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Family of New Zealander in Vietnamese psychiatric hospital fight to bring him home

Author
Vita Molyneux, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 Sep 2023, 3:43PM
Ballad Woodley-Hanan on his bed in the Vietnamese hospital. (Photo / Dempsey Woodley)
Ballad Woodley-Hanan on his bed in the Vietnamese hospital. (Photo / Dempsey Woodley)

Family of New Zealander in Vietnamese psychiatric hospital fight to bring him home

Author
Vita Molyneux, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 Sep 2023, 3:43PM

The parents of a New Zealand man hospitalised in a Vietnamese psychiatric hospital are fighting to bring their son home.

Ballad Woodley-Hanan is currently in a hospital outside of Ho Chi Minh with his father Dempsey Woodley, who travelled to Vietnam last week to support his son.

As the 25-year-old is a foreign national he needed his father present to be admitted – as well as assistance from the New Zealand Embassy.

Dempsey has been by his son’s side ever since, helping to care for him while he gets the treatment he needs.

The hospital, while providing Ballad the care he needs, is not the best place for him to be, his father told the Herald.

“There’s no towels, the showers are cold. The places are not clean to a standard that you would have in a household in New Zealand, let alone a hospital.

“I wake up and there’s a massive, big cockroach crawling across the floor.”

Inside the hospital in Vietnam. Photo / Dempsey Woodley

Inside the hospital in Vietnam. Photo / Dempsey Woodley

Ballad’s mother Amanda Hanan, who lives in Napier, has started a Givealittle page to raise money so that Ballad and Dempsey can fly home to New Zealand.

She told the Herald she first noticed her son’s erratic behaviour three weeks ago.

“He just started to get more and more manic but because he had no health or travel insurance and no parent there, there was nothing anyone could do for him.”

His girlfriend had messaged Amanda saying she was concerned as the pair were now staying in motels but kept getting kicked out because of Ballad’s behaviour.

Then, he disappeared.

Amanda was worried sick and when her son reappeared 12 hours later, he had a broken arm and lacerations, which she says was the kicker to finally getting him to a hospital with his father’s help.

“The minute Dempsey arrived in Vietnam it started to kick off,” Amanda said.

“The police had been called to where [Ballad] was staying, because of his behaviour - so the police came and so they called an ambulance and they made him get in the ambulance,” Amanda told the Herald.

Amanda Hanan and Ballad Woodley-Hanan together. Photo / Amanda Hanan

Amanda Hanan and Ballad Woodley-Hanan together. Photo / Amanda Hanan

Dempsey told the Herald he believed he arrived just in time.

“He was going to die if I didn’t get him somewhere safe.”

Dempsey was glad to be with his son and said the pair’s connection meant that he could understand Ballad, despite the mania he was experiencing.

“He’s like a four-lane highway coming at you, jumping from lane to lane every two seconds. But the thing is because he’s my son and I raised him, I can make sense of it. I could see where he was jumping.”

Dempsey and Ballad in 2022. Photo / Dempsey Woodley

Dempsey and Ballad in 2022. Photo / Dempsey Woodley

With Dempsey there, Ballad could finally be admitted to the psychiatric ward where he has been since last week.

The hospital is barren, only providing enough to keep Ballad calm and sedated. Every day his father goes out to buy supplies like food and fresh drinking water.

He said despite the scarcity of the surroundings, the treatment Ballad is getting is progressive, and the medication he is being given is the same as what he would receive in a Western hospital.

The doors to the unit of the psychiatric ward in Vietnam. Photo / Dempsey Woodley.

The doors to the unit of the psychiatric ward in Vietnam. Photo / Dempsey Woodley.

Amanda said she’s grateful to have her son off the street and safe.

“We believe that if we hadn’t got there that he would have died,” she said.

“He was so manic that we absolutely felt that he was going to get in danger, someone would attack or hurt him or he’d be run over, you know, we absolutely believed he was very close to being killed.”

With Ballad now sedated in the hospital, the next hurdle to clear is bringing him home.

Dempsey said there were “a lot of moving parts” to bringing his son home.

“The complexity of getting him out of hospital and onto a plane - that all costs money,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to the Herald they were aware of Ballad’s situation and were providing consular assistance but did not disclose more due to privacy.

Amanda has started a Givealittle to raise the money needed to escort her son and his father back to New Zealand where he can receive more help.

So far, more than $20,000 has been raised.

“The kindness from everyone is just overwhelming,” she said.

Dempsey is also incredibly grateful for the help from the community.

“It is imperative he gets out and gets somewhere – we have never been able to get him out without that.”

Where to get help

If it is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

For counselling and support

Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Need to talk? Call or text 1737

Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202

For children and young people

Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234

What’s Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)

For help with specific issues

Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797

Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)

Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334

All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.

For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, hauora, community mental health team, or counselling service. The Mental Health Foundation has more helplines and service contacts on its website.

Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021.

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