A picture of the inside of a secure ambulance including a cage door and an ambulance escort

The World’s Worst Kidnap and I

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It’s the 2nd of February 2015 and finally, having been transferring CAMHS unit ‘soon’ since November, I am being moved the 250 miles from Southampton to Yorkshire. Having been at Heron unit the longest of all the patients and having nowhere to go home to, the psychiatrist felt that this move was the best decision in order for it to be the new unit’s job to work out where I should move on to. This had been his aim for several months when he finally arranged a ‘ring-fenced’ bed for me, a term which I found humorous in the context of a psychiatric ward. I imagined a bed with high barbed wire covering it with my dinner being pushed through each evening. I had been awake all night which was custom at that time, checking and rechecking my bags. Despite having come to hospital with just a backpack and a bag of dog food, in those six months I had acquired a lot of belongings- most of them hand crafted items from occupational therapy sessions. At dawn the knock at the door came, and for reasons I still don’t understand I discovered that the ‘private ambulance’ I was being transported in was a mobile padded cell complete with floor to ceiling soundproofing and a metal cage. Heron unit in general was a secure setting- the doors were locked and a lot of day-to-day items were not allowed. Although this was the case I am still not sure the secure transport was necessary as, being blind, my risk of absconding on the motorway was very low. I hasten to add that I was not travelling in the cage; though if I had been there would at least have been the advantage of facing the way that we were travelling.

All parties- myself, guide dog and occupational therapist were unimpressed at the early start. The OT had offered to come on the 500 mile round trip to support me, something I was exceedingly grateful for in my anxious state. As we tried to play card games at sunrise, rattling backwards down the motorway, ambulance man Dave who had claimed the only forward facing seat kept falling asleep mid sentence. I didn’t mind, it was quite funny considering he was there to ensure I wouldn’t do a Houdini style escape. When he wasn’t asleep he was telling us facts about the motorways we were on or beating us at Uno.

“Is this how they transfer murderers?” I asked, about an hour in to the journey while admiring the decor.
“Sometimes… But we’d have them in the cage with a lot more escorts.” Dave replied.

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At the service station a couple of hours later (now in daylight) I realised that the vehicle looked to all the world like a white, rather grubby, transit van. This coupled with the soundproofed interior, cage and blacked out windows made me wonder if I was in fact involved in the world’s most ineffectual kidnap.

If given the choice on any long journey, one should always take an Occupational Therapist. The things they hold on their person on a daily basis is undeniably impressive. The OT Supremo I travelled with had in her handbag alone; a colouring book, a large assortment of pens, a decorative fabric heart to be customised, and a multi-layer Tupperware box of nuts and seeds to share. All of which were put to good use on the journey.

Seven hours on, the van pulled up and we all jumped out lead by Brian the driver. With his clipboard in hand as if he was a DPD delivery driver dropping a parcel, he went into a rather decrepit looking building, only to return perplexed five minutes later. Out of breath from the short walk he recounted:
“I went in and said we’re here and they said that it was a unit for the deaf… So I think: ‘she’s blind’ and then they tell me that the outpatient bit is next door. So… I go to outpatient, but I says ‘we don’t need outpatient, we need inpatient’. So they’ve given me this address.”

“He’s good is Brian. Used to be a traffic cop. Driving’s in his blood.” Dave tells us when we were all belted back into the van. “Isn’t that right Bri?!” He shouts through the tiny Perspex hatch which Brian had been silently driving behind all day. Brian then proceeded to sail past my new unit three times, whilst grumbling about not having the postcode and just the street address. It was on the third time that we sailed by the unit that OT supremo tentatively spoke up, and Brian and Dave pulled up and moved my luggage inside.

And then I was there. Airlocked in, in the appropriate region and with genuine northern people. However I was also saying goodbye to someone who helped me infinitely during my time at *Heron. Saying goodbye to OT Supremo was hard, and with her I said goodbye to my make-shift home for the last six months. And the future, in a brand new unit, seemed a whole lot scarier.

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