Picture this …
You have just gotten home from work and let the pups inside.
As you make your way across the end of your bed to the ensuite, your Kelpie has raced you there and is standing on the end of the bed, wagging her tail excitedly in hopes of a pat. You bend down to her.
While your forehead is against hers as you scratch her behind her ears, into the room comes your Labrador. Head down, tug-o-war soccer ball in her mouth.
As she enters the bedroom, she jumps for the bed. Right where you’re positioned.
The next thing you know you are waking up on the bedroom floor with a pounding headache, a throbbing left eye, one dog whimpering and limp, and one dog distraught, trying to understand what happened.
I don’t have to picture this because it happened to me.
photos taken after regaining conciousness
It was August 2017 during our last deployment.
Dazed and nauseous, I lifted our whimpering Labrador onto the bed and climbed up there myself with our Kelpie following me.
I knew we both had a concussion.
The next thing I knew my morning alarm was going off.
The next morning I had an impressive shiner and both myself and our lab had the headache to go with it.
I’m aware of how incredibly lucky I was with this experience and having gone to sleep with this concussion, unsupervised.
I’m also incredibly aware of the situation I was in.
I also know that no one should be in the situation I was in.
Even if I had been able to call someone upon sustaining my concussion, who was I going to call? What were my support options?
When my black eye happened, I’d been a Defence Partner for five years. Our first three years we were unrecognised member with dependent unaccompanied (MWD(U)).
Then, I moved suddenly one afternoon, by which I mean I got a plane and that was that. He needed surgery and I wanted and needed to be there.
He was medically upgraded within the year and deployed in January of 2017.
Me, I was just getting on with it.
Finding my feet, living solo, juggling finding employment, navigating an end of lease, own home purchase, moving solo and planning the wedding that turned out to be only a month after this extended deployment would end.
My greatest concern during my emergency was our dogs. They were still pups, used to sleeping inside and terrible at being outside. They hadn’t been fed and one had a concussion. If I was to attend and possibly have to stay at the hospital for observation, who was able to check on our girls or possibly pet sit overnight and take our girl to the vet if she got worse?
I didn’t know any other partners or have friends in location.
All my energy in the year I’d been there went into establishing our home (furniture, household goods) while I tried to pivot careers, study, be a partner, and a carer.
I also hadn’t understood the importance of making friends or building a support network as a Defence family. Honestly, up until my emergency, I was enjoying the solitude and relishing in the fact the drama I was experiencing amongst friends I’d had prior to relocation had fallen away.
Both our families were 10 hours and two States away.
I didn’t know of and wasn’t a member of the local Facebook group. It had never even occurred to me that such groups existed. Not that I could have brought myself to post there for help even if I was part of the group.
I didn’t know colleagues to have called on and I certainly
didn’t have their contact details at hand nor live near any of them.
Pre-deployment there had been a family day those deploying had paraded at but there was no pre-deployment partner or family briefing with information or guidance about emergencies or available support for a situation like mine.
The week before he deployed, they gave them an emergency contact list, which he had stuck on the fridge.
What were those roles and numbers listed?
When would or should I call and to whom?
What should you expect when calling those numbers?
Who is the Padre (Chaplain)? Would you call them if you weren’t religious?
Would calling the duty officer or guard room have assisted?
Those are answers that 2017 me didn’t have.
I may have had these answers if there had been a pre-deployment family briefing or partner induction day. But there wasn’t.
And so, like most Defence Partners, I just kind of got on with it.
Today, I’m not sure knowing these roles and contact points would have helped with my situation anyway; being that I needed someone to be with and look after the dogs.
So there I was, new Defence Partner, in a location still new to me, experiencing unconsciousness, concussion, a need for the hospital, and care for my dogs at home but alone.
But there are silver linings to my black eye story.
The black eye cleared in time for our wedding that was just weeks away!
More importantly, if I hadn’t been through such a scary situation I wouldn’t have been prompted to share an important life lesson with you about the need for integrating into the community, forging your support network, and being informed, organized and prepared.
Let me ask you, if you were incapacitated in an emergency, and your partner was uncontactable, would anyone know this and how to have an urgent message shared with them?
My alternative emergency contact does and yours should too!
What about if you have kids and the emergency is around school pick-up time, is there an emergency readiness plan to be followed by the childcare or school for the care of any children?
We will have one and you should too!
That’s why I’ve created the DFICE – Defence Family In Case of Emergency – card and the emergency readiness and response resources. To help you with your emergency readiness and response plan!
To hear more about the Defence Family in Case of Emergency Card or the Checklists, Guides and Organising systems I have or am creating to help navigate and manage defence life, check out ep126 of the ML Podcast by clicking on the link for Military life The Podcast above or searching for Military Life in your fav podcast app.