MONDAY Day 2
The orange for breakfast was not so sweet as yesterday. We rang the Embassy and by re-iterating the difficulties Matt’s illness imposed – his contrariness and his alternate reality, read madness- we managed to reach an upper level of command, which was the Primary Secretary for Consul for BA, Naomi. (not her real name) We made an appointment for the afternoon. We were to meet with the doctors first. The Reception desk at Argenta Towers, our hotel, callled us a taxi and we arrived at The Guardia of the hospital about half hour later. The traffic was pretty heavy as it was a week day and the fare was 113 pesos, about a quarter of the eye liner. The hospital is in a district called Flores and the streets were dirty and packed with cars and buses and lined with graffiti and motor bike shops and mechanics. We intersected an arterial street named Ave. de Eva Peron which looked like the Footscray end of Williamstown Rd. The hospital was in a hub for shopping and public transport. It was a grand Victorian style building painted green and the Psych Ward was behind.
The Guardia was a separate building inside the the main gates, a grungy reception area with the lingering smell of a urinal and the look of imposed socialism. The staff behind the grill were cheerfully impervious to their surrounds and very helpful. We were expected. We were escorted to Matt’s ward. Dr Farugia and the Resident had a long talk to us about how well Matt was doing. We nonetheless insisted that under no circumstances could we take him into our care before Weds afternoon on the way to our flight leaving at 9.30pm Weds evening. We were given scripts for his anti-psychotic and for a tranquillizer injection. He has been on a generic form of his anti psychotic and the standard of generics in Argentina cannot be relied upon. They use them in hospitals because they are cheap.
Matthew greeted us disdainfully. He was arrogant and disrespectful not just to us but also to the staff. His plan was to live in Argentina off his $20,000 which I had foolishly but with good intentions forwarded to him. He had managed a trip to Colombia in June so well, I judged him responsible enough to have access to the funds. I told him the bank had reversed the money back to me. He refused to believe me. I gave him my phone and with the hospitals open wifi, he looked up his account. I stepped back from him as he saw the balance. I was sure he would lash out in anger. He could not believe his eyes. He did not think it possible. He threw the phone in my direction in disgust. I managed to catch it and I was not happy.
‘What do I do now?’ he said with a theatrical roll of his eyes.
That was the good news for the day, a display of surrender to the reality of his changed circumstances. How long would it last?
We said we would return later in the day when we had picked up his bags with clothes and toiletries from the Embassy.
“Buy me some tobacco, as well” he said to me.
‘I don’t think I will, Matt, as you have been so rude to me’
He turned to his sister. ‘Will you get me some?’
‘That’s the first time you have looked at me today, Matt and I don’t feel like getting it either.’
We turned to go.
“Get a lighter as well”
We’ll think about it,’ said Tina
We hailed a taxi on the noisy street and searched for a ‘large’ chemist which was more likely to stock the clozapine patent than a smaller one. We tried two and received a shake of the head. One pharmacist looked rather alarmed. Perhaps she thought Christina or I were in need of it. We decided to go to meet Naomi at the Embassy. Perhaps they could advise as to a likely source. The taxi took us to Palermo, a leafier suburb than Flores. There was security at the door. All bags and electronic equipment were placed in a locker, by the uniformed concierge or Security man and we were directed along a white walled pathway to the main entrance. It was quiet as a monastery. The reception area where we waited had magnificent parquetry floors and was tastefully furnished with a colour scheme borrowed from the Indigenous art on the walls. Although Malcolm Turnbull had been Prime Minister only a few days, his photo was prominently displayed along with that of Julie Bishop. We waited just long enough to appreciate we were in hallowed ground when Naomi appeared. She was an unremarkable looking middle aged women whose clothes were similarly nondescript. She apologised for yawning and explained she was an insomniac. She was very easy to talk to and generous with her time as we went through possible scenarios for Matt’s return and made a list of priorities. This was all on the assumption that he would accompany us to the airport.
We would need a medical certificate stating he was fit to travel.
We were unlikely to get a medical assistant to accompany us. In the eyes of the airline it could contradict his fitness. We wanted him tranquillised at the hospital and we wanted oral sedative to keep him calm, if necessary, when in the air.
The Embassy Interpreter Gina showed us where to access the phone and the internet. It was she and another staffer who had gone to Matt’s hostel the previous week to persuade him to catch the flight I booked for him home. It was she whom Matthew had threatened with boiling water. This had precipitated his committal to the nearest hospital. She had been extremely frightened at the time but held no grudge. There was a volatility to Matt that the Embassy staff had underestimated. She was very sweet and understanding and accepted no apology from us for his behaviour. Christina had big tears rolling down her cheeks.
‘I cry’, she said,’when people are so kind.’
She was up close and involved in her brother’s psychosis for the first time. I had been through similar logistics trying to get him home from London where he lived rough for six months. I had first hand accounts from friends and acquaintances there of his sorry state and drug use.
Gina located a pharmacy which could obtain the branded clozapine and the tranquillizer injection. We would pick that up tomorrow, Tuesday. That was a great help and a huge relief.
We collected his belongings. There was a large bag he uses for golf and the side pocket was inexplicably still full of golf balls. It had more clothes than I expected and they were heavy with Matt’s smell. There was a back pack that was also heavy with hard cover books, one about the Sydney Swans and their glorious AFL Premiership of two years ago.
The Embassy guaranteed a car and driver to take us from the hotel to the hospital and onto the airport on Weds afternoon. It was late in the afternoon when we decided to return to the hotel, get his clothes washed, find somewhere to eat and rest for the remainder of the day. We did pick up tobacco for him and after some rest I wanted to taxi back to the hospital with his clean clothes and smokes. A few deep breaths later and a think about the distance and the traffic conditions and on Christina’s advice, I changed my mind. He had been without his belongings for over a week and would show no appreciation for their delivery a few hours earlier than the next day. We ate our chocolate that we had bought with the tobacco and chilled out. By 8pm I was in bed and reading. But not for long. I fell asleep and so did Tina. By the end of the day she was exhausted and said she felt she’d been hit by a bus. I woke early the next morning and could not help rehearsing the trip home in my head with all the attendant anxiety. In an attempt to calm myself, I put on a lamp and started writing. We have no plans as yet for the morning. All our business is in the afternoon. We pick up the clean washing from the nearby laundry, pickup the meds from the pharmacy Gina located, go to the hospital with his stuff and brace ourselves for another encounter.