Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

Tag: Australia

24. Mefloquine Dispatches: Sausage rolls and the Red Cross, 1st July 1997

This story actually starts in late February 2019.

I had been doing memory recall exercises for some weeks at this point.

The process consumes me. I’m not really ready for this type of Rapid Exposure. As I sit with my psychologist we do the work and then he spends time ‘bringing me down’. When I do it on my own I go for hours. I’m a student who thinks he is a professor.

I’m merging into an old pattern which I am starting to recognise. It’s my roller-coaster. Every six to nine months. For more than two decades.

The memory work has been fruitful. I’ve remembered taking the mefloquine which was the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) at the time. Is that enough to prove I was given mefloquine?

One of the boys gives me a doctor in the United States who I can talk to. I approach him with the evidence I have. He advises that it isn’t enough. I have no notation of mefloquine on my medical records. In fact he noted that I was cleared for doxycycline.

I’m devastated. It doesn’t matter what I can remember or what the SOP was at the time, without some sort of concrete evidence I know I’ll have a hard time proving my exposure.

I do more memory work. I should be resting. I look terrible. I feel awful. I’m not sleeping.

I get a memory.

Sausage rolls! I’m sitting in a clinical room across from a nurse who is taking notes. I’m at the Red Cross giving blood. The nurse gets excited about my blood because I had been given an anti-malarial without travelling (which is very unusual). I was there for hours too because I remember getting sausage rolls. In 1997 that was a big deal. Normal blood donations usually meant jatz biscuits with some cheese, not the luxury of sausage rolls!

At this stage I still cannot remember what I was given but despair has turned to elation.

Reality kicks in. What did I tell the nurses back in 1997? If I told them what medications I had taken did they note it? Do the notes still exist? How the hell do I access decades old records from the Red Cross?

I make a call to the Red Cross. They explained the process. I email the paperwork on the 5th March.

A doctor from the Red Cross returns my call on the 14th March. The news is confirmation of the worst. I was given mefloquine by the Army in March 1997.

I remember screaming into the sand in front of my kids when I heard the news. It was pure RAGE. We had taken the day off to enjoy a swim at a local creek. I had to collect myself before I thanked the doctor. I am so angry I gave my eldest son my phone. It takes me hours to calm down.

* Red Cross records from 1997

I finally calm down.

The evidence was compelling. Not only had I been given mefloquine in 1997 the Army had failed to note it.

Thank goodness for sausage rolls and the Red Cross!

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

Mefloquine Dispatches: An Index

From February 2019 to February 2020 as my amnesia started to lift I took the time to write down some of my memories and experiences as a series of short stories.

It might end up as a book, it might not.

In the meantime here is an index in order of when they were written.

  1. Mefloquine Dispatches: The First Asylum, 1997 (the story is at the end)
  2. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Daughter, 2016
  3. Mefloquine Dispatches: Raven, 1990s
  4. Mefloquine Dispatches: Harley Quinn, 1997
  5. Mefloquine Dispatches: @NAB, 20th March 2019
  6. Mefloquine Dispatches: @WHO, 8th August 1989
  7. Mefloquine Dispatches: Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, 11th March 2006
  8. Mefloquine Dispatches: Dr Pepper 2.2. 2011 & 1992
  9. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Joker, 1997 & 2019
  10. Mefloquine Dispatches: Acceptance, 2019
  11. Mefloquine Dispatches: Full Bloom, 2012
  12. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Claremont Serial Killings, April 1997
  13. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs, 2000
  14. Mefloquine Dispatches: SGADF, 26th September 2019
  15. Mefloquine Dispatches: Suicide Prevention, early 1990
  16. Mefloquine Dispatches: Caravaggio, October 2012
  17. Mefloquine Dispatches: RQ19/03024 #RightToKnow, 21st November 2019
  18. Mefloquine Dispatches: Royal Commission, 2020
  19. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lord Dannatt, 28th November 2019
  20. Mefloquine Dispatches: 1800 MEFLOQUINE, 10th May 2019
  21. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mindfulness, 5th December 2019
  22. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mil Mi-24, 27th March 1997
  23. Mefloquine Dispatches: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, 28th February 2020
  24. Mefloquine Dispatches: Sausage rolls and the Red Cross, 1st July 1997

Random Analytica: Australia COVID-19 cases by day

Here is a look at the total Australian cases by day since the 100th case was recorded on the 10th March 2020.

As at 6.00am on the 9th April 2020, there have been 6,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including 50-deaths. The Case Fatality Rate (CFR) based on those numbers is 0.83%.

200409_Chart_CasesByDay_Australia

Key Dates:

28th March: Travel restrictions imposed. All travellers entering Australia must undergo 14-days of isolation.
16th March: Social distancing measures adopted across all States and Territories.
13th March: Tom Hanks and Peter Dutton confirmed as having COVID-19. Measures to prevent spread tightened including social distancing measures.
18th February: Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) launched.

Table: Total Cases by State

200409_Table_TotalCases_Australia

Random Analytica: NSW COVID-19 cases by age (to 25th March 2020)

NSW COVID-19 cases hit 1,029 today. I was interested enough to have a quick look into the NSW Health’s excellent web-page. Although they supply a lot of data and charts I couldn’t see a ‘bee hive’ graphic or the age pyramid. Given NSW has just topped 1,000 cases I thought it might be worthwhile doing the chart on their behalf.

My big take-outs from looking at the chart is the uniformity of cases from ages 20 – 29 to 60 – 69 for both men and women. That’s your core working age cohort. That’s when most people travel for work and pleasure. Looks like this disease will predominately target workers in its first wave.

Second takeout. There are just two children aged 0 -9 yet eleven people aged 90 or more. Children obviously less likely to present with COVID-19. I’ll let better minds than mine figure that one out.

Chart below: NSW Age Pyramid of NSW COVID-19 cases to the 25th March 2020 (n = 1,029).

200325_Chart_NSWxAge

Source: NSW Health

200325_Screenshot_NSWHealth

Random Analytica: Australian Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases by calendar week

The daily COVID-19 numbers are escalating quickly. If you think the daily numbers are worrisome take a step back and consider the weekly new case numbers.

In the past week the new cases increased almost five-fold.

Chart below: Australian cases by week. My chart time period commences from Monday 20th January 2020 with the first confirmed COVID-19 presentation on the 25th January.

200324_Table_AUSStatesWkNo

Random Analytica: Australian Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases by day (to the end March 2020)

Here is a look at the Australian cases by day since the first known case which presented on the 25th January 2020.

As at 6.30am on the 31st March 2020, there have been 4,359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including 18-deaths. The Case Fatality Rate (CFR) based on those numbers is 0.41%.

200331_Chart_AUSCasesByDay_FINAL

Via the Australian Department of Health. Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert. Notes with a table detailing cases by location:

As at 6:30am on 31 March 2020, there have been 4,359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. There have been 266 new cases since 6:30am yesterday.

Of the 4,359 confirmed cases in Australia, 18 have died from COVID-19. More than 230,000 tests have been conducted across Australia.

200331_Table_AUSStatesCaseNo_FINAL

* Note that under National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System reporting requirements, cases are reported based on their Australian jurisdiction of residence rather than where they were detected. For example, a case reported previously in the NT in a NSW resident is counted in the national figures as a NSW case.

** Includes Diamond Princess repatriation cases: QLD (3), SA (1), VIC (4), WA (2, including 1 death)

22. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mil Mi-24, 27th March 1997

Cabinet papers are a source that I have been meaning to research.

Using 1998/99 cabinet papers Andrew Probyn from the Australian Broadcasting Commission has put together this piece on the fate of the Russian gunships owned by the Sandline mercenaries that we might have faced if we had of been deployed on the 22nd March 1997. Secrets of how Russian attack helicopters came to Australia revealed 20 years later. Extract:

The $50 million deal, signed in January 1997 to the horror of the then Howard government, would have seen foreign mercenaries flown in to destroy the Bougainville rebellion, using second-hand military equipment.

But two months later, on March 27, 1997, Australia agreed to a request from the PNG government to accept custody of the gear bought by PNG from Sandline.

“The PNG government was concerned about the delivery of the equipment to PNG in the uncertain political circumstance that prevailed at the time,” then defence minister John Moore wrote in his confidential cabinet submission.

At the time of the controversial purchase the PNG armed forces had a helicopter fleet consisting of five Bell UH-1 Iroquois of which only one was serviceable.

It also reaffirms an important date for me. I remember being stood down after three-days, which would have been the 24th March 1997. The PNG Prime Minister (Chan) had left parliament due to massive protests to his rule during those three days. The Australian Government then agreed to take the Russian helicopters (2x Mil Mi-24 and 2x Mi-8 transports) on the 27th March 1997 as the PNG Parliament began to sort out the mess.

There was also a cache of other fixed wing aircraft that Sandline had purchased and the PNG government kept but were never used in combat.

I now wonder what happened to those planes?

Mil Mi-24 -2

Picture: The Drive

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

21. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mindfulness, 5th December 2019

We sit across from each other. A small coffee table and my phone separate us. My psychologist will be helping me make this difficult call. I have spent the best part of a year working towards this point. I’m emotionally attached to this phone-call.

Today we are using a combination of mindfulness and a safe-place to ensure I stay calm. We reinforce my safe space with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

I make the call.

The conversation takes approximately 10-minutes. For me I am relating an incident that occurred almost 23-years ago. Yet it feels like it was just months previously. That’s just the amnesia. I go through the details of the incident. I get an acknowledgement and a contact person to reach out to.

We finalise the call and move over to the coffee machine so I can regather.

The emotion and the adrenaline have started to kick in. My jaw tightens. As does my chest. My voice wavers. My hands start to shake. My psychologist picks up on this straight away. He wants to bring me back down immediately.

We return to our chairs.

“I’ve got this” I say.

I close my eyes. I control my breathing which has a ragged edge to it. I imagine my safe-place. I focus entirely on my breathing.

I take an initial deep breath.

I focus on my safe-place.

A second deep breath.

Safe-place.

A third deeper breath.

I open my eyes.

I look at my psychologist. I grin. My jaw has relaxed. My shaking has disappeared. My breathing has normalised.

It took less than a minute. Rather than kick-off I am calm. We are both impressed by my progress. Just weeks before I would have been raging.

In the coming months there will be more difficult phone calls. Difficult situations. Chance encounters which I cannot control.

Practicing mindfulness is not only helping me cope with old trauma and new memories it is allowing me to operate in the real world.

One breath at a time.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

20. Mefloquine Dispatches: 1800 MEFLOQUINE, 10th May 2019

I am at the RSL sub-branch. We sit in the small office, my Advocate and I awaiting our coffees from the café next door. We chat about things that are going on in our lives. It is one of our little rituals.

The coffees arrive.

L* (my Advocate) thinks we should ring the 1800-MEFLOQUINE number today before we put in any paperwork. Mefloquine, unlike other defence related injuries has its own helpline.

I don’t handle calls to the DVA very well but L* is there to do the talking so I agree.

We call 1800-MEFLOQUINE.

The young lady who answers the phone is professional, personable, helpful but doesn’t know anything about mefloquine.

L* asks if we have a claim that is mefloquine related is there a fast-track process and is there someone available to talk us through it.

We are told that the 1800-MEFLOQUINE number is now going through to the main contact line and there are no specialists available to talk to. It seems the call-line is about to be  archived due to a lack of need.

Another frustration. L* and I put some of the paperwork through anyway. Hopefully we can get it in time to be amongst the Veterans receiving the anti-malarial health checks which we are told by the Minister will be available in July.

Several frustrating months later I am happy to report that the 1800-MEFLOQUINE number is back up and running. Also there is another commitment to the anti-malarial health checks.

Not in July 2019 as promised.

In 2020.

That aside, we are starting to make some progress. I’ll be ringing 1800-MEFLOQUINE this Thursday with a witness to formally report mefloquine exposure on Operation BARITONE..

Let’s see how they go the second time around.

191201_iLetter_DChester_Pg1of2191201_iLetter_DChester_Pg2of2

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

18. Mefloquine Dispatches: Royal Commission, 2020

According to N* when I first worked out what happened to me back in 1997 I was in shock for weeks.

It took me just a few hours on a lazy afternoon in February to work it all out. On a white board at the local RSL sub-branch listening to Enigma. I called it my ‘Wacky Board’. I do more memory work that night. Found some evidence to back the memories. Get new memories.

I do the due diligence and the research. Worked out the timelines, identified the opportunities missed. Even found the exposure documented in legacy Red Cross records.

By the time I was reasonably sure that at least a company of us had been exposed I was getting very sick. My rage had dissipated. Replaced by numbness. Numbness was replaced by bitterness, grief and anger. Anger then became psychosis.

I got myself admitted three days later. As I sat in the mental health unit I waited for someone from the Army to come and interview me. Times, dates, places. Whatever I could remember.

Why me, I said? Why the fuck was it left to me to clean this up? It’s not like I owed the Army any favours. They had done a pretty good job of throwing me under a bus in the late 90s. Then the DVA piled on. It was a free-for-all.

As I await a visit from someone in authority I gather more evidence.

Waiting, waiting, waiting …

No one came to visit me in hospital in March.

Or April.

I make myself sick filling out DVA paperwork in May/June. My two claims are filled with evidence supporting my mefloquine exposure.

Hurry up and wait some more …

June, July and August go by.

By September I think the DVA and the Army have forgotten me. My suspicions are confirmed when I ring my Social Worker at the DVA and she can’t even remember my name.

This should have been sorted months ago. I go bezerk again. Wind up back in hospital.

When I get out I try to get the message out without filters.

I try the fourth estate again. They are too busy getting raided by the AFP to want to hear my complex little story.

I tell the Minister. He doesn’t even bother to get back to me.

I write laments to my past to raise an eyebrow. Nothing. They start angry but as the months go by they soften. I soften. If any blame is due on this strategy it is because of my lack of writing ability, not about the story itself.

It’s now November.

The DVA get back to me with a rehabilitation plan. It doesn’t mention mefloquine. 

In desperation I reach out to the Senate Committee that was supposed to investigate this back in 2018. They have limited powers now but will get back to me. When they do get back to me they encourage me to follow-up on my suppressed FOI requests as they too await a response from the DVA.

I’ve given it my all this year to try and get the message out. To the infantry company. To my two mates who surely boarded those planes with me back in 97. I wish I knew who it was but I cannot remember. 

It doesn’t matter anymore. This matter needs to be included in the Royal Commission into Veteran Suicides.

I’m so tired of excuses.

It shouldn’t have been this hard.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.