||Mar 11 2001
A Doctor with a 'past' comes to grips with depression, addiction and bankruptcy. Part two of bestselling autobiography.
Since qualifying as a doctor, Lauren Roche has had some ups ... and many downs. Bankruptcy, depression, a suicide attempt - and the shock revelation that her son was a sex offender.How does she triumph over this, and at the same time achieve another goal of becoming a bestselling author?'Life On The Line' is as gripping a read as 'Bent Not broken', and in the end, just as inspiring.
I finished Medical School in November 1991. Only ten years earlier I was working as a prostitute in the San Francisco Bathhouse in central Wellington.
My first job as a real doctor was on the geriatric wards at Wellington Hospital. There were two wards for the old people: Ward 5, which was dark and run-down, and smelled of urine and disinfectant. Medically ill elderly stayed there. Despite the efforts of the nurses, it felt like a dead-end place. I always hoped I’d never end up anywhere like it. Ward 2 was new and bright, and was the rehabilitation ward, for those who had ‘graduated’ from Ward 5, and were almost well enough to return home. It had a far more optimistic feel to it; partly due to the relative newness of the ward, and partly to the fact that the patients here were more likely to walk about the ward, unaided or with sticks. Nurses usually wheeled those in Ward 5 about, if they were unable to use Zimmer frames
Each medical placement lasts three months, during which time the junior doctor is expected to learn all about the field s/he is working in. I loved ‘Gerries’. The old people often had fascinating histories and were so grateful for any little assistance given them. An eighty-year-old woman cried after I’d syringed years of wax from her ears. She could hear again. She’d spent so long unable to hear that she’d gradually lost her independence – now she hoped she’d be able to speak on the telephone again. Full of gratitude, she brought a tea set to the ward for me, the next time she was admitted. I couldn’t persuade her to keep it. I still have it, a token of the old woman’s gratitude, and a reminder that doing the least of things for other people can have astounding results for them.
The specialty had its difficulties though. Often the people we cared for here had defective hearing and vision; others were confused and disoriented. On my first day on the job, I woke a very old blind woman in Ward 5 to take her blood. Shaking her shoulder gently, I asked her if she was Mrs Green.
“Yes, Love, that’s me.”
“Sorry to wake you, Mrs Green, but I need to get a blood test from you.”
“Oh, dear, you’ll have such a trouble getting blood out of me. All right then.” My patient sat up, pulling the sleeve of her bed jacket to expose the crook of her elbow. It was bruised from an earlier blood test. The other arm looked worse. Mrs Green trembled as I tightened the tourniquet around her arm. Her veins were thin-walled, and difficult to spear with the needle. When I tried to withdraw blood from them, the veins collapsed, as they often do in thin older people. After three attempts to take her blood, I gave up. Both Mrs Green and I agreed that was the best option. I went looking for my registrar, the more senior doctor on the ward.
“I’m trying to bleed Mrs Green, but having no luck. Will you please give me a hand?” My registrar raised his eyebrows before agreeing to help. We gathered together the equipment we’d need, and entered Mrs Green’s four-bed cubicle. The senior doctor walked up to the bed opposite the one I’d just left.
The real Mrs Green eyed us suspiciously before holding her arm out to be bled. I’d been trying to take blood from the wrong woman.
After that little lesson, I always read the name on a patient’s identification bracelet before attempting any procedure on them. If someone was confused, or hearing-impaired, they might agree to anything, and it was my responsibility to make sure I was treating the right person. I was very glad to learn that lesson so early in my career.
LIFE ON THE LINE
By Lauren Roche
What is it about? Triumphs and trials of a woman struggling at the top, with distractions all around. This is the sequel to the best selling Bent Not Broken.
Who should read it? Anyone who feels they have reached the bottom (or aren't very far away from it) and anyone who has ever had to raise a smile in the face of adversity.
For best results, read this… With an open mind.
If it were a cup of coffee it would be … A terribly hip latte taken in some fashionably bohemian Wellington café…but without the arrogance.
Lauren Roche is a survivor. In Bent Not Broken we were introduced to her true story: having sustained a stormy childhood and adolescence framed by the death of her mother, and sexual abuse by her mother's partner, Roche jumps aboard a ship bound for the United States - a stowaway at just 15. Fate was to weave its fickle fingers around her life many more times during her American adventures as she fell in and out of love, was gang raped along the California coast, and became a Dr Hook groupie in Dallas.
Returning to New Zealand Roche fell into the small but steady Wellington sex industry of the early 80s, working as a prostitute on the streets and a stripper in clubs. She had a child (Christopher) and eventually came to the realisation that she wanted more from her life, as friends died around her from drugs and AIDS, she failed in a suicide attempt and was admitted to a psychiatric unit. Upon her release she yearns to learn - she wants to return to her studies.
And that she does. Life On The Line picks up her story as a qualified doctor in the early 1990s. Following the next decade in Roche's life, the reader quickly realises that life doesn't necessarily become easier with a degree or an increased pay packet. Although a successful doctor, first in Wellington, and then on the Kapiti Coast, Roche continues to battle depression and nervous exhaustion as she balances long hours with turbulent relationships and a wayward son. Christopher is eventually outed as a paedophile - at the startlingly young age of 12. This extra shock leaves Roche numb, but she continues to battle on - through bankruptcy, small town gossip, confusion over sexual orientation, and the uncompromising nature of her sex offender son - already seemingly beyond help or remorse at the beginning of his life.
Her life reads like a staged drama - a Hollywood movie. But it isn't. It's all real, and it is told with clarity and the overwhelming bravery of truth and courage. This is a truly remarkable book about a remarkable woman; not a heroine from some distant land or historical period, but a contemporary New Zealand woman living a life less ordinary.
New Zealand Listener
Dr Roche's casebook
LIFE ON THE LINE, by Lauren Roche (Steele Roberts, $24.95).
By the time you've read Dr Lauren Roche's complete life story, the characters in Shortland Street don't seem quite so unrealistic after all.
life on the line is the sequel to the bestselling Bent Not Broken, published last year, which details Roche's troubled childhood, rebellious teenage years and existence as a stripper and prostitute. It then shows her turning her life around, re-entering the education system and
but to confront them head-on.
Thus she describes her grief at learning that her son was a paedophile. She outlines her bankruptcy, the failure of her marriage, her attempted suicide. It's heady stuff, and would have certainly made for a ripping page-turner, were it not so human Instead, this approach can leave you feeling like an invited intruder. Where the reader flinches, Roche doesn't.
Parts of life read as though they are directed at specific individuals to whom Roche is attempting to explain herself. Her family. The doctor who helped himself to non-consensual sex while she lay in a sleeping pill-induced narcosis. All the junior doctors on the obstetrics ward at Wellington Hospital.
Written without romance, pity or excuse -though not without humour - this book, like its predecessor, ends in triumph. Where Bent saw Roche accomplish the goal of becoming a doctor, her fulfilment
eventually qualifying as a doctor.
But if Bent documents her battle over her beginnings and circumstances, life shows Roche coming to terms with harder lessons. That a respectable job in no way elevates you beyond human pettiness and cruelty. That regardless of the hurdles you've already overcome, life just keeps dishing out more. And that, given the same set of thought patterns and basic disposition, your methods for dealing with these crises are doomed to repeat themselves, no matter what shifts you might have made on the professional spectrum.
Roche acknowledges that her books began as a therapeutic exercise, a way of dealing with all the psychological baggage she had accumulated over the course of her lifetime. So, almost by definition, her method for addressing painful events is not to skirt around them,
in life is more personal, more operational. She realises her sexual identity, establishes strategies for surviving with depression and discovers how to balance good health with a demanding career.
Here, beyond her achievements of overcoming adversity and the inspiration she embodies as a survivor - in spite of herself at times; while attempting to kill herself she consumed enough drugs to kill two elephants - Roche's most powerful message is the one she does not state.
It's about claiming your identity and,
by doing so, taking steps to control it.
Roche presents a blow-by-blow account of
her trials and tribulations, her moments
of good and bad judgment. By putting her
life on the line, as it were, she exposes
herself to criticism but opens herself up
to support and understanding. She is one
brave, brave woman.
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Reader Reviews for "Life On The Line"
|Reviewed by Michelle Kidwell Power In The Pen
|Your story is truly inspiring
May God Keep Blessing You
|Reviewed by Graham Hamer
|Bent not Broken (lauren's first book) was moving and inspirational. Life on the Line reveals a slightly more determined Lauren Roche, giving the world a good, hard kick when necessary, and getting kicked back in the process.
Life on the Line was written as the ending to Bent not Broken, but was held back for legal reasons. Good thing, really, because it gives us a chance to catch our breath from the amazing story that Lauren tells of her childhood and adolescent years, before diving head first into adulthood.
Lauren has not only conquered a neglected and abusive childhood, her life and her achievements have overtaken many who were born more privileged. As a role-model, this doctor is the best!
|Reviewed by Victoria Murray
|An amazing read by an amazing writer!
Victoria Taylor Murray
'Thief Of Hearts'
|Reviewed by Cathy
|Lauren is quite simply the most amazing person I have ever met, her books testify to her incredible guts and determination and amazing ability to still care about other people. LAuren is a very, very special person|
|Reviewed by Charlotte & Taryn :-)
|It's one of the best books we've ever red! Lauren is sooo cool! She's our idol! She is a very brave and inspirational woman, Keep up the AWESOME work, :-)|
|Reviewed by Shaz
|well done it sounds like your life is on track now
you have a way of writing and i couldn't put the book down