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Our Raven

Our Raven

( as told by Terry, the adoptive mother of Raven’s little girl)

It was the winter of 1991. My husband Ralph and I were trying to decorate the Christmas tree while our 15 month old daughter Angela was happily pulling the decorations all over the room. The phone rang, and as I went to get it, Angela took the opportunity to pull down the tree. Needless to say, Ralph and I were stressed out with the chaos of the season, and this little tornado whirling about the house. The social worker that had done our home study when we adopted Angela, was calling on behalf of a woman looking for an interracial family to adopt her baby, expected the following month. She was a white woman from Alberta, and the father of her yet to be born child was a Jamaican born Canadian. Thanks to our beautiful black baby girl adopted the previous year, we fit the description, but right then we wondered, could we do it? We felt like we were barely coping with one little dynamo. But we’d always planned on having more kids, and it is rare in the adoption world to actually be contacted by an adoptive family, so it didn’t take long for Ralph and I to decide to contact this woman to discuss being the parents of her baby.

That’s how Raven came into our lives. Our first meeting was on the phone, me on one extension, Ralph on another. My sister Judith had come over to play with Angela while we spoke. From our home in Burnaby B.C. we listened to this bright, perceptive and caring woman explain how she had searched long and hard, for the family that she felt, would be best for her child. She wanted a family who shared her values. A family who would love and cherish her child, would be encouraging and nurturing. A family who would instill self confidence and support creativity. We are grateful that she chose us.

A few weeks later when Raven called to tell us she was in labour two weeks early, we quickly abandoned our plans to drive to Calgary and got the next available flight. We arrived at Foothills Hospital when our beautiful daughter Claire was 6 hours old. We were thrilled to hold her in our arms! Raven had Claire in the room with her and was overseeing Claire’s transition into our family with a “raven’s eye”.

I was so impressed with this 22 year old woman who had such enormous love for her child that she orchestrated this very painful but enriching experience. We all got to know each other in that cramped little hospital room. Raven, Claire, Ralph, Angela, Judith and I were learning about courage, family, giving, sharing and love. I could tell that Raven was having a hard time as the time neared for us to leave the hospital with Claire and for her to move into the next part of her life. I too was having a hard time because in a very short time I had grown to love this truly incredible young woman. In many ways at that time, I felt more like Raven’s mother than Claire’s mother and was very aware of her pain and grief. We left the hospital that day with feelings of joy, sadness and deep gratitude.

Over the years we have had many long conversations with Raven: conversations filled with laughter as Raven had a great sense of humour. I became worried though when the phone calls stopped for many months without any explanation or warning. Raven confided that she was suffering from bipolar disorder and that she had been hospitalized. Although she suffered from a Major Mental Illness she never called when she was manic or very depressed: which seemed to be her way of protecting her daughter and loved ones from her illness. When Claire was an older child she began talking with Raven as well. Claire loved her birth mother deeply and delighted in the qualities they shared: like their love for running, their artistic talents and difficulties with math. Raven told Claire how proud she was of her and she was always pulling for her. I have always subscribed to the notion that “love is always multiplied not divided” and felt blessed by Claire having her birthmother in her life. Raven and I would marvel at our great fortune to have a great kid like our daughter Claire.

Last year, we became concerned when, once again we hadn’t heard from Raven for many months. This usually meant that she was suffering somewhere, dealing with her demons. In early October, Raven’s father contacted us with the terrible news that Raven had killed herself after a terrible struggle with her illness, made worse by her treatment at the hands of health care professionals. The story that he shared with us about the last months of her life is shocking, and disappointing and my deep fear is that it is happening right now to another mother, daughter, sister, or friend.

The one blessing in this terrible tragedy is that last Thanksgiving, Claire’s birth grandfather came to visit us on Vancouver Island where we now live. He fits into our family like he has always been there. “Gradon” (Grandpa Don) is all you could wish for in a grandfather. He is warm, caring, generous and funny. He loves to tell stories. In June he came back to attend Claire’s graduation and took her on a trip to meet her aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. Claire had a great time and enjoyed seeing herself reflected in other people she was meeting for the first time.

Gradon has created an interactive website, “The Raven’s Nest” where people with mental illness and their families will find community and a safe place. From his own experience, he knows  how little support there is for people, when suffering and the loneliness that ensues. In the Raven’s Nest people can share their experiences and support each other. In the Raven’s nest, people can share their ideas and successes. In the Raven’s nest people can find friends and sympathetic listeners.

Our family wants to know why Raven did not receive help when she needed it. Why were employees at a hospital directed to ignore a women lying on their front lawn, dehydrated, hungry, sun burned and unresponsive. What policies allowed this cruel treatment of a vulnerable person to occur?. We want answers, and the Interior Health Authority should too. What have they done to prevent it happening to others? Raven was trapped in her mental illness, alone and afraid, needing help. My heart aches for the people who followed the directions of the misguided person in authority who directed staff to pass by a person lying on the lawn of a hospital for many days suffering. I am a Registered Nurse so can image the ethical distress they must feel.

How could this have happened and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again? We believe that there needs to be an inquiry to find how and why this happened. The people responsible should be held to account for their decisions and the current policies evaluated for their validity and effectiveness. Changes need to be made in approaches and protocols to help, not hurt people suffering with mental illness.

Raven did finally get help and she seemed to be doing well. That is when she ended her life. I believe that when she was feeling clearer she realized that she could not bear to go through another episode again. I also believe that she was trying to protect the people who loved her from her mental illness.

Raven was loved and admired by many who want her life to be remembered, and her death given meaning. We hope that the “Raven’s Nest” becomes a safe place for those touched by mental illness to talk and to listen. In this way we will honour her memory.

Posted in For Family and Friends of Raven, Legal Information.


Legal Information

Here we hope to find discussions and articles regarding Acts and Laws that effect the lives of the mentally ill.For example: We hope that some clarity can be offerred here, by profesionals , family members or the ill themselves to the issue surrounding  – Patient’s Rights. This is a contraversial issue that often, inadvertently, harms the mentally ill, and excludes the families at a time when their loving concens are most important. If you can she light on this issue , or, any other, please take the time to submitt. Your contibution will make a differance, a positive differance!

Posted in Legal Information.


For Social Services

In this area we hope to find social services profesionals providing guidance for the ill and their families. These profesional care givers have a familiarity with Health Acts and Laws that regulate their assistance to the ill.Often families and the ill are left unaware and we believe some light shed on these matters can go a long way to making life better for the ill. So, if you are one of these please take time to contribute an article , comment or arguement.

Posted in For Social Services.


Health Care Profesionals

In this category we hope to receive articles or arguments from those profesioals working with mental illness. Their comments and suggestions are important to facilitate advances in care for the mentally ill. Family awareness of what profesionals know can help hugeley in making a better life for the ill.

Posted in For Health Care Professionals.


Building Bridges

Ideas for the improvement of bridges that will help the ill avoid homelessness,jail and suicide and make their lives better. It is hoped that this category will receive ideas to improve protocols and thereby the lives of the mentaly ill.

Posted in Building Better Bridges.


The True Raven

The story of Raven’s life may contain parental bias. The Raven I knew was a very artistic,creative,generous, kind and caring. Thankfully much of Ravens life passed in this beautiful condition. Her crisis times always displayed a Raven totally unlike that. Her crisis often lasted for months and her delusions could last years and years unabated. To me, as her father these bizarre behaviors were part of her disease and not the real Raven. Unfortunately care givers often never got to know the real Raven. They only saw her when in crisis.

I believe that one care giver in particular knew Raven as a cheat, and bad person. This worker treated her as if she were a normal person, not at all mentally ill.I think she believed Raven was cheating the system.The social worker never got to know the real Raven.The results were disastrous! Continued…

Posted in For Family and Friends of Raven.


Nesting

We are beginning the process of creating this website in order to honour the memory of Raven Leach and those that have walked her path before her.

Posted in General.

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