Penny Clough



My name is Penny Clough. This is my story.

I am going to tell you about my life over the past 40 years and how it has changed.

It first changed a lot when I got encephalitis at the age of 18.

As an Australian teenager growing up in the late 60 's and early 70's I did the usual teenager things. I remember pretending to put make-up on in the bathroom, but instead I would sneak off to the local pub and meet my girlfriends. I tried to be tough and pretended I was part of a "girl gang".

I completed 6th form at Ringwood High School. After this I went to Hollingsworth College for two years and learnt secretarial skills. I drove a Sky Blue VW which my dad gave me for my birthday.

I used to ride horses. I remember having my own horse "Dolly" at Wonga Park. I used to ride up to North Ringwood, and had the odd "manure fight" with my friends.

1975: Fairfield Hospital

I got sick on the first of January 1975, just before my nineteenth birthday. It was New Years Day, and we were on holidays at Rosebud.

I was rushed to Fairfield Hospital and was diagnosed with encephalitis (unknown origin). I may have been bitten by an insect.

I was in intensive care for 8 to 9 months. I don't remember this. I was later moved to isolation and remember being in a room by myself. I was in a coma for seven months and stayed at Fairfield for about five years.

My memories of Fairfield are hazy, but I do remember not being able to do things any more. I needed help dressing and eating. I had a tube in my throat. I remember being very sick. I remember not being able to walk, talk, sit or move, screaming a lot, having dreadful headaches.

Mont Park

I moved to Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital at the end of 1979 - into Ward M7 (Brain Trauma Unit). I have many memories of the 12 years I lived at Mont Park, not all of them ones I care to remember.

I remember how big the ward was.

I remember mum and dad's regular visits. My mother was, and still is, a tower of strength. She keeps us going, and she pushed to make sure I got everything I needed. She fought the system.

I remember...

  • the frustration I felt at not being able to talk.
  • continually screaming, which I couldn't control.
  • feeling very angry and frustrated.
  • people avoiding being around me because of my screaming.
  • throwing things at people.
  • not being able to go out because of my constant screaming.
  • being fed by Trevor, another patient, who told me riddles.
  • not having my own room.
  • not being able to hold my head up, it was always hanging down. I couldn't lift it up.

I just screamed and drove everyone crazy.

I remember going out for the first time in years. I went to the zoo with Rosemary Crossley and saw the Panda bears.

Rosemary Crossley

Rosemary Crossley works at DEAL Communication Centre, helping people with severe communication impairments. I first met her at Mont Park when she was visiting another patient.

I started going to see Rosemary at her house in Brunswick once a week. Rosemary gave me a head pointer and a Canon Communicator, and later an alphabet board. Later still I used a hand pointer. Rosemary 'made me speak', she kept pushing me and trying different things until I could communicate.

Spastic Society

I started going to Northern Districts Centre - an Adult Day Centre run by the Spastic Society - in 1989. I made a lot of friends there, and they are still my friends.

When I went to Northern I could still only scream.

I remember a lot from the time I spent at Northern, including......

  • screaming a lot.
  • my physio, Mann, who got me swimming.
  • using my Canon which was slow and I'd often lose patience and give up.
  • paper making with Joan.

And then in 1990, fifteen years after the encephalitis struck, I started having words come out of my mouth. At first I could only sing nursery rhymes and songs from the sixties, especially Elvis (my hero). Then I started swearing and counting. Then I went through stages where I still couldn't remember the names of certain words. My first words were childish, but I eventually learnt more and more.

I moved out of Mont Park in 1991, after twelve years, into Leddy Street, a private house run by a parent committee. From my experience, a parent management committee does not work. There are too many disagreements and each parent only looks at their son's or daughter's interests. They do not look a the house as a whole unit.

Good memories about my time at Leddy Street include...

  • available transport.
  • good nutritious meals.
  • terrific staff.
  • good leisure activities.

Bad points include...

  • no privacy.
  • no rooms to be alone or have some quiet time.
  • no choice as to who you lived with.
  • winding driveways
  • not enough room/space.

In 1994 1 moved to a unit in Knox Accommodation Units, where I now live.

Knox Day Centre

During my stay at Leddy Street, I received outpatient physiotherapy, speech therapy and O.T. In 1993 I also began going to Knox Day Centre 4 days a week. The staff are all very friendly and helpful. The programs are most interesting, it's close by, and I like most of the clients.

  • I go horse riding.
  • I do money skills.
  • I go swimming.
  • I am in the Women's Discussion Group.
  • I do Physio at least once a week.
  • I try to walk 4 times a week.
  • I do relaxation.
  • I sometimes watch videos.
  • I have speech therapy and OT.

There are things I don't like, too. There isn't enough room in the corridors, and sometimes there are big traffic jams - there isn't a line down the centre, to show people where to go. The lunch room is very badly designed. Fancy having oval tables instead of the usual longer square ones! Some of the clients are not nice. Their behaviour leaves much to be desired.

The future

I still have to learn

  • to broaden my outlook
  • to become sociable
  • to express myself.

I daydream about living in a perfect house, with two bathrooms and a very large and clean kitchen, and having lots and lots of money and no bills to pay.

I dream that all people could understand me, all the time.

I want to look younger. I want to be younger than I am. I want to be much more brainy.

Some day I will be able to go to the toilet without bugging anyone else.

Some day I will be out of this darn wheelchair .

One day I will walk.

One day I will ride horses unattended.

One day I will teach children again.

I will stay thin.

I will get all my memory back completely.

I will always love my family, animals, and most people, who are good, kind and always truthful to me.

Anne McDonald Centre. 538 Dandenong Road, Caulfield 3162 Victoria, Australia Ph: 03 9509 6324, Fax: 03 9509 6321
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