Geoff's Story

Getting the right treatment in the face of prejudice

With a bit of help change is possible …

I’m finally in a council flat. Independent living. 

Three years ago, I was notified that I had an infection in my spine. So, in 2017 I was hospitalised for ten weeks on IV antibiotics and a world of medication, but when I got out of hospital I had no support.

The first time they discharged me onto the streets, but that’s when I got my council flat because they had a duty of care. I was actually three weeks by myself at home, before they came and did the assessment. The hospital should have done all that prior to me leaving, but they just didn’t do it. I remember saying, you can’t just kick me out!

It was P3, my worker, she was really hands-on at the time and she sorted occupational therapy. They wasn’t going to give me any home help, you know someone to come and help me cook, tidy up and clean stuff. Eventually that got sorted, but they dragged their feet so much.

I had to go to Tesco every day to get my medication. P3 was always at my door half eight/nine o’clock in the morning because I was in the routine of having my medication first thing when I woke up ‘cos I was in agony, not walking at all. I was on a walking frame at that stage.

I’d take a world of pain before I’d even mention it to someone

First of all, they tried saying it was just sciatica, because I had this pain going up and down my leg and in my bum and I couldn’t find one second of comfort. It was constant, I was really ill. I went up to A&E three times and they said: ‘Oh a back injury’ (because they can’t see your spine) and I was like: ‘It’s very serious though! I don’t play with pain; I’d take a world of pain before I’d even mention it to someone, let alone come to hospital.’

It actually happened five months before that. I had an injury where I trapped my leg in my ex-girlfriend’s car. I closed the car door—it was stupid—I was a little bit high and drunk. So, we were talking and talking, it was getting cold and it was pitch black, and I thought we’re not going to say goodbye for another five minutes so I closed the door, argh what the hell!

I’d only put one leg in and what happened was it split the skin and that caused cellulitis which basically is an infection of the skin … a bit of dirt that gets in your blood system and my leg blew up … I had to go to hospital and stuff. I believe my spine was an after-effect of that, the infection travelled around my system to my spinal area. So now, there’s no synovial fluid between my eleventh and twelfth vertebrae; they’d been constantly rubbing that much there’s a gap of bone, literally. It was really, really bad.

When people get addicted it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means they’ve had problems

What happened to me is the same thing that happened to my brother, only he died. We’re being prejudiced because we’ve got a drug history and as soon as that … well you feel it, you know? Always, you pick up that shift in people as they turn their nose up at you, and you’re having to fight hammer and tong to get seen … Nothing was happening, it was almost like they were trying to get me angry so then they had a reason to just kick me out! You know what I mean? He’s a drug addict, on and off drugs … and stuff like that.

It’s just down to prejudice, I can work it out very quick. I’m always polite, so it can’t be because of my personality. It’s when they look at my records, but it’s a past, it’s my past, you know? They should be more open minded in healthcare, there’s a million and one ways that people can get addicted, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means they’ve had problems and they’ve tried to use substances to mask it. That’s why I think the majority of the time people turn to drugs.

Having no settled home has had a big impact

For me, I was adopted from a very young age, put back into care, put into boarding school, battered, battered, battered … Different homes, so going home to home … That had an impact, making me a bit aggressive and paranoid, probably from my teenage years to my mid-twenties. That happened while I was in custody, it’s such a shameful thing, being in prison fourteen years on two sentences. Drugs was really the cause of it. I was taking Valium and amphetamines from age 14/15.

Having no settled home has had a big impact on my saneness. I have a big history of self-harm, I’ve cut my own throat one time, tried to kill myself. I’ve lost my brother, I’ve lost my very best friend, he was my friend when I was in care. He died at a rave that we were both at. Someone must have put something in his bottles or something because he’d OD'ed on a cocktail of stuff. It was horrific.

By this stage I was introduced to P3, but I wasn’t being very serious with remembering appointments, I missed bereavement counselling and stuff, my head wasn’t properly good around that time. It led up to me having a house fire. I nearly died. I don’t know how I got out of it alive.

I’ve survived a lot of horrific things

I fell asleep and I woke up and my settee was ablaze. So, on the arm of the sofa I had a cheap phone, it had burnt out down to the switchboard with the circuit bits on it. The fire brigade did an assessment, they confirmed the source of the fire was the sofa, but they haven’t told me if they think it was the phone.

I couldn’t get out my front door, so I went past that to my bathroom and the little window was open so I went straight to it. The pain though—I was not long out of hospital! Still, I managed to get to the window, put my head out and by now all the neighbours were all throwing bricks and rocks to try and smash my windows. That’s how I ended up going—head first out and did myself another injury!

I’ve survived a lot of horrific things man, I think it’s my brother watching over me.

It’s not easy turning your life round when there’s a lot of negativity going on around you …

There’s things I want to not hear, not see, not know what’s going on. It’s those red flag people, places and situations that you need to avoid. For me it’s when I’m in the company of people that live that sort of lifestyle, I feel this is not where I want to be.

I want to be that positive person, I want to help others. I know I would not have done half the positive things in my life if it hadn’t been for P3. Everyone has been so supportive. Coming out of hospital, my house fire, moving I’ve been supported throughout by P3. It’s been so positive, it’s helped me to help myself.

*Name changed for anonymity.

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