Ivan finds a family at North
After a difficult childhood, Ivan pursued his “calling” by studying to be a preacher in his native Croatia. Plagued my mental illness, Ivan was soon denied a church career in Croatia because he was viewed as “too great a risk”.
Ivan moved to Australia with his wife and six-month old son, borrowing money to pay for the airfare. Devastated by the end of his church career, Ivan’s mental health worsened.
“I came here and I could study theology then but I wasn’t sure if it was my calling anymore.”
Struggling to cope with recurring irrational thoughts and a tendency to become suddenly violent, Ivan sought psychiatric help, but felt let down by the system when doctors failed to assist him.
“I went to a psychiatrist and I said to him that I am having trouble with my anger, that I hit my mechanic with a hammer and that I am scared, please help me. They didn’t realise that I’ve got bipolar" said Ivan.
"Soon after that I had stress at work. Stress was coming from all directions and it was little things that made me snap."
After this, things continued to decline for Ivan. His wife, after 18 years of marriage, divorced him and began a relationship with his good friend.
“After the divorce I was doing crazy things, I was suicidal. I was at least smart enough to admit myself to hospital because I got scared of myself, I was about to kill myself.”
While Ivan was in hospital, doctors struggled to diagnose him. At first they though he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but then realised that his symptoms were not consistent with OCD. Ivan was signed out as an outpatient despite his continuing suicidal thoughts.
Eight years ago, Ivan was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. With proper treatment and medication, he started putting the pieces of his life back together.
After being let down by so many people he trusted, Ivan found medical professionals who cared about him – a psychologist and psychiatrist, and the dental team at North Richmond Community Health (NRCH) Centre.
Seven months ago, Ivan first walked into the doors at NRCH. Unable to afford private dental care in Australia, Ivan had flown to Croatia to have a bridge of four teeth put in. The Croatian dentist had left part of a drill in his gum which was causing severe pain and inflammation. Dr Martin Hall advised Ivan that four of his teeth needed to be removed and they could be replaced by a partial denture. Ivan was devastated.
As the public dental system does not cover implants, Ivan visited a private dentist to ask how much implants would cost. He was told that he would need to pay at least $4,000 per tooth. Unable to afford over $16,000 for the implants, Ivan returned to NRCH.
“When I came here people didn’t treat me any different because of bipolar, it was great. Of course I didn’t cause any trouble. I trusted Dr Martin and he was honest with me.
During his treatment, Ivan developed close relationships with the staff at NRCH, where he feels he is treated with dignity and respect, which is all the more important to him given his past.
“I was surprised at how patient the staff were in those circumstances. I was really happy, I am now on first names basis with all the doctors and the staff - Dr Martin, Scott, Anna, Achek, all of them. So this is just like a family here for me.”
Now that he is better able to cope with his bipolar disorder, Ivan has decided to study theology again and is saving money to get implants in place of the partial denture.
“My future is to work as a public speaker and I need to look and sound presentable. I don’t usually sound the way I sound now. This denture makes me talk funny. I will never be able to sort this out in Australia, I will have to go overseas. Here it’s too expensive and public doesn’t cover it.”
This doesn’t mean that Ivan is ungrateful for the service he has been given at NRCH, quite the opposite.
“The staff here are so skillful. Martin can work anywhere he likes and he works here in the public system. And I see this in Scott as well. They are so dedicated. Scott was there drilling, a little bit more, a little bit more and I said, ‘It’s alright Scott, it’s only me you know.’ We are a family here.”
Last updated: 2014-03-11