Mother speaks of 'intense pain' after 2nd blow to the head from her son
'I have limited use of one of my knees because of a really bad kick years ago,' says Michelle Helou
Windsor mom Michelle Helou loves her son, but she doesn't want to end up in the hospital again.
Noah is severely autistic, nonverbal and incontinent. He lives with Tourette's and is prone to seizures. But his violent behaviour is taking its toll on Helou.
Helou is now seeking a crisis line for caregivers of adults with disabilities to ensure immediate action when they are attacked.
"I have limited use of one of my knees because of a really bad kick years ago. He's pulled on my hair. I've had scrapes. I've had bruises," Helou said.
She reluctantly calls their relationship "volatile" and said his outbursts are unpredictable and uncontrollable.
"You try and control it. You try and get him to calm down. These moments are not everyday. But I've always had that fear [because] he's so strong that one day he might really hurt me."
And that day came on Oct. 26, when Noah was punching his face and ripping at his skin.
"We were trying to control it, to get him to stop, because he had already had marks and welts on his face," she said.
Helou told Noah's support staff at the time to wait outside while she tried to calm down her son.
"As I was doing that, trying to get him to calm down, he turned around and he hit me really hard on the head," she said.
Noah is about six feet tall and weighs some 275 pounds.
"I was in extreme, intense pain. I had to snap out of it immediately to get control of him in this pain and not realizing he had also cut my face open. My cheek was bruising," she said. "Once we got him under control, I was completely perspiring. I was shaking. Toward the end of the day, I started getting sick to the point of vomiting and I had so much pressure in my head still."
Doctors confirmed the punch left Helou with a concussion — the second concussion that week from her son hitting her on the head.
"I'm not giving up on him. This is his home. I am not saying take him. No, but help me. Give me the tools in the meantime, because unfortunately, anxiety had set in. I get scared," she said.
Helou has acquired a five-person staff over the years for Noah.
"I've been very fortunate with people that I have working here. I have a long track record with them. They're an extremely great group and I am totally indebted to them," said Helou.
But now the 55-year-old says she can't keep enduring Noah's aggression without a safety plan in place:
"When parents get injured, there needs to be a crisis response for parents of adults with disabilities. If something happens to us, there needs to be an immediate response. Where can we go for help? If it wasn't for the support team that just took over every aspect of his [Noah's] life, I don't know what I would have done. We need that support to do this everyday."
Response from Developmental Services Ontario
There is one main point of access in Ontario that facilitates support services for parents like Helou.
Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) helps caregivers find proper services and supports for adults living with a developmental disability.
Still, the organization's CEO said there isn't a service solution available during a crisis like the one Helou experienced.
"There might not necessarily be a service immediately available to that person. I'm certain [Michelle Helou] has not missed something in the process," said Chris Symons, CEO of DSO South West Region.
Helou doesn't want Noah to be removed from her home when he gets violent, but even if she did, there isn't a home available to him, according to Symons.
"If the person needed immediate out-of-home placement in a group home, would that be available? Not in all likelihood," he said. "Access to service is not predictable."
"In an ideal world, we would have services readily available to meet everyone's needs, but we aren't living in an ideal world."
That concerns Helou, who said her physical and psychological health is fading, while Noah grows in age — and aggression.
"With this, this almost put the icing on the cake for me to get hurt that bad," she said.
Helou is trying to recruit another staff member to replace her during overnight hours. Right now, she stays in Noah's room while he sleeps to make sure he doesn't cause any harm.