Cpl. Desmond’s wife concerned about his early return from in-patient program

PORT HAWKESBURY: A social worker at the Ste. Anne’s Hospital was worried about something that stood in the way of retired Cpl. Lionel Desmond’s treatment as he was making minor progress under treatments that usually produced results.

Despite suffering from angry outbursts, combat-related flashbacks, impulsivity, irritability and hyper-vigilance, Kama Hamilton testified on March 4 none of those symptoms set Desmond apart from her other patients.

“He didn’t stand out as particularly (different) from others,” she told the inquiry.

Hamilton, who assisted Desmond with anger management and social connections, was one of 10 health professionals on Desmond’s treatment team at Ste. Anne’s Hospital who suggested he faced serious challenges to his recovery when he was discharged early.

As Desmond was starting the 11-week treatment program to assist him in dealing with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the social worker received permission to speak with his wife Shanna.

Hamilton testified that during an hour-long phone call, Shanna explained her husband was “experiencing flashbacks about his combat in Afghanistan,” describing a gruesome nightmare Desmond had that he caught her sleeping with another man and he retaliated by “chopping her to pieces.”

She suggested she wasn’t concerned for Shanna’s safety as Desmond’s recollection was intended as a cry for help, not a threat.

“The context of him sharing this with her was not in a threatening way,” Hamilton said. “He was very upset by the fact that he was having this dream. It was not, ‘This is what I’m going to do if ever you leave me.’”

Three-days before Desmond left the Montreal psychiatric facility, Shanna called the hospital to inform them she was worried about her husband coming home, as a result of his anger and paranoia towards her.

While she didn’t indicate she didn’t want her husband to return home, Hamilton explained she wanted him to improve his anger management skills.

With slight concerns about Desmond returning to live with his wife and daughter, as the family hadn’t been under the same roof together in nearly four years, she suggested he rent an apartment to act as a transition period.

As we’ve heard previously in the inquiry, Shanna made it clear to Hamilton that she and Aaliyah, the couple’s nine-year-old daughter at the time, had never been the victims of domestic violence, nor did she believe her husband would ever hurt them.

Hamilton explained she came to the conclusion throughout her time assisting Desmond, that he had a real and constant fear of being abandoned, frequently claiming his main goal was to become a better father and husband, but at the same time, he would often express his jealousy and anger towards his wife.

She also testified that she learned Desmond would sometimes utilize “passive threats of suicide as a means of controlling his wife.”

“If someone is feeling vulnerable, they may try to find ways to gain control,” Hamilton said. “Abandonment is a situation where you feel helpless.”

Multiple head injuries suffered while in the Canadian Armed Forces lead to a possible brain injury which could explain why Desmond only made minor progress at Ste. Anne’s Hospital, including having trouble with his concentration, memory and organization.

His treatment team in Montreal concluded Desmond needed to undergo a full neurological assessment, as he left their program early. As it was an assessment beyond the scope of the hospital, the recommendation was submitted to Veterans Affairs Canada.

With Hamilton being able to speak with Shanna, having this corroborating information was extremely helpful she testified, an asset other health professionals who dealt with Desmond didn’t have access to.

Hamilton agreed with a recommendation from Tara Miller, the lawyer for Brenda Desmond’s estate, that Ste. Anne’s Hospital should encourage the spouse to be part of the intake interview.

Jill Beauchense, an occupational therapist testified on March 5 Desmond had trouble controlling his anxiety and anger and also had difficulty dealing with stress, particularly when it came to his deteriorated relationship with Shanna, and their daughter, Aaliyah.

As well, Beauchesne indicated the Afghanistan war veteran had trouble being vulnerable, even though she indicated “he knew he needed help and was determined to be a better father and husband.”