With guts, determination and strength
and gambled that you could win
Baden, you left us out and pissed us off
You made us mad and very sad and all so sorry
So sorry that you felt the need to exclude us
From the turmoil of the problems you felt
Because Baden, we could have helped
Like a true gambler who gives nothing away
You threw in your hand, let go of your life
The baggage you carried and would not unload
So the river filled with troubles just flowed and flowed
The waters still now, the mountain of troubles all gone
Leaves us with the question, did we do wrong
You have paid the price, there is no return
The best we can do for you now, is set you free
And reach that place of peace you so desired
Pictures and memories is all we now have
We feel cheated that your smile we will never see
And all those happy times just memories
We hope you are happy where-ever you may-be
We will have a drink or two and reminisce of life with you
And contemplate our lives without you
Max your dog he howls, he misses you
And all your family shed tears and grieve
The bush is silent the trees are relieved
No more the fear of the axe and chainsaw
The massive wood pile will slowly dwindle
The fire burn out and die just like you
Aka-Daka will see you off as you ride on
Ride on forever Bade as we will miss you heaps
With love and best wishes go you now
Rest in peace and sleep for-ever
I would like to think that the words above may help a troubled young man or women think about what they are contemplating as there is no return from death.
Our lives revolve around our heart and each and everyone of us only has a certain number of heart beats and anything that exasperates the stress on our major organ will reduce that number of beats.
The loss of my son Darren through natural causes is a story of love and devotion by all of the family.
Darren was born with Downs Syndrome and lived a life that was filled with his love for others and in return, Darren was given love and friendship from not only his close family but from the many people he be-friended, they became his mate’s, girlfriends (all Darren’s female friends were his girlfriends) and surprisingly he could remember most of their names. A life that we as parents could not fully understand because we as a family only experienced what we would see on the outside, never really getting the full understanding of what was going on in Darren’s mind and body.
It is a sad but beautiful story.
A true life story filled with love and devotion by his Family and his many friends.
Darren was born on the 12th of April 1968 and passed away on the 20th of April 2012
Darren arrived on the due day with no complications for him or his mother, later that day I called in to the Queen Alex hospital to see Margaret (mother) and Darren, there were doctors and medical staff around and beside the bed.
There seemed to be some sort of medical condition afflicting Darren that the medical staff wished to discuss with Margaret and I. We were told that Darren was Downs Syndrome and that there were problems with his major organs. The doctors explained to us that Darren may have a severe handicap and that his life would be complicated by his condition.
As parents we had not a even heard of Downs Syndrome and in the general community it was not talked about, so this was all new to us. The doctors felt that we would not be able to cope and that we should consider giving him up to the state and not take him home.
Margaret and I were quite adamant that we would be able to handle Darren and that we wished to take him home when he was medically fit and was able to suckle properly and so it was that after 10 days Darren was passed medically, he was feeding ok and with medication for his heart would be able to live a normal life.
One doctors words of encouragement a few days after Darren was born have stayed within my mind all my life. The doctor said, “there would be problems down the track medically, socially , physically and educationally but overall you have a very special boy and with a good dose of love and affection, Darren will live a happy and contented life, at times in his own world but will always be loved by many”.
Those doctors words ring so true and the love and care that Darren has experienced through out his life from his family, his many and devoted friends , his mates, they have all helped to give Darren a truly remarkable life that we and him can be proud of.
Darren was our special boy and his journey through life was a load he carried in his own special and unique way. His journey had many set-backs, was filled with happiness, adventure, some very scary moments with health issues, frightening at times for Darren and us but was entwined with unforgettable and tear jerking moments that filled us with laughter, tears, anguish and so many lovely times. The decision to bring Darren home was the best decision we ever made, it filled the family with buckets of pride and love.
Darren life as a baby was not the filled with hardship and heart-ache, that so many people told us would happen. He was a normal baby in all respects, putting on weight easily, no problems with his hands,arms and legs and the holes in his heart were not causing him any problem. Regular check ups, showed us that as parents we were on the right track. We would take Darren to the heart specialist every month for a check-up and the results were always fine considering his condition.
Darren was a good sleeper, loved his food and all in all the perfect baby.
When Elizabeth (daughter) was born, Darren was over joyed and he doted on the new born and as Elizabeth grew up so Darren had a play mate.
It was a different reaction when Joanne, Belinda and Baden were born, for Darren now had competition for attention and there were many times when he resented and would get angry an aggressive, the other kids didn’t help matters as they would tease him.
These altercations only lasted a short time and Darren would worm his way into forgiveness and everyone would be happy again.
Margaret and I felt it was important to give Darren as much integration with the other kids so he would not feel left out, of course he was given special treatment but he handled the extended family in his own way and he loved and cherished them all.
We moved to the town of Zeehan on the West Coast of Tasmania after I obtained a job at the Renison Tin mines.
Darren attended the Talair Special school in Hobart and this involved a road trip of 800 klm round trip once a fortnight. He boarded at Yalambi Hostel, he didn’t like being in the school or the hostel but eventually accepted that this was a part of growing up and he made many friends and some enemies but overall I think it was a positive for him.
Darren stayed at the school for nearly 5 years but eventually it became all to much for him as he was becoming a bit of a handful for staff at Talair.
I can recall the many times that the trip to Hobart was filled with drama the whole journey with kids fighting and Darren so upset that it was getting impossible to console him.
Many times I had to physically remove him from the car, he would hold onto the door handles scream, swear and curse and get himself in such a state eventually he would just collapse on the ground. The girls would be crying and saying, “Dad leave him he doesn’t want to go”. I had to tell them that is was best for Darren and what else could we do, trying times for all of us.
We bought some land in Pelverata, south of Hobart near Margaret parents property and built a house.We left the west coast with tears in our eyes for we had many friends that came to say goodbye and Darren would tell them all in his own way, I will miss you and give them all a hug and a kiss, very emotional time for everyone.
Whilst the house was being built, Margaret, Darren, Belinda, Baden and myself lived in an old renovated pickers hut. The two girls Libby and Joanne were staying with the grand parents at Maydena in the Derwent Valley until the house was completed.
Darren continued at Talaire Special school but would travel up everyday and come home with a teacher at the school, Biddy Duggen,she got on so well with Darren and they became great friends.
Later he went to the Huon special school and as he was getting older he attended workshops to help him pass the time, now in his teens he was becoming a bit harder to handle but his health stayed relatively normal except for visits to the specialist for his heart. Darren really enjoyed the school bus trip to Huonville and made many good friends and would tell us about his mates and get very excited and animated.
School and the workshops were not Darren’s great joy, he loved the bus ride but gradually he became very uncooperative with staff and was causing a few problems, likewise at home he caused problems with the other kids but he liked the farm life and would help with the finishing touches to the house, get the fire wood, visit the neighbors.
Darren had some great times on the farm, we would kill our own meat from the flock of sheep and when this was happening Darren was nowhere to be seen and would not help, stayed inside with his coloring in books as he could not stand the site of blood, likewise when digging the potatoes, Darren did not like to get his hands dirty and would pick up the spuds one by one and brush the dirt off the potatoes then wipe his hands on his clothes, later telling his mother that he did all the work when asked how did he get his clothes so dirty.
Life on the farm was good for Darren, he had his chores to do, he would help his mother around the house, help me with the fire wood but most of the time he would spend in his room or by the fire filling in coloring-in books and listening to Slim Dusty. Darren had a real soft spot for Slim and his country music, he would spend hours playing tapes, he would also spend time pressing the fast forward or eject buttons and over the years there were many cassettes and radios that were discarded due to the non function of buttons.
Darren’s mother and I went through some rough times in the mid 90’s and we eventually separated and divorced. It was all my fault and some decisions relating to work put a lot of pressure on me and the family and I lost the plot for a year but kept in touch with the family and I regret some of the decisions I made back then that broke the family up.
I moved up the Derwent Valley and lived at Lachlan where I developed a passion for horses. Previous to this time the only time I spent with horses was with my Dad on a small fruit farm at Allen’s Rivulet , where I learned to work the land with a draught horse named Bonny and would spend a great deal of time behind the plough working the Raspberries and Black Currents and pulling firewood out of the bush.
I got right into horses in Lachlan, learned to ride, train and trim and shoe and joined the local horse riding club, eventually I ended up leasing a 60 acre run down farm at Lachlan and I spent quite a number of years there.
Darren and the girls would come up and ride the horses, Darren would sometimes stay overnight but he didn’t like being away from his mom for too long, we had some great times on the farm. I didn’t think I would ever get Darren to sit on a horse but he plucked up courage one day and rode the horse with me leading him.
The Photo’s above gives you a glimpse of the lovable nature of Darren, although he was hard to understand at times you could have a conversation with him and most times he was a happy go lucky boy and a man. Many of his friends called him Jazza, he would relish the attention he received, shake their hands and tell them to have a good day.
Darren lived with his mother in Margaret Father’s house, after he passed away and I would often drive down to Pelverata to visit, during this time there were weddings and break ups with the girls and Darren had a great time with his brother Baden who was a bit of a legend playing football and cricket and Darren with his mother would attend the games. He had a great time with all the players and would be a great barracker from the sidelines giving his opinion on anything and everything.
In the early 90s I was still working with horses and breaking them in, training people to ride, still shoeing and trimming. It was Christmas in 1994 that things on the farm went real sour and it was a terrible and stressful time for me and the rest of the family, it is a long and bitter story that I will tell another time, I want this story to be about Darren and his life.
I will say this much, that in 1994 my brother Winston turned up out of the blue to the farm, he had come over from the Sydney to pay a visit, I had not had a great deal to do with him over the previous 12 years and did not know a great deal about his life. My mother would often ring me to let me know what was going on with my other brothers and sister on the mainland but she never really told me much about Winston other than that he was a long distance truck driver and liked to drink.
Anyone reading this would be thinking that something horrible must of happened and it did on boxing day 94, when my daughter Belinda was shot and killed, on my farm.
This was a major, horrific event that should never of happened, but it did and it was a devastating blow to us all, we were all greatly traumatized by this terrible blow to our family, the loss of Belinda at the tender age of 18 is something that a parent takes along time to recover from.
Through all this Darren had a hard time of coming to terms with the loss of his sister Belinda and would tell us every day that she had gone to heaven and she was a star in the night sky. This time was also very hard on Baden my youngest boy, the event effected him greatly and he got lost a bit with drugs and booze and I feel that in some ways he never come to terms with loosing his soul mate Belinda.
I stayed with Margaret and the kids at the farm at Pelverata but eventually moved back up to the farm at Ironstone Gully Lachlan.
Darren went about his life mainly doing his own thing, like visiting the neighbors down the road (he developed a very special relationship with Bobo and she became his second mom) He would spend his time shopping with his mother or listening to country music or coloring in his many picture books.
Darren health stayed reasonably stable but he was putting on weight and the most exercise he got was walking about 1 kilometer return, to Bobo’s down the road he would walk, stay for hours, then return home. Sometimes Darren would take a short cut down through Pete and Bobo paddock, this short cut turned out to be major problem in his later life.
Darren was walking down to Bobo’s when he tripped and fell damaging his ankle and knee, he could not walk, so he sat there in pain singing out loudly for his mother but no-one heard his cries for help. It was late in the evening that Margaret called Bobo to send Darren home for tea. Bobo said” I have not seen Darren, he hasn’t been here”. Panic stations by both Margaret and Bobo and they decided to search the paddock from both ends. They heard Darren’s cries before they actually set eyes on him, he was in a terrible state with pain and had been crying but he was over joyed to see his mother and Bobo.
They managed to get him from the paddock to the road and he was put in a car and taken to the doctors at Huonville, his ankle was twisted but not broken and his knee cap had slipped to the side of his knee, the knee cap was put back in the right position with a lot of swearing and cursing from Darren and then bandaged.
After this Darren never walked down through the paddock again and from memory I don’t think he ever again walked down the road to Bobo’s again. He was in a wheel chair for awhile then slowly as his leg continued to heal and he could put weight on his ankle and knee he opted for a walker to aid in his walking.
Darren confidence in walking became steadily worse and he would favor his right leg, use the walker all the time whilst home and use the wheel chair when he went shopping with his mother.
When things went wrong or something was broken it was never Darren’s fault, even though he did it, he would blame someone else, as he did when asked how he hurt his leg. He replied “ Not me, Pete’s paddock” was to blame, not Darren taking a short cut through the paddock. The many cassette players that got broken by Darren’s over use of the buttons was always blamed on someone else, sneaking all the cheese out of the fridge and hiding it was also never Darren’s fault, always someone else was to blame, yet the evidence would be found hidden under his bed.
Margaret would confront Darren with the evidence, he would say” not me” Joanne, Baden or Elizabeth would get the blame.” Don’t lie Darren” Margaret would say,” I know it was you”. Darren would drop his lip and say to his Mother in a teary voice “ I sorry but I loves ya” and put his arms out for a cuddle and in that context what could you do but forgive him but he played the same tune many times.
Darren was still putting on weight, he was a good eater of home cooked meals but he also loved his chocolate, sweets and cheese. He could be very sneaky at times and he would hoard food in his room, had been known to eat 4 or 5 slices of bread swamped with tomato sauce. This love of tomato sauce changed dramatically when he had a few bad bouts of gout and gave up tomato sauce forever after it was explained to him that it was the sauce that was giving him gout. From that day on he refused to eat tomato sauce and would say a very firm “ no” if asked if he wanted sauce and then follow up with, “sauce is bad” and then point to his foot and say ” all better, no, no, sauce”.
Life continued on for Darren with his normal visits to the super market and shops in Huonville, his playing of his music and a new way to spend his time was playing games on TV with play station, he would sit in his wheel chair playing tennis or sword fighting and he became a pretty good player, playing ten pin bowling and became very animated when he was a winner.
On the occasion of Darren’s 40th birthday we gave him a big party at the Pelverata Hall. Darren arrived to be greeted by all the residents of Pelverata and all his family and friends, some 50 odd people attended. We had a barbecue, balloons, lots of sweet cakes and soft drinks and of course a birthday cake with 40 candles. Darren had a ball sitting in his wheelchair, talking to everyone and having his photo taken with family and friends.
Darren in his usual way on these special occasions, would put his arms out and say, “a bit of shoosh, I’ve got something to say” he thanked everyone for coming then everyone shook his hand and gave him a cuddle. He finished off by saying “I’m tired and I’m going home but you all party on”
I remember another occasion that was a great insight into Darren joy of life, when there was a party on, he loved the music and the atmosphere and of course all the attention he received.
Elizabeth’s wedding party was an occasion that still to this day brings good memories of Darren, doing his wheelchair dance on the floor, he would get so excited, his arms would be in the air one minute, then he would put his hands on the wheels and rock backwards and forwards and he would do this while ever the music was playing.
Many of his friends would grab the wheelchair and rock and roll him round the floor, it was a joy to see him so happy and enjoying his moment in the lime-light.
Libby’s (Elizabeth) new husband Gus, was Darren’s new found best friend and Darren would often say “Gus he is the man, he is my mate”.
Like wise with Jo’s husband, Adam, Darren had a special relationship and would look forward to visiting their house in Huonville. Darren would call Adam the “Barman” and would remark on Adam’s liking for a beer or two. “Yea” he would say “sucking on the beer, bad for you”
Darren had a special relationship with Jo and her daughter Kayla and he would always be pleased and happy to see them and give them cuddles and kisses.
Jo was Darren’s favorite and when she visited he would ask about the Barman (Adam) and ask her where he was and what he was doing and of course Jo, always had a special treat for Darren in the way of chocolate rollies, he loved these sweets and it was not very often that he would share them, you might get one or two but the rest would be hidden in his bedroom.
Another quirk with Darren was his ability to know if any of his hoard of sweets had been touched or was missing, likewise with his collection of movies and musical CD’s, everything had to be in order and he would spend hours restacking and checking if any was missing. He would let everyone know if something was missing and would put on a turn of shouting and swearing and blaming everyone.
Later that same year I moved down to Margaret place at Pelverata after separating from my partner and the farm at Lachlan. In early May I brought my caravan and planed on staying there until my trip to the mainland, at the time I was working on a dozer at Nugent clearing land for tree plantations.
Darren was in some ways happy to have me around although we clashed at time over his hoarding of food in his bedroom, his health was stable but he was putting on weight and he was having trouble putting any weight at all on his bad leg and the redness in both his legs were a cause for concern. Darren never complained about his pain but would swear and curse if he happened to bump his leg, it was the same in the shower, major drama’s to give him a wash, he would tell his mother that he was sore everywhere and not to touch him.
Margaret and I took Darren to some specialist to see what if anything could be done about his sore knee, we needed to get x-rays and scans of his knee and wasn’t that a drama for the doctors and staff and very embarrassing for us as parents. Darren would scream the house down and refuse to co-operate, in the end we had to abandon the attempt for x-rays as it was just to upsetting for Darren and everyone else. In the end the specialist advised that given Darren’s medical history, his weak heart, enlarged liver and very high levels of iron in his blood (hemochromatosis) an operation of any sort would be life threatening to Darren, so we abandon that idea and looked around for some type of brace.
The brace worked for awhile then Darren just refused to have it on his leg, he also made a stand against doctors or nurses, refusing to cooperate and would get quite irate and scream the house down and let go with some very choice words.
These altercations with Darren and the doctors was upsetting as we were only trying to do the best for Darren and make his life and his pain a little better, frustrating to say the least, it was also hard to get through to Darren that we were only trying to help but no matter how much we tried we could not succeed in getting him to work with us.
Darren for years was an ardent Essendon Football Club fan and a great admirer of Kevin Sheedy the coach but when Sheedy got the sack Darren shifted loyalty to the West Coast football team.
Both Margaret and I were fans of Essendon and when games were on TV he would tell everyone that “Essendon is shit, Sheedy got the sack, there gone Mate, West Coast beat them”.
Darry would be watching TV and if Eddie Mcguire came on, he would cop an earful from Darren, telling Eddie “ You lie, that’s wrong, wrong, I’ll fight ya”. then put his fist up at the TV and say “ Come on, I’m not scared of you”. then finish with a few choice words.
Shane Warne was another who copped an earful from Darren and he would tell everyone in the room, “Warny, he is an ass, he suck the seed, he’s gone mate, he’s in a hole”.
On the 12th of June 2008 I arrived home and was greeted by Jo (daughter) who said she was worried about Baden. She told me that his mom had seen him this morning and he seemed okay, he was then seen heading out the bush with his dog (max) and had an axe in his hand, this was around 11am and neither Jo or Margaret had seen him since.
I new Baden was having problems with his girlfriend and was drinking heavily and taking dope and had spent the weekend at his mates place drinking and getting high on dope.
He was supposed to be at work but on the Monday had turned up to work drunk and was sent home, Jo told me that his work had rung up and told him to report to the office to have a chat and to tell him his job was safe. The message was relayed to Baden but he said, “ they can all go and get f***** and to stick the job”.
This information started me thinking that may be he was up the bush drinking and in a depressed state added to that was the fact that he did not come down for lunch and his Ute was still parked near his hut (Baden lived in a renovated hut near the house) I said to Jo “get a torch and some blankets and water and we will go up the bush in the 4wd and look for him”.
Jo said to “ Dad I think something has happened and I am worried that Baden, has done something stupid”.
The weather was cold but fine and it was starting to get dark, Jo and I headed up the bush and we searched around all the main tracks, stopping often to sing out to Baden and Max (the Dog). The darkness had closed in on us as we searched. We were about to give up and go and get help when we heard a dog bark after we had sang out. The barking was a fair way up the hill from our position so we headed in the general direction of the barking. We stopped at the top of the hill on a track that was nearly impassable and again sang out to Max, who after three or four calls came out of the bush to greet us. We patted him and said where is Baden, Max, who went back into the thick bush, I followed with a torch, talking to Max but all he was doing was hunting in the bush for wallaby’s. I searched around singing out to Baden but received no answer.
After about an hour of searching I went back to the 4wd where Jo was waiting and told her we would mark the position of where we first sighted Max, then we have to go and get help.
Back down to the house we went at a great pace, bouncing over rocks and wood on the rough track and being scrapped by scrub that was over hanging the tracks. Arriving at the house we arranged with Margaret to call all of Baden’s mates to come and help. Margaret was beside her self with worry and Darren was crying and upset and kept saying “where is Baden” I told him not to worry we will find him.
I had a quick drink and soon about 6 of Baden’s mates and Pete from next door arrived and we went back up the bush to continue the search, We searched and sang out till we had hoarse voices for around 2 hours to know avail. I got the boys together and told them to keep searching in the thick scrub, making sure that they new where everyone was and to not wander off on their own, whilst I go back to the house for more help and to inform the police.
When I arrived back at the house there were some more of Baden’s mates, including Justine, his best mate. I told them that we had no luck in finding Baden and that we were concentrating the search in the area where we first sighted his dog Max. I told them what track to take and that would lead them to where the other searchers were.
I had a discussion with Margaret and the girls, Jo and Elizabeth as to whether we should inform the police and get more help. They agreed that the police should be informed and that I phone Mr. Vincent whose property adjoined the search area. The police were on there way and Mr. Vincent had agreed that he would search the boundary of his property.
Meanwhile the neighbors had come with sandwiches and scones and I tucked into them whilst having a coffee and waiting for the police to arrive. Everybody now was deeply worried and we re-hashed the events leading up to Baden going missing. Margaret (Baden’s mother) thought that he was depressed and didn’t sound himself when he said, hallo this morning. I said “ he has probably just gone up the bush with a bottle of whiskey and was lying down drunk in the bush somewhere” even though I was having a hard time convincing myself of that fact.
The police arrived and whilst filling the constable in on the facts and offering to show him the area of the search, when I received a phone call from the boys in the bush, They said “they had found him and it was not looking good” I told them I was on the way up with the police.
We arrived in the search area and could see all the lights in the scrub off the track where I had searched before, as the police and I moved closer we could tell that the scene we were heading to was a picture of sadness and all the faces of the searchers (Baden Mates) that were asking why?. We shone our lights into a large wattle and there about 3 meters off the ground was Baden hanging from a large limb.
I was shocked and saddened at the sight and hammered my fists into the tree, shouting “why, why, you stupid bastard”.
The police took charge then and the site became a crime scene, we all moved away and comforted each other, with tears flowing the one question on our lips, was, Why?.
I headed back down the track knowing that I would have to tell Margaret and the kids that Baden had committed suicide and was dead.
Everyone there was saddened and in tears it was a terrible scene and I will never forget the look on Darren’s face when he was told that Baden had gone to heaven, he put his hands to his face and cried and cried, he was sobbing and shouting out “not Baden”.
It was a devastating blow to everyone and throughout the night by a roaring fire we hashed over why Baden had felt the need to take his own life but no concrete answers were forth coming, we all agreed that he was depressed and drinking and drug taking were a contributing factor. In the early hours we decided to try and get some sleep but I don’t think many of us did.
After the funeral which was attended by four or five hundred people many of us said “we should have done more” but I said “ Baden was an adult and you could not force him to seek help if he was depressed” We all have at some time bent over backwards to offer help and he had always refused and said that he was alright, not to worry.
The wash up took a few weeks to get back to some normality and I told Margaret that I would stay and help out. We found out that Baden had an insurance death policy and after some effort persuaded Margaret to lay claim to it as he was a bread winner for the farm and that she relied on his money to live as she only survived on Darren’s pension.
I wrote a letter to the insurance company outlining the situation and asking them to let Margaret have the money to provide a bit more comfort for Darren.
The insurance company paid out and we used the money to fix up the house to make it a lot easier for Darren to operate his wheel chair, I told Margaret I would sell my van and move into Baden’s hut and I would do the renovations and help out with Darren’s needs.
The house was renovated with a new bigger kitchen, a bathroom that was wheelchair friendly a big sun deck, cement paths and a ramp on to the deck and into the house, a new roof and guttering, new and bigger water tanks, new water pump, new power board and power to the shed and hut. I also renovated the hut and turned into a two bedroom with a big deck, hot water and shower.
All these renovations made life a lot better thanks to Baden’s insurance money, Margaret was happy, Darren was over joyed with his new found freedom of being able to wheel himself around the house and go outside and enjoy the sun.
Darren’s medical condition was deteriorating to the extent that he had to be helped into bed and in and out of his wheelchair, we received help from community nursing with a wheelchair toilet and shower chair, which helped a lot.
I was starting to have real concerns with Darren’s health. You could see the pain and anguish in his face at time but Darren would not complain when asked, “ do you hurt anywhere?) he would always reply with, “ no I’m alright, an you” asking me if I was ok.
Margaret and her best friend from the west coast, had planned a trip to Europe and would be gone for 3 months. Margaret wanted to cancel and not go because of Darren condition worsening. The girls and I convinced her to go and that we would all chip in to make Darren life as comfortable as possible and told her to not worry and have a relaxing holiday.
This would be the first time in 45 years that Margaret would be away from Darren and she was very apprehensive and sad to be leaving him.
Eventually we managed to get Margaret and Sharon (her best friend) on the plane in June, there was lots of tears and cuddles at the airport but eventually they were on their way to Sydney and Europe
When I took Margaret to the airport she had said her goodbyes to Darren at home and told Darren that she was going to town to see the doctor. I had previously put her luggage in the car before Darren woke up. There would be a lot of explaining to do come night fall as Darren would be expecting his mother home.
Jo and I managed to explain to Darren that night that Margaret had gone on a holiday to the west coast to help Sharon as she was sick, he accepted that and life thankfully went on but every morning on wakening Darren would ask when his mom was coming home. We would answer “soon Darren, soon”
Darren would chip in with words about Sharon, referring to the time he want to the west coast with Margaret and helped do some chores at the caravan park. What was your job Darren, “ I pick up the ciggy butts and do the rubbish, my job” he would say.
A week into Margaret’s holiday my brother Paul turned up from the mainland with all his tools and a trailer with a 6 wheeled, 4wd buggy on board, he was here for a holiday and to help finish the house and to do the renovations and extensions on the humpy and maybe settle here.
From this point on Darren’s life changed as brother Paul moved into the house and he had a lot to do with Darren’s needs as I was still up in the humpy doing renovations and there was only one bedroom. Darren warmed to Paul’s input and they got on well and for some unknown reason Darren seemed to be more cheerful but both Paul and I could see he was in a great deal of pain, although he never complained.
Now that Darren’s mother had left on her holiday I had to take full responsibility for all of his needs which included, showers, bed making, cooking and shopping, plus the house work, at the same time continuing with renovations on the house. Paul was a great help in the house, we would take it in turns looking after Darren, cooking meals and seeing to Darren’s every need.
Darren was very apprehensive about riding in the buggy and he took some convincing to be helped into the vehicle. After the first initial ride, he relaxed and was quite happy to go for rides or just sit in the buggy and supervise, Paul and I work.
A week after Darren’s moms departure I noticed that Darren was having trouble peeing and when he did pee he was in a great deal of discomfort, Paul and I put him in the shower, now normally he would sit in the water proof wheelchair/commode and we would wash and shower him this way, I had recently installed hand support rails to enable Darren to stand up, whilst we showered him. He took some coaxing to stand on his legs and he was not happy and cried, swore and cursed but we managed to get him squeaky clean and he settled down when we let him sit back in the wheelchair.
I noticed that there was redness at the end of his penis, maybe some sort of infection. We asked Darren to do a pee and we could see that the foreskin was enclosed around his penis, restricting the flow. This was the cause of his pain and discomfort whilst peeing, I tried to clean up the end of his penis and push back the foreskin but it was welded solid and could not be moved.
Darren was exhausted after his ordeal in the shower so we dressed him and put him to bed. Paul and I discussed what we should do about Darren’s penis problem and the decision was made to arrange a doctors appointment in Huonville to see if anything could be done to fix the problem.
Darren’s doctor on seeing his condition made a phone call to a surgeon he knew, who would possibly be able to help.
The operation with the surgeon was arranged and we had a pre admission appointment with the anesthesia doctor and surgeon two days before the operation. I explained to both of the doctors that Darren would not accept needles or blood test of any kind and that they would have to come up with a means of knocking him out with some sort of sweet drink that had a knockout drug in it, then do the blood tests and operation. The doctors asked Darren if they could check him out and with a bit of cajoling, he agreed but wasn’t happy, they tried to to take his blood pressure and he wouldn’t let them do that and started to become agitated.
From this altercation the doctors could see the problem they faced but they both agreed that the operation needed to be done and that they would be able to administer a drug disguised in a drink and get Darren on the operation table and do a partial removal of the foreskin and make it possible for Darren to pee in comfort.
Darren throughout his life had been administered medication disguised in strawberry syrup, some times this would involve half a glass or more of syrup, topped with a little milk, the medication put in and stirred vigorously, at times he new what was going on and we would say, you won’t get better unless you drink it all and if you don’t know more chocolates or biscuits. He would usually drink it all up but sometimes he would refuse and head to his bedroom at a fast rate in his wheelchair, cursing and calling us all the names under the sun but then later when no-one was around sneak out and drink his medicine.
The operation and admission would take place in two days and we would have to have Darren up at the hospital at 7am. I thanked the doctors for being able to fit Darren in at short notice. “No worries” they said “everything will be fine”
Little did they and I realize the dramas that were about to unfold.
I was having some concerns with what we were about to do in regard to Darren’s operation and I discussed this with Jo, Elizabeth and Paul, we all agreed that Darren’s quality of life concerns and the on-going pain and discomfort he was suffering far out weighed the possible medical ramifications if anything should go wrong with the operation. We agreed that his attitude and life qualities would be far better with the operation, than without it. Our main concerns were the drugs to knock him out and how Darren’s body and heart would handle the drugs and the after effects during recovery.
On the day of the operation, Darren was showered and dressed and we drove him to the hospital in Hobart. I had to pay upfront $1500.00 dollars to cover the extra costs that Medicare would not cover, once that was paid he was admitted and taken to the ward.
The anesthetic doctor came round and told us that he had worked out the amount of drug to knock Darren out and transport him to the theatre. The tricky part was getting Darren to drink the drug disguised in the strawberry syrup, we convinced him that the drink contained something to take away the pain. He took one little sip, then said “No More” I stepped in and convinced him that he had to drink it all. Darren drank a little more and then thankfully he was out to it and he was taken down to the theatre for the operation.
Now the hard part, waiting around till the operation was over, the doctors were going to take some blood for diagnosis, so that we could establish the level of Iron mainly but they would test the blood for other things. They said they would phone us when Darren was back in recovery, two hours later we got the call and went down to the recovery area. Darren was starting to come round, thankfully, (my biggest concern), Paul and I talked to him, he looked up and around but was still pretty groggy, the nurse came over and said “ that everything went to plan, there was no drama and that Darren would be able to go back up to his room in around twenty minutes”.
Darren was still quite groggy when he was put in his bed in the ward but seemed to be awake one minute then he would drift off again, the nurses came and took his blood pressure and temperature and Darren didn’t care. Paul and I took it in turns talking to Darren for around an hour and I thought there was not much improvement, meanwhile Jo and Kayla arrived and Darren perked up a little, then drifted off again.
I said to Jo “ he doesn’t seem right to me”, next minute Darren was out to it again, we tried to get him to wake up by talking to him and shaking him but there was no response.
“I’m going for the nurse” I said and went to the nurses station and asked them to please come and check on Darren, They came and tried to get him to wake up, checked his pulse, then it was panic stations as the nurse set off the alarm. We were all hustled out of the room as equipment was brought in to monitor Darren breathing and heart rate, he was put on oxygen but didn’t seem to be responding. The anesthetic doctor was called, he came checked Darren out and said to us “ the drugs we gave him have kicked in again and we need to give him an antidote for the drug”. Elizabeth arrived and we all huddled together thinking that Darren was not going to come around, this went on for another thirty minutes before there was some eye movement and his blood pressure was starting to get back to normal. The nurses and doctors said the worst was over and we were right to come back in.
Darren was half sitting up, a bit dazed but he was talking, whew what a relief. As time went on Darren was improving every minute but the doctors said he should stay in over night, just to be sure. We new that someone would have to stay with him overnight as he would panic without someone he new being there. I said I will stay with him and told the others to go home and for Paul to be back here at 7.30am to pick us both up.
There were a few moments overnight that Darren tried to get out of bed and into his wheelchair but I managed to settle him down, gave him a bottle to have a pee, then some sandwiches and a cup of tea and he drifted off to sleep and I tried to have a nap.
I was woken up by noises in the room, looked up off my bed on the floor to see Darren sitting on the side of the bed. “ You all-right mate” I asked. He replied “Yea, I want to go home, I want Margy”. I got up and could see that Darren had wet the bed, I set to and cleaned him up as best I could, then got him dressed and put him in his wheelchair. I checked the wound on his penis and as there was no bleeding left it alone. “do you want a pee Darren” I asked. “yea and a drink” he said. I got the bottle and he had a pee and I said to Darren “all good now, no more pain when you pee” “its sore” he said. “No worries mate it will get better” I said.
Looking at the time on my phone I could see that it was six am and went out into the passage to get a drink and something to eat. I asked the nurse for some food and hot drink and they pointed me to the kitchen to where I could help myself, which I did.
Darren and I had a cup of tea and a sandwich and I could see that he was a lot happier and told him we would be going home soon.
I checked with the nurses again, they came and checked Darren out and said that all was normal and I could take Darren home. Rang Paul, he said he would be there in 20 minutes. I packed Darren,s gear, medication and clothes and wheeled him down to the foyer and waited for Paul.
We put Darren in the car and headed home, thankful that it was all over. Arriving home we got Darren inside and put him to bed and he went straight to sleep and he stayed there till the afternoon, we were checking him every 20 minutes or so, he looked so peaceful lying there in his bed with the TV blaring in the background.
In the afternoon Jo and Kayla came to see Darren, he was happy to see them and told Jo that he was sore. Jo checked his wound and bathed it and put some new dressing on it. Jo asked Darren if he wanted to pee? “yea” he said and she got the bottle for him. “Gee Darry you have a good flow now, all better now, that’s good” said Jo.
Life went on, Paul and I were building, supervised by Darren sitting pretty in the buggy watching our every move.
Well into spring, the days were warmer and Darren was getting outside more often, his health seemed to be on a downward spiral, His legs and feet were very red through lack of circulation, massaging didn’t seem to do any good, he was suffering from constipation which required regular medication to keep his bowels open and regular. We had stopped Darren from having the plastic type cheese, also cut back on chocolate. We didn’t like doing this as it was probably his only treat in life, he continued with his TV games but we all noticed that he was tiring very quick and was spending much of his time in bed.
The operation on his penis had all healed up and after visits to his doctor we were advised to keep the fluids up and to monitor the amount Darren expelled. The doctor put him on fluid tablets and said that Darren was building up fluid around his major organs, His heart and liver were enlarged and the doctor advised that the blood test results from blood taken during the operation showed abnormal chemical imbalance and that his Hemochromatosis results were sky high, the doctor said this was putting pressure on all his organs as too much iron hardened the organs and made them less flexible resulting in the major organs working overtime to keep his body functioning.
Darren and I called into Jo’s after the doctors visit and I relayed the the report from the doctor. I said to Jo “ that Darren system is gradually shutting down and the long term outlook is not good”. Jo said, “ well I hope he doesn’t go before Margaret gets home”. “ Well we can only do our best Jo, unfortunately we can’t make miracles”.
We managed to contact Margaret on Skype on the internet a couple of times but it was a poor reception and Darren couldn’t see properly, so we did not achieve much.
Darren asked every day when Margy would be home, “soon Darry, soon” I said. The regular routine of care for Darren continued, he had his days when he was good and he had days that were quite bad, he was also becoming wary of the medication mixed in the syrup and it was an up hill battle to convince him to keep taking it, his time in bed was also increasing. When asked Darry would say “I’m alright, I’m tired”.
Paul went back to the mainland as he had the opportunity of getting a government flat but had to claim it in person. Darren was very sad to see Paul go and told him “I’ll miss ya”.
Margaret came back after Christmas and we took Darren to the airport to meet her, Darren was crying, in fact every one had a tear in their eye, it was a good reunion and Darry was happy that he had his mom home. He said to his mother “I miss ya and I loves ya”.
I had a talk to Margaret and told her that Darren was fading fast, she didn’t believe me or didn’t want to contemplate a life without Darren. I told her to book an appointment with Darren’s doctor and he will let you know all the facts relating to Darren’s health. We went to the doctors and he explained to Margaret what was going on in Darren’s body. He told Margaret that Darren health was on a downward spiral and that he had days, weeks and months to live but not years.
He suggested that he write out a Do Not Revive letter to be given to ambulance personnel and the hospital and he would up the community care program to assist us at home. This is the best way to care for Darren’s needs as you are both opposed to any thought of him being admitted to hospital and given that Darren has a fear and an aversion to doctors and hospitals and there is nothing to be gained from keeping him alive with artificial means, your best option is for Darren is to spend the rest of his life at home where he is happy.
Margaret was understandably quite upset with the news and didn’t want to believe that she would have a life with out Darren.
Darren was now looking thinner in the face as his appetite had dropped off considerably and he was sleeping and in bed most of the time. It was so sad that our Darren would not have a great deal of time left with us. Gradually Margaret resigned herself to the fact that Darry was slipping away, the doctor gave us some liquid morphine to give to Darren when he was in pain. We decided to give Darren a birthday bash in April 2012 and invited all his friends.
February and March 2012 Darren was quite ill, not eating, very little drinks and was in bed most of the time. Come the day of his 46th birthday we encouraged him to get out of bed for his party, he took a lot of convincing but we managed to get him out for an hour or so.
I new his days were numbered and told the girls that and that they should say his goodbyes while he was still conscious. I also phoned the doctor and asked him to visit Darren at home. He came and checked Darren out and it seemed to me that Darren was drifting in and out of consciousness and the doctor agreed. He told me when he was getting in his car to go, that he would order more morphine to be administered straight into his body by way of an automated pump to lesson the pain and make him more comfortable. The Doctor also said “that Darren had only a few days left”.
We informed everyone to visit Darren and say their goodbyes ASAP and there was a constant stream of family and friends visiting Darren and saying their goodbyes and there were many teary moments, it was a tear jerking time but also a happy time that so many thought enough of Darren to take the time to visit him.
On the 20th of April the nurses came and freshened up Darren bed and put the morphine machine on his body. Darren was hardly awake now and when the nurses left I thanked them and they said “he hasn’t got long now and if he goes through the night not to bother ringing till 9am”.
That night with all his family around him Darren left this world, he was at peace, there was no pain, he drifted into a sleep that would last forever.
Darren against all odds has enjoyed a life of happiness and many special moments that will be in our memories for as long as we live, throughout his 46 years Darren lived his life his way, in his own world, a world that we as parents and family could see from the outside but had no real inkling of what was going on in his mind and body.
Many times we had to second guess if he was in pain because if you asked Darren he would always say, “I’m alright and you” but the signs were there and he carried a heavy load of pain especially towards the end.
We know we gave Darren the best life possible and most of the credit should go to his Mother who stuck by Darry through the good and bad times, never shirking the loads of work involved in keeping Darren comfortable.
The family has a catalogue of memories to look back on regarding Darren’s life and we will treasure those memories forever.
The hardest and scariest decision we as parents had to make, ( this was the best of the options we had at our disposal) was to have Darren at home where he was happiest and to enlist the assistance of the Community and Palliative Care nurses who gave us the courage and fortitude to care for Darren at home, even though it was painful and emotional at times. We felt that it was the greatest and most precious gift we could give Darren was to pass away with his loving family and friends by his side.
I was proud of our decision in the early days to bring Darren home and he in his short life done us proud.
I think that anyone who is caring for a love one in their own home and who face the end of life situation for their love one should enlist the help offered by community services, take heed of the patients doctors advice in regard to palliative care at home and make the decision to let your love one pass away in a loving and caring environment.
When your love one has passed away you will be better able to handle the grief for you will know that you have done your best.
The funeral for Darren was a solemn but a happy occasion for the family and the many hundreds of friends who attended, they all said that Darren life was a energy giving time for their own lives, sad to see him go but happy that he had a good life surrounded by loving family and friends and that now he was free of pain.
I wrote Darren’s eulogy and Libby and Joanne also wrote a special piece for Darren and read it out to all those who attended the service. It was a very touching moment that spurred the family and friends to give an ovation to the girls.
I wrote Darren’s Eulogy with a heavy heart but also with a sense of relief, that his life had ended and there was no more pain and that he was at peace. I felt the need to celebrate his life and to praise those who helped him live a life filled with love and friendship.
It was also ironic in the sense that many doctors said that Darren’s life would be short, some doctors early in his life, gave him no chance of ever reaching his teens but for forty six years Darren lived a life filled with many moments that to those who new him were glad to have been part of it. Part of that life was in his own world that we as parents and friends could not comprehend or understand but all other times he was the life of the party and always the center of attention, which he reveled in.
The following is Darren’s Eulogy which I was proud to write and stand up and read to his family and his many friends and mates.
A celebration of the life of a truly remarkable Son, Brother, Uncle, Nephew and a truly loved friend to so many.
Darren Lindsay Fairbrother, also known as, Darry, Jazza, and Boof.
On behalf of the family, I would like to welcome and thank-you for your attendance here today, to join with the family to help us send Darren to a better place, That is free of the burden of pain and suffering that has been a part of Darren’s life for years. It is a testament of Darren’s loving and friendly nature that you have taken the time to be with us today and help us come to terms with the loss, of our Son Darren. Thank-you.
Over the years, there have been many times that we’ve had the occasion to celebrate with Darren and at everyone of those times, He would put up his hands and say;
“ I want to say something”
Sadly Darren is no longer with us, so I will be proud to tell and celebrate his life.
We (the family) delayed the funeral till this Friday, for a very special reason. Darry would always say, no matter what day of the week it was, “I’ll see ya Friday” if he was going anywhere, it would always be Friday. He would often say to me “Me and Mom are going out” and I would reply “ When Darry” He would reply “ we are going shopping, Friday, do you want anything?”” “No thanks mate, I’m going up the bush” “ok” he would say.
Let me first truly thank someone, who like Darren, is a very special person, with a heart of gold and a bond of love for Darren, that no-one could break and without her love and attention to Darren’s needs, the outcome of Darren’s life would have been so different. A person who should inspire us all, for, through good and bad times, she soldiered on, never complaining,just giving Darry the best life she could.
Darry, Jazz as Margy (Margaret, his Mother) calls him, has been the tower of strength and fortitude that has given Darren the best life possible under at times so much pain and heart-ache and except for a brief trip to Europe, even when on holidays she was worried and stressed about how he was getting on without her. She has been by Darren’s side for 46 years and she deserves our upmost admiration.
I would like you all to stand with me and applaud her great effort for giving Darren such a wonderful and fulfilling life, Darren’s Mother, Margaret.
Darry also had another Mother, whom he would visit and she loved him like her own son. Bobo as Darren called her, to you Bronwyn Turnbull my heartfelt thanks for all you have done for Darry and our family over many, many years.
I remember when Darren was born at the Queen Alex hospital and there were problems and much discussion between doctors in regard to Darren’s health. He was born Downs Syndrome and at that time it was not much talked about, so this was all very new to us as parents.
The doctors tried to talk us out of taking him home, because of his condition and they felt we wouldn’t be able to cope. Margaret and I both agreed that he was our son and he would be coming home with us and he did.Darren came home with us to a rented house on a dairy farm at Sorrel and then later to a rented farm house at Wattle Hill.
One Doctor’s words of encouragement have stuck in my head, throughout my life. The Doctor told us when Darry was a day or two old,“You will have problems with Darren’s health and education but overall you have a very special boy and with a good dose of tender loving care, he should be with you a very long time”
Those Doctor’s words, ring so true and the love and care Darren has received from his family, his Doctor’s and with the help of his many friends and mates he has lived a truly remarkable life, one that we and him can be proud of.