For background see this post: Hammond Family Terrorised By Police
Recently I had a long telephone chat with Tanya Hammond, whose family in Kalgoorlie, an outback gold-mining town in Australia, is experiencing extreme hardship after her husband Ben was injured by a vaccine and is now severely incapacitated and unable to work. Tanya is now full-time carer for Ben, they have 5 kids and they may soon be homeless.
Ben suffers from Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a condition related to multiple sclerosis (MS) – it is a bit like getting a sudden catastrophic case of MS. It came on after he had the dTpa shot (adult diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough vaccine) in 2012, so the hospital would let him visit his newborn premature baby in the prem ward.
On the phone I asked her the specific reasons why her family still need more funding to be able to move from Kalgoorlie to Perth.
Afterwards I thought the conversation would be of interest to the many people who would like to help and support her family, so I have set up this interview. I sent her the questions, she sent me back her answers.
Please see this post: Hammond Family Terrorised By Police, for more background, including news reports with video.
A recent photo (March 2016)
CC – Tanya, could you tell us the main reasons why you and your family need to move to Perth?
TANYA – Hi to everyone xx
We desperately need to relocate to Perth as a country town/hospital isn’t equipped to deal with Ben’s medical needs, such as intense physiotherapy and medical care. As well, here I don’t leave the house much at all anymore, as I’ve been spat on, bashed, sworn at etc.
CC – Could you elaborate a little about the abuse?
TANYA – I was dragged from my car November 2014 and bashed by a local woman. She broke my jaw, tore my windpipe and fractured a bone in my neck – she was charged and she got off with a fine and a good behaviour bond. I’ve been spat on about 6 times in the last year or so.
CC – Do they abuse you verbally as well?
TANYA – I’ve been called a scaremongering c**t (sorry), that’s the most common one. Usually men actually.
CC – Charming. Why are they treating you like this?
TANYA – They think I’m scaremongering about vaccines, because they see me talking about Ben’s vaccine injury while I’m trying to get funding for my family, and also I have been campaigning for a government no-fault vaccine injury compensation scheme, like many other countries have (so people like us can get immediate help when they need it rather than having to wait for years for litigation to go through).
CC – Are you actually “anti-vax”?
TANYA – Publicly I have never said anything negative about vaccines, just told the truth about what happened to my husband. I don’t have a lot of medical knowledge and am not qualified to have an opinion like that, let alone tell other people what they should be doing. But how can anyone define anti-vax anyway?? I don’t like labels.
Personally, I stopped vaccinating my children after Ben’s injury. When Mum and I researched our family history later we did discover we’d had serious vaccine reactions in our family. Due to the new No Jab No Pay law I cannot get the full child allowance from the government that other parents with our income get.
CC – It you don’t like to leave the house, how do you do the shopping, go to appointments?
TANYA – I shop via Woolies online and I only go to appointments that are absolutely necessary. Which are few and far between.
CC – Any other reason for moving?
TANYA – We have family and friends in Perth, unlike Kalgoorlie, and I need my mum (I know how corny that sounds but it’s true).
CC – When you moved to Kalgoorlie 11 years ago, about how long did you anticipate living there?
TANYA – I planned on staying here as I wanted my kids to grow up in the country.
CC – Is it nice around there, in a desert-y sort of way?
TANYA – It use to be, yes. We loved camping, riding motor bikes etc. So the country was where we loved to be, but not any more. :(
The Hammonds out in the desert before bub
CC – Your’s is a patchwork family – 3 of your children, one of Ben’s and your 3-year-old you had together. Do all the children live with you?
TANYA – Ben and myself live with 4 of our children 100% and we share custody of Ben’s daughter.
CC – You, Ben and your children live in a house you bought in Kalgoorlie some years ago. Are you still paying it off?
TANYA – We’re still “paying it off” but can’t make the actual payment, it’s about 2.5 years now since we made a payment.
CC – What would happen if you sold your house?
TANYA – Due to the mining boom dropping and non payment and fees etc, if we sold our home we would still owe the bank around $80,000 and be homeless.
CC – If you were to owe $80,000, what would be the consequences?
TANYA – I’m not sure, it’s scary.
CC – Would declaring bankruptcy be an option for you, to clear the debt?
TANYA – I don’t know unfortunately.
CC – How close are you right now to being thrown out of your house by the bank?
TANYA – They have been trying to for a while now.
CC – Have you any friends or family you could move in with, if you are evicted?
TANYA – No
CC – What about your parents in Perth? You lived with them while Ben was in hospital when he was first injured.
TANYA – Unfortunately they have since moved into a small unit.
CC – Would this mean you would have to live in a park, or under a bridge, if this happens? Are there emergency hostels you could live in?
TANYA – Park under a bridge is the reality.
CC – Tanya, I understand there have been some tensions between yourselves and your families, as a result of things that have happened – this is obviously a very personal area, but would you be willing to share some of the difficulties your situation has brought to family relationships, and how it has affected support from your respective families?
TANYA – Let’s just say not all family members agree with me about everything.
CC – Before Ben’s injury, he worked at the mines for 16 years, and became a manager, and you were a restaurant manager in the area. I would imagine you both made quite a few friends in that time, are these people supporting you now?
TANYA – No, unfortunately our “friends” were unable to handle seeing Ben the way he is and have all left the scene. Probably some of them have made their money in the mines and left anyway.
CC – Have any other local Kalgoorlie people stepped in and given you a helping hand?
TANYA – no :(
CC – That is extraordinary – Australia is supposed to be a country where people always step in and help others in trouble, especially in the country. Is this because they think you are scaremongering about vaccines?
TANYA – Yes.
CC – Have you had any payouts after the injury?
TANYA – Yes, through insurance Ben was paid $2000 a month for the first 2 years… that stopped nearly 2 years ago.
CC – Could you explain to people who don’t know Australia just how isolated Kalgoorlie is?
TANYA – Yes. It is in the middle of the dessert. NEARLY 700KM away from the nearest major hospital, in Perth. A country town.
Flights are roughly $300 a ticket to get to Perth. Driving isn’t an option for us as Ben is unable to sit in the one spot for periods of time and we have kids. If Perth people want to visit us, the drive takes about 6 and a half hours, petrol is expensive, and accomodation is not cheap for anyone on a low income.
CC – We know from a previous post about Ben’s physical condition, could you tell us a little about his mental capacity?
TANYA – His short-term memory is really bad, but worse than that he does not seem to be really “there”. I look into his eyes but don’t “see” him. The last time I really saw him behind his eyes was 18 months ago – it’s really hard waking up in the morning and seeing his familiar face but he isn’t really there.
CC – Do you think this is partly the pain killers he is on, or mostly deterioration of his condition from the ADEM?
TANYA – He has been deteriorating physically and mentally for 18 months now, that is why it is so important to get better care for him, such as physio – he tried so hard to walk and made it, but he can hardly walk now. He is worse mentally too. He was better mentally and physically when he was taking the marijuana rather than the pharmacy drugs, for pain.
CC – Can you have a coherent conversation with him?
TANYA – Yes… kinda. Depending on the day, and how he is, defines how long he can hold a conversation. You can ask him something and he won’t answer, but 20 minutes later, even if you’re talking about something else, he will answer that question in his own way (does my head in). It’s very confusing. The more tired he is the more he slurs.
CC – What is it like being on your own dealing with Ben’s condition and trying to make ends meet and care for your children?
TANYA – Words can’t explain… impossible at times. So very hard – we need help :(
CC – Are there any charities or services that can help you out, such as the Salvation Army or the church?
TANYA – Unfortunately no, they donate random food on occasions.
CC – Who have you found does give you tangible support?
TANYA – Mum
CC – What are your approximate monthly medical expenses?
TANYA – Ben’s medical supplies i.e. catheters, gloves (without going too much into Ben’s intimate details) etc. It’s on average about $700 a month.
CC – As Ben is incapacitated and cannot work, and you are his full-time carer, will you be able to afford to rent a suitable house or flat?
TANYA – Unfortunately I can’t even afford $5 a week rent.
CC – With both you and Ben not working, and with so little income, what chance do you have of obtaining a lease on a rental property from an estate agent?
TANYA – Nil
CC – I agree you would be very unlikely to get a lease from an estate agent, even people who work but are on low incomes find it difficult. Do you think a family member could possibly get a lease for you, if you had secured funding for your rent in advance?
TANYA – I don’t know as I haven’t had the money to try it.
CC- You have been getting donations through your first GoFundMe, what have you been spending that money on?
TANYA – Mainly medical supplies. Also an air conditioner, as our’s died and Ben can’t sweat from the chest down which means he can’t regulate body temperature (Kalgoorlie is very hot in summer, it can get up to 46C, 115F some days).
CC – Do you know of any other options for housing in Perth?
TANYA – No. There is some government housing but the waiting list is 2.5 years, and we can’t join it because we are home-owners.
CC – How many rooms would your Perth home need?
TANYA – One for Ben and I, another one for Ben when he is sick, set up like a sterile hospital room, with easy access to a bathroom and toilet. Ben has a very weak immune system, so needs a very clean environment, and he has special need of a bathroom (his bowels and bladder don’t work correctly). The 2 older boys can share a room, one other room for the girls. Bub sleeps in our room.
That makes 4 bedrooms, but I can make do with fewer if it is emergency accomodation, of course. If we are near my mum the children can take it in turns to camp at her place. Ideally we really need two bathrooms, but we do only have one here in Kalgoorlie – it is not easy having to keep it sterile all the time for Ben.
There is a new hospital at Midland, and my mum lives not too far east of there.
CC – I have had people suggest to me that you should contact your local politicians, as these have ways of helping people in desperate situations. Have you asked politicians for help, and have they given it to you?
TANYA – Wendy Duncan is the state member for Kalgoorlie, and she and her office have been amazing but unable to help in a tangible way such as with funding. :(
CC – Have you contacted Rick Wilson, your Kalgoorlie federal member?
TANYA – He said when I saw him in Canberra recently he would help us. But we received a letter stating he is unable to.
CC – Alannah MacTiernan, Federal member for the seat of Perth, which is not even your area, has supported you – what has she done for you and Ben?
TANYA – She has spoken in parliament twice about us now, and she has been a tower of strength for me. She’s a very strong woman and she’s doing her best to help us. She has been trying to get us some funding for a while now, but so far has not been able to. We are very grateful to her.
CC – If Ben had become sick from natural causes, rather than from a vaccine, do you think governments – federal, state and local – would have been more supportive of you? Are there types of funding you could have got?
TANYA – Yes, an ex gratia payment. Medical supplies. So many.
CC – This is extraordinary! Could you explain to readers why you believe this?
TANYA – Yes. I had a letter from the Attorney General last year saying that Ben was suing for damages, and it was not appropriate to give an ex gratia payment in those circumstances. That might sound fair enough, but a litigation case would take years, and might not happen at all (it’s not looking like it), and we need help to survive right now.
It was to be for $1.5 million to relocate us and get Ben everything he needs – that’s the automatic amount when an ex gratia payment is requested. This has been on the cards then rejected 3 times now. I was advised by someone I trust that if we dropped the litigation case we might have more chance of getting an ex gratia payment, I don’t know what to do.
Also, I have often been told by people trying to help us that we are too “public”. They tell me if the government pays us out it may look like “they did something wrong”.
CC – Were you “public” in the beginning, about getting funding, or did that start later?
TANYA – Ben was injured in September 2012, and I started emailing media in early 2014, to try and get financial help from somewhere. The first news item was on Channel 9, in June 2014.
CC – Well, it looks to me like you only became “public” because other avenues weren’t working. There was a news segment on the TV last year about you having the most recent request for an ex gratia payment rejected. It doesn’t show you in your best light because you are crying, but if it is OK with you I’ll put it here.
TANYA – Go ahead – that was such a bad day for a media crew to show up. I also asked for $50,000 another time, and this was rejected too.
CC – I know you are personally stressed about the court case coming up, where Ben has been charged with having a marijuana plant at the house, which he was using for pain relief. Could you explain why he was using marijuana?
TANYA – For pain relief Ben has been prescribed OxyContin (a narcotic) and Lyrica, amongst others. On these his urine is black, on the marijuana his urine was normal and he was better physically and mentally. Marijuana doesn’t drug him or damage his organs. We couldn’t afford to buy it nor did we want to associate with dealers so he had his own leaf plant out the back.
CC – It seems ridiculous to me that this is an issue, when cannabis for medicinal use was made legal in Australia in Feb 2016, and is in the process of being made legally available by the states (this article shines some light on the situation in WA, also see police web page). Moving on.
CC – I looked up those two drugs and they look really nasty. Why does Ben need such strong pain medication, when he is numb from the chest down?
TANYA – He has deferred pain (pins and needles kinda in lighting bolt actions). It’s very hard to work out where the pain is coming from until it bruises.
CC – I know some people who were supportive of you have now turned their backs on you since the police found the marijuana plant at your place, and you have been charged. What would you say to them?
TANYA – The drug Ben is prescribed for pain, OxyContin, is a narcotic similar to heroin, and is used as a recreational drug they call “Oxy Cotton”. How can that be OK with them while marijuana is not?
CC – Briefly touching on the police raid that happened in January, when you were allegedly terrorised in your home by police searching for a non-existent crystal meth factory – has there been any progress in bringing these police to justice?
TANYA – They have admitted we were set up, but are denying they handled us in a terrifying way, pushing us both to the ground at gun point, pushing Ben to the ground so he hurt his knee badly and could not walk at all for a while, bashing my head on the ground over and over, while I was (and am) still recovering from the attack in November 2014. There is no sign of an outside inquiry into the raid.
CC – There has been no doubt on the part of Ben’s doctors that he developed ADEM from having the dTap vaccine, despite the spin some media outlets have put on it. Do you have any written professional opinions that his condition was caused by the vaccine, that I can show people?
TANYA – Yes heaps. I have the reports the hospital made to VAERS and WAVSS, and other documents. This letter is from the hospital’s consultant immunologist, 2 pages cut up into 3 parts, page 1, page 1 (cont’d) and page 2.
CC – A quick question about Ben, Tanya. I see him wearing quite a few band tops in photos – what is his favourite band?
TANYA – Definitely Metallica. This is a photo of us at the Metallica concert in 2010.
CC – You have had to resort to online fundraising via GoFundMe to keep afloat these past several months, and I know you are extremely grateful to those who have contributed. You have also done an enormous amount of other work to try to make things work out, such as online research and networking, and I wonder how you manage to do this, with so few resources. Do you have a computer to do your research on, such as finding people who could help you, government or otherwise, or finding somewhere to live, or are you using the internet on a phone?
TANYA – Just an old smart phone, with the free wifi we have here in Kalgoorlie. We sold the computer and laptop ages ago.
CC – In February you managed to travel to the east coast for much-needed face-to-face contact with supporters, to see your new lawyer in Sydney, and to visit politicians in Canberra. Did you spend GoFundMe money on this trip?
TANYA – No. My mum paid for my trip because she knew I needed to meet people who support us.
CC – Were there positive outcomes from this trip?
TANYA – Mentally yes. I know I’m not alone. And I met amazing people who offered their support and friendship and drove me around.
In Canberra I went to government house and met politicians who listened to me. One was Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natali, and as a result he moved a motion in the senate that a vaccine injury compensation scheme should be introduced [see Hansard here], but unfortunately the vote went against it. This was disappointing but it was good to be taken seriously.
I met up with Alannah MacTiernan (WA MP) in Canberra, which was great for me, as she is a huge support. I also had meetings with federal MPs Sussan Ley (NSW, federal Health Minister), Christian Porter (WA), Rick Wilson (O’Connor/Kalgoorlie) and Stephen Jones (NSW), but while it is good they agreed to see me, nothing tangible has come out of it.
CC – Other people have successfully sued after a vaccine injury. For example, in 2014 the Perth family of young child Saba Button received a payout, thought to be over $10 million, from the WA government after Saba was severely disabled by the flu vaccine (the Buttons sued the manufacturers, who in turn sued the government). Do you have plans to sue the drug company, or anyone else?
TANYA – We have been looking into this for years now, with 4 different lawyers, but it does not look like we would have a successful case. Also, without funds or resources that’s not possible at this stage.
CC – Why do you think the Buttons were successful, while your legal efforts have not been so far?
TANYA – The Buttons sued over Fluvax, which was considered a faulty batch, as there were many other cases of bad reactions to that vaccine. However it is considered the dTap Ben received was not from a faulty batch, but that Ben had a rare reaction, which legally is part and parcel of any vaccine.
Lawyers Slater and Gordon told us that the manufacturer gives the hospital a list of the risks of dTap, which includes ADEM. And because ADEM is so rare the hospital don’t legally have to tell you that risk… no case.
CC – You have been actively campaigning for a no-fault vaccine injury compensation scheme, why is that?
TANYA – To try and help others in our situation.
CC – If such a scheme was to come in, would you benefit from it?
TANYA – No, unfortunately it will be like all laws they start when the law is bought in. We will not benefit from this scheme.
CC – Last question Tanya – if you were to raise enough money, would you be able to move to Perth immediately? Is there anything that might prevent you from doing so?
TANYA – We would hope to move as soon as possible, but we would need to find a house and find a way of getting a lease, which seems impossible to me at the moment because they only give leases to people with a secure income. I would need some help with this, I think.
CC – Thank you for joining me in this interview, Tanya. I am sure I speak for a great many people in sending you wishes of love and support, and congratulating you on your enormous courage in dealing with such a catastrophic situation.
TANYA – Ben and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for doing this interview. Your previous posts have helped immensely to get our story out which in turn gives us so many more supporters. This interview gives us the opportunity to answer people’s questions without outside interference and for that we are very grateful. You are truly amazing, thank you CC.
Particularly for overseas readers, I’d like to give you an idea of just how isolated Kalgoorlie is.
Firstly, these days the city is called Kalgoorlie-Boulder, but most Australians just call it Kalgoorlie. It has a population of around 31,000 people, the main activity is gold mining, and the population is fairly transient – people come to make good money working at the mines, then leave.
To give those of you in the USA an idea, Australia is about the same width from side to side as the US – imagine most of your population is down the east coast, there is one city on the west coast (Perth), with a small city 370 miles to its east (Kalgoorlie), and there is very little else! We have less than the population of Texas spread over a country a similar size to yours!
Driving to Kalgoorlie from the east coast is an expensive exercise, and includes crossing over 1,800 Km (1100 miles) of empty desert, plus further rural travel. Air and train travel and hiring a car when you arrive is expensive. So the supporters Tanya and Ben have on the east coast cannot get to Kalgoorlie to lend a hand. Even supporters from Perth would find it difficult to visit them.
How to help
[Update: The Hammonds have closed their earlier GoFundMe campaign and now have one to help fund the litigation case.]
You could help the family by writing or speaking to politicians about their case, and suggesting they should help the family in a tangible way (there is no need to write to Alannah MacTiernan or Wendy Duncan, as they are already helping as much as they can, but the others listed in the interview…) If you have connections with a charity/church you think could help in any way, for example with moving day, please contact them, too.
May 10. The day after this article was published word came through that Ben and Tanya’s application for a government ex gratia payment had been knocked back for a fourth time – the family’s supporters are applying again. The same day, electricity and mobile phone companies said they will cut off their services – the electricity company has kindly now worked out a payment plan for the family instead.
A court hearing about the charge for possession of a cannabis plant comes up in June or July – Ben faces up to 2 years in prison, a $2000 fine and a criminal record. Needless to say this is causing a lot of stress. Also, Ben is particularly unwell.
Tanya is now aware of the following video of a recent speech Kalgoorlie politician Wendy Duncan made in state parliament, calling for an ex gratia payment for the Hammonds and a vaccine injury compensation scheme.
For background to this story see: Hammond Family Terrorised By Police
Please share this post far and wide! You are very welcome to leave a message of support for Tanya and family in the comments sections below.