A couple of days at work and then two days off where my brain refused to get out of idle means that I've seriously fallen behind schedule for NaNoWriMo. If I don't have the chance to get going then I'm unlikely to 'win'. Still, even if I don't finish the 50,000 words by the end of November, I'm still planning on finishing this thing.
What I do with it once it's written may be something… interesting.
It would seem that Judith’s lead has paid off, she’s leading be down some cobbled Swedish backstreets to a bar where I’m to meet a family that is dodging their responsibility to the ‘Home Care Plan’. They have a relative that is comatose in hospital and while they should be taking care of him, instead they had sold everything and gone underground.
Judith is ahead of me, and I’m watching her short ponytail swinging left and right in from of me. Every few steps she takes another puff on the cigar that she has clenched between her teeth.
She was late back to the hotel last night, I heard her crashing into the ajoining room at 4am. This morning she smells of sweat, smoke and alcohol. She’s also in a grumpy mood.
“In there”, she has abruptly stopped and started pointing at a tiny ramshackle bar, “I’ll be in later, I just want to make sure that we haven’t been followed. Lots of dodgy bastards around here.”
She then ignores me and pretends to take an interest in the clothing shop opposite the pub, staring deep into it’s large shop window.
I enter them pub and it’s so dark it take a moment for my eyes to acclimatise to the dark. Sitting at a table, a bowl of bacon pasta in front of them are the two people I’m here to see.
Mr and Mrs ‘Sundin’, (not their real name), are essentially on the run from the law.
Every family in Sweden (as in much of the developed world) has a responsibility enshrined in emergency legislation to look after any close relative that becomes affected by CLBD-7. These laws were passed to enable hospitals in countries with socialised medicine to continue providing care for those unaffected.
One year ago Mrs Sundin’s mother failed to wake up from a night’s sleep, since then she has been comatose.
The law says that, once all other causes have been ruled out, the nearest relative takes on the responsibility of caring for that person, be that in their own home or by purchasing private healthcare. Either way the state isn’t going to help you.
The Sundin household is not a rich one, Mr Sundin tells me that he has work as a freelance web consultant and Mrs Sundin gave up her work as a secretary when her mother became ill.
The thought of having to look after her mother filled Mrs Sundin with fear, she tells me, she has had no training in how to care for people and hates the thought of having to spend twenty four hours a day looking after a ‘vegetable’.
She says that she tried, her mother was transported home by ambulance only a few hours after the ‘Home Care Advisor’ had left the family home, the advisor had told Mrs Sundin about pressure sores and cleaning incontinent patients as well as how to change the food bag that led directly into her mother’s stomach. She counts herself lucky that she got that advice as soon afterwards the Home Care Advisory Service suffered a number of cutbacks making people rely on advice from the internet.
After one week Mrs Sundin tells me that she had stopped crying, that instead all her emotions left her and she settled into the routine of turning, washing and, after her mother was incontinent, changing the bed.
She tells me that her home used to smell nice, that it was clean and presentable – but that now it only smelt of urine and shit and talcum powder.
She tells me that when she was working she used to spend time socialising with her work-mates, every Friday the staff at the small insurance office where she worked would go out to a local bar for dancing and drinking. Now, as she was not at work, she never went out except to get shopping.
Two months into the care of her mother and she finally snapped. No-one to turn to, no one except her husband to help, no support from the government all wore down her resolve and she started to make plans to run. She tells me that she no longer saw her mother as her mother, instead she saw her as a lump of meat, there was no spark of recognition. Sometimes her mother would open her eyes and Mrs Sundin would stare into them hoping for some spark of intelligence. But it never happened.
Mr Sundin had made a number of contacts in the internet community so when it came time for them to disappear he knew people that could help them. They sold the house, placing Mrs Sundin’s mother in a short term care facility, they then took the money and vanished.
Mr Sundin tells me that they had to make deals with several people from outside the law. Those are his exact words, ‘outside the law’. These people, and he doesn’t elaborate any further, gave them new identities. Now Mr and Mrs Sudin have new names and a new address, the house that they rent is much smaller and Mr Sudin had to give up his job, the web market is too well connected for him to take his new identity anywhere else. Mrs Sundin returned to secretarial work, although she doesn't attend the Friday night drinks at her new workplace.
Mr Sundin now has work in a postal office.
As for Mrs Sundin’s mother, I cannot say. In Sweden they have large warehouses full of comatose patients, stacked away and looked after by minimum wage carers. The death rates are terrible there, but it is all the government can afford.
Mrs Sundin doesn’t know if her mother is still alive, she knows that she’ll never find out.
If the law ever catch up with Mr and Mrs Sundin they could be put in prison for up to ten years. Mrs Sundin tells me that she would rather be in prison than tied to a house looking after someone who doesn’t recognise her any more, feeling the love for her mother, the woman who raised her, slowly ebb away.
I leave Mr and Mrs Sundin at the bar, nursing their drinks, eating their pasta. Judith is still outside, still smoking the same cigar.
We head back to the hotel.