Saturday, July 13, 2024

Irene suffered an aneurysm and was in a coma for a month. When she woke, her home and possessions were gone

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In short:

Irene Dornan suffered a “catastrophic brain haemorrhage” 18 months ago and her family was warned by doctors she would not survive.

When she woke from her coma, her public housing home had been relinquished and she entered a care facility.

Now she’s made a full recovery, and Ms Dornan would like to be made a priority case to get another government home.

Irene Dornan is a medical miracle, surviving what her doctor labelled a “catastrophic brain haemorrhage” last February that left her in coma.

But when she woke up, her home, her dog and everything she owned was gone.

Ms Dornan has lived in public housing since the late 1980s and when her children were told by doctors their mother was not going to survive, they were forced to forfeit her home.

At 73, Ms Dornan is now living in a high-care Fremantle nursing home.

Despite having a clean bill of health, she’s surrounded by people who require round-the-clock care and are suffering from conditions like dementia.

An older woman named Irene Dornan looks directly at the camera.

Irene Dornan has a clean bill of health, but is living in a Fremantle aged care facility. (ABC News: Ruby Littler)

Ms Dornan lost her social housing home, is on a two-year wait list for a new one, can’t find or afford a private rental, and feels stuck in a nursing home where she doesn’t belong.

“I can remember waking up in the nursing home and not knowing what had happened. I just had people saying to me ‘this is your new home’. And I didn’t know what happened,” Ms Dornan said.

“I just want my own little home. Just something, anything. My own space. 

“What I really want is to go back to what I had, but I can’t.”

Ms Dornan had a brain aneurysm 18 months ago and lapsed into a month-long coma. Doctors repeatedly told her family in no uncertain terms that she was not going to survive.

Full recovery

Even when she slowly started to get better, the prognosis was that she would require full-time care. 

This led to her being placed in the nursing home, which could cater to her needs. But now she’s better.

She’s made a miraculous recovery and feels she has nothing to show for it. 

“I feel like it’s hard not to give up because I’m stuck,” she said.

“For me, (the nursing home) it’s not good. Because I don’t belong there, in a place like that.

“I’m fully independent. I do everything myself, take the bus the shopping centres, coffees, lunches but then I have to go back there, which is not very nice for me.

“I need a home. And I had one … with the government. And that’s gone, along with everything else.”

‘Extremely traumatic’

She’s also worried she’s taking up a bed that someone else may desperately need.

Her son Stephen Dornan is calling for the Department of Communities to have a more personalised approach.

An older woman with a younger man sit talking.

Irene Dornan and her son Stephen want the government to prioritise her case. (ABC News: Ruby Littler)

“She’s lost everything through no fault of her own. And it seems completely impersonal the way in which we’re having to deal with the department,” Mr Dornan said.

“The lack of the ability to treat people as individuals and see the individual situations, mum’s is a complex story … now she’s been basically abandoned.”

He said the whole ordeal, from his mother’s initial incident to her current living situation, has been extremely traumatic.

“There were lots of end-of-life conversations with neurosurgeons, and the team there … so we were really readying ourselves to say goodbye.”

In the current housing market, Ms Dornan’s pension doesn’t stretch very far and even with the help of her children, privately renting simply isn’t a realistic option. 

So she’s stuck in a waiting game.

Mr Dornan said his mother had always been an exemplary public housing tenant and believes she should be made a priority. 

An middle-aged man named Stephen Dornan looks straight at the camera.

Stephen Dornan wants more personalisation when analysing public housing cases. (ABC News: Ruby Littler)

He’s appealed to several local government members and their responses were sympathetic but ultimately, they couldn’t help.

“At this stage … she’s going to be stuck where she is for the next two years, which is impacting the mental health more than anything,” Mr Dornan said.

“The care … she was given initially was fantastic, because it catered to her 24-hour needs. 

“But as she’s become more and more independent, the place where she’s staying, is not designed for independent living.”


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