Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Combat psychiatry

So...many years ago...in a moment of boredom...(because living in Jo'burg and working in a Trauma Unit wasn't stimulating enough for me...not to mention going through a divorce and having to deal with my ex-wife...or Jabba-the-Hutt as she is more commonly known)...I signed up to do "victim empowerment" for the SA Police Services.

The idea was that you would go to the scene of a crime and counsel the victims...it was voluntary and to be honest I was only doing it in the hope of meeting a good looking woman!

Nevertheless,I got a cool high-visibility jacket;a snappy looking ID card that got me free coffee at Bimbos';and was able to use the lights and siren that I had had fitted to my 4x4 when I was a Peace Monitor.

To be honest,there was very little in the way of "empowerment"...most of the calls that I received were hostage negotiation type calls.

One warm spring evening ...at the height of rush hour...I got a call to attend an incident at the 'Lemon Squeezer', ...St. Charles Catholic Church in Victory Park.

Now drivers in Johannesburg are not typically the most polite...particularly on a warm evening when a cold beer and a hot wife are waiting for you at home...
Additionally,the church is situated at a major traffic intersection...major because it was also on several mini-bus-taxi routes.

For readers unfamiliar with the mini-bus-taxi industry....well....imagine that evil zombies who speak no known language...who have no driving skills...no spatial awareness...and who are totally unfamiliar with the concepts of 'brakes'...who are all armed to the teeth...who drive un-roadworthy vehicles absolutely jam packed with terrified passengers...and who use the roads as a ten-pin bowling alley with pedestrians as pins...and then pretend that they are blind and deaf as well....and you might have some idea of what its like dealing with them.

And so...because 3 major roads were cordoned off by the traffic cops...there were a lot of very very irate people who wanted to just get home...and a lot of them were offering to shot the 'terrorist' if the police lacked the skills...or balls...to do so.

Using lights,sirens and a number of common hand gestures,I eventually got through the crowds and approached the Sergeant in charge.

I shrugged on my Hi-Vis vest,settled my .357 revolver (loaded with hydra-shok bullets) in its quick draw holster,made sure that both my cell phones were working...phoned to cancel the pizza I had ordered...hung my ID around my neck,opened a bottle of water and listened to his story.

A woman with a knife...a large knife...a sharp large knife...with a big handle...was holding a group of people which included a priest...hostage in one of the rooms adjacent to the church.

She claimed that she had been given the power to " 'discern' the 666 black plastic whore-of-Babylon Sangoma"...and that she needed to be taken to the Vatican to see the Pope so that she and he might end all the evil in the world.


And she was threatening to kill anyone who got in her way.Naturally the people at the church had locked the door to their room and them had phoned the police...the police were quite keen to shoot her...but in a moment of kindness...or possibly because they wanted some good PR,the sergeant in charge had contacted me.

Behind us the muttering from the crowd was increasing because the traffic had been held up for some time.

So Lucian...do you think you can help us?

"I don't know sarge...but...you know...dealing with my ex-wife has given me lots of skills I didn't have a year ago so give me 10 minutes...by the way...if it looks like shes going to stab me please just shoot her."

Okay...no problems hey...take a radio

I buttoned my jacket so she couldn't see my revolver and strolled casually towards her.
She was a tall gangly grey-haired woman in her late-forties,wearing a stained floral dress and track shoes,and was walking around waving her arms above her head,the knife held firmly in her right hand.

"Hello...my name is Lucian...whats your name?"

Its not important...I am only Gods Vessel....have you come to take me to the Pope?

I have the power you know...the power to discern the '666 black plastic whore-of-Babylon Sangoma'....and I need to meet with the Pope...

"Uh huh...so...would you like some water? You look tired..."

Well...its been a long journey

(She had in fact walked some 25 miles or so from the Private psychiatric hospital in which she was supposed to have been incarcerated to find the church which she remembered from her more lucid past)

"Have some water..."

Its could be poisoned...!!

"Jah...it could be...but I'll drink some first..."

I don't want to drink your backwash...!!

(Humm...not so crazy then...)

Fortunately her father then arrived,having been phoned by her hospital to say she was missing and then having heard a report of the TV news about the situation at the church.He explained that she had schizophrenia with paranoid delusions and frequently thought she was the Vessel of God.He made a strong case for us to not just shoot her...a view not held by the police or the irate motorists at this point.

"Hey...Mary...your dad is here...do you want to talk to him?"

No...he is a '666 black plastic whore-of-Babylon Sangoma'


"Okay...this is the plan...you need to give me the knife and let me take you to hospital..."

And if I don't give you the knife...what are you going to do...kill me???

"Jah...I'll let the snipers deal with you..."

Oh ?....oh....okay...

She dropped the knife and sat down on the grass...whereupon 6 cops of assorted size and intellect jumped on her and hand-cuffed her.

We agreed that I would take her to hospital in my 4x4 with her sitting in the back seat wedged between 2 heavily armed and very irritated cops.

And in the blink of an eye we decanted her at the local ER and asked to see the duty shrink.The Charge Nurse kindly showed us to the 'Psych Room' where we made ourselves comfortable.

About 20 minutes later, a tried and harassed looking Psych Registrar hustled into the room.

I was leaning against the wall trying to re-order the pizza;and the 2 cops,wearing camouflage uniforms and holding automatic rifles were sitting chatting about football; and the patient was sitting quietly in the chair,to which she had been handcuffed.

Whats going on? Who are all you people ??Why is this patient hand-cuffed???

I told him what had transpired earlier in the evening;that she had previously been sectioned;and that,-in my humble opinion-,she was both nuts and dangerous.

I don't believe you....you're just a policeman

"Actually....I'm a trauma nurse...and I went to the church and stopped her from being shot..."

Well...I don't care who you are....take off the handcuffs...she's clearly not dangerous...!!

"Really ? You want me to take off the handcuffs...Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay...lets do that..."

The cops looked at each other;at me;at the patient;at the Doctor and back to me.And then back to the patient.


"Jah...okay...no sweet...our work here is done guys...please unlock the cuffs and lets Foxtrot Oscar"

So he did...and the patient thanked him...and then jumped from her chair and attacked the Doctor saying that he was clearly the '666 black plastic whore-of-Babylon Sangoma'.

Its amazing how much damage an empty plastic water bottle can do to a psychiatrist.

We would have liked to help...but hey...he said she was sane.

The Sergeant was kinder than me though...and tear-gassed the pair of them so that the hospital security staff could handcuff the woman again.

I never subsequently had problems with the department of psychiatry at that particular hospital.



  1. Dude. That was the funniest thing I have read in ages. I remember driving past the Squeeza on that day and seeing the phalanx of police vehicles there and wondering what was going on. Now I know. You have gotta love psychiatrists.

  2. That is SUCH an "Told You So" moment...but of course, you didn't say that, did you ;) Well, maybe not out loud at any rate.

  3. Julian, a comment and way of words you have and "told you so" to the Dr. you really ought to write a book .... man, I could read your post all day!
    Power to your elbow ru/pat/clap rub/pat/ clap- hilarious!