Bashed, broken and abandoned
JUST 17 months ago this woman was a vibrant, healthy nurse looking to pursue further study and be busy in her spare time with her husband planning extensive renovations to their Sunshine Coast home.
Then on January 21, 2011, she opened the door to Nambour General Hospital's mental unit to Andrew Falconer who claimed to be looking for his parents.
What followed was an attack that left the nurse with two broken wrists and associated serious tissue damage, two badly torn shoulders, a broken back, extensive bruising and a damaged heart.
Incredibly she was released from hospital nine hours later and sent home in a taxi, still in her uniform and with two plastered wrists.
Many of her injuries, including breaks to her T12 and L1 vertebrae, were not properly diagnosed until several months later.
If her care had been properly managed the nurse, who does not wish to be named, estimates she should have been able to return to work within 10 months of the assault.
Instead she has been left to argue the minutia of her treatment with WorkCover, has still to be debriefed about what happened to her and faces further surgery on her wrist as well as concerns about an emerging heart complaint.
The nurse also lives in constant fear that her assailant, who has now been released back into the community, may cause her further harm.
And despite doing seven shifts a week and pursuing more through retraining in several disciplines to allow her to act as a floater on rosters across the hospital's operation, her wage compensation has been limited to seven hours a week.
The reduced family income has stopped any thought of renovations and forced her husband to seek extra money as a fly-in, fly-out worker.
She compares her circumstance bitterly against that of slain policeman Damian Leeding, gunned down 12 months ago.
While the police community embraced Mr Leeding's family with its support, she feels largely abandoned by her employers and colleagues.
"My heart's been broken; our goals are gone," she said yesterday.
"I would love to go back to work. I miss it so much. I loved it."
Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg said yesterday he had instructed the Director General of Queensland Health, Dr Tony O'Connell, to contact the nurse personally.
"If there is additional appropriate support that she requires, he will ensure it is provided," Mr Springborg said.
But the nurse said what she wanted, before anything else, was for the system to change so that what happened to her "never happens to another person".
"Injured workers should be referred to independent health care," she said.
"If I had been treated properly with the relevant rehabilitation, it would have been so different."
Mr Springborg said he had been told Sunshine Coast District CEO Kevin Hegarty visited the nurse during her time in hospital.
"She has met with the district director of nursing and midwifery and for a period, received regular phone calls from the nursing director of mental health services," he said.
"This arrangement later changed to the nurse agreeing to contact the nursing director of mental health services should she have any concerns.
"The district says it has ensured employee assistance is available to her and her husband."