They put their cameras down

On Monday Sloven pleaded guilty to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) charges. It was a short hearing. The district judge referred the ‘case’ to Oxford Crown Court for sentencing. He stressed it was important that time was factored in for the crown court judge to carefully read the papers and for a full day to be scheduled for the hearing. He was deeply kind and sensitive, recognising how awful and serious it was that LB died. He made a point of acknowledging our family (my mum, sister Agent T and Tom attended).

We met with the HSE and their barrister, Bernard Thorogood, before and after the hearing. They explained the process and answered questions carefully and thoroughly. At the end they went to let the various press (including the BBC and ITV) outside know we didn’t want to be interviewed. We’d been filmed walking into the building.

They’re still outside. I’m sorry but we can’t do much about it. If you’re prepared to stay till 5pm or so they may have given up and gone… A bit of advice is to try and keep a fixed expression on your faces when you leave.

We grimly walked out of the Banbury Magistrates Court and passed the gaggle of journalists and camera people.

They put their cameras down.

And more…

It was an unexpectedly moving day. With the kindness and respect shown by the judge, the HSE and Bernard T, the media. Julie Dawes, Sloven CEO, attended.

The hearing date has yet to be set but will be in the next few months, possibly early January. Bryan, the My Life My Choice coordinator, emailed this afternoon:

The trustees want to attend on mass (probably 12-15 people) Oxford Crown Court for the SH sentencing.  They wanted to know how you might feel about this rather than them just turning up unannounced.

What do we feel? What a bloody brilliant  idea!

Let’s make it big. Let’s make it colourful and let’s mark this milestone in the lives and deaths of learning disabled people in typical #JusticeforLB chaotic and love coated fashion.

Who knows who may turn up.

 

 

The afternoon before the hearing

 

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I spent the afternoon with Tom trying to get photos from an old mac that’s been gathering dust and more upstairs. Eventually, after exemplary focus and persistence by Tom, and a few chuckles along the way (yep, yep, my computer smarts are shite, I’ve a desktop that demands a cone of shame and I’ve not updated anything since about 1749), 451 pics from the (g)olden days are now on my desktop. (A fair few have an alarming luke white question mark but we can save that battle/puzzle for another day).

Above is LB ploughing his own path up a hillside holding tightly onto to his i-summat music player. The gadget he produced myriad playlists on, back in the day. Each with one song on.

It was our last family holiday in 2010. He did what he typically did; stuff (the day out in the Black Mountains with a makeshift picnic) in his own way, own time while breaking nonsensical and meaningless rules along the way. So what if he was far behind? He got there in the end.

Before we got stuck into this task Rich and I walked into town to get a hard drive. On the bus home Julie Dawes, Sloven CEO, rang in response to my email from Friday. Good for her for calling back. I want to present the gist of our conversation here because I think it contains or flags up important elements/ingredients for the relationship between Trust staff and bereaved or harmed families.

The Sloven board apparently made the decision that no board member would attend the Health and Safety Executive hearing at Banbury Magistrates court tomorrow for ‘various reasons’. This was because they decided it would cause us further distress and it was ‘usual’ to send the communications manager to such hearings.

Julie Dawes rang me out of the blue on Friday because she was worried about the distress their planned press release would cause us. We weren’t asked whether the attendance (or non-attendance) of a senior exec at the hearing would cause us distress. This suggests that baby steps of improvement (concern about press release distress) remain coated in relentlessly longstanding concern about Trust reputation. And an accompanying lack of really understanding what is important to families.

You can’t assume distress in one area (attendance at the hearing) while checking it in another (press release content) without raising questions about what is actually ‘important’ here. Our feelings as a family or Sloven comms/reputation.

And when you’ve endured the extraordinary through Trust actions like we, and so many other families, have the ‘usual’ is irrelevant and obscene.

It’s really time to start walking up hills using the example of LB (and others) if you mean business around changing practice. Chuck out the grotesque, the turgid, the meaningless, the offensive and step up. Demonstrate the ‘impact’ a patient’s death has had on your organisation with actions. Not talk. [As an aside, and a frankly unapologetic plug for my book, one of the things I learned from early readers was ‘show don’t tell’.]

Think about the thin arguments you’re making and challenge them yourself. Instead of sending the comms manager ‘as usual’ (I struggle here with what ‘usual’ is in such circumstances), make sure a board member pitches up, even if you anticipate a five minute hearing. LB wasn’t given the chance to live. Don’t show further disrespect or worse by thinking it’s only a ‘five minute hearing’, or because you want to downplay the importance of the hearing.

Stand up publicly and show you fully understand and recognise that your organisation is responsible for the preventable death of a patient. Until you do this, no other fucker is going to.

Julie Dawes said on Friday she wanted to offer any personal help she could. It turns out this was distinct from arrangements around the hearing tomorrow and board decisions about attendance. A revealing comment (which is not to knock the offer of help which we appreciate). For families ‘the personal’ is too often the process. And the obliteration of humanity through that process.

By the end of the conversation I think we were sort of on the same page. I appreciate her sticking her neck out by ringing earlier. I hope productive discussion followed our fraught conversation. And I hope some respect will be shown to our beautiful boy who died in the cross hairs of a greedy, arrogant and failing Trust, local authority and CCG, tomorrow.

He deserved so much more.

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Imagining a guilty plea

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution against Sloven is scheduled for 2pm Monday at Banbury Magistrates Court. If the Trust plead guilty it will be a short hearing adjourned until a sentencing date in the next few months. This is a criminal prosecution. A guilty plea is pleading guilty to a crime. A crime that caused LB’s death.

Katrina Percy, then CEO, consistently distanced herself from the dire happenings she presided over between 2011-2016 with the apparent blessing of those who should know better.  Even after the jury at LB’s inquest found serious failings:

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An ‘absolutely tragic failure’. I don’t know what these words mean. Other than it was nothing to do with me guv. But no one (no one) who should have, challenged them. For Percy, the unit and not her leadership was to blame. Before and during LB’s inquest, the argument was LB died of natural causes and it was my fault. The difficult mother and the pesky blog.

Sloven smeared here and they smeared there. Across the years. Embarrassing briefings outlining the wrongdoing of #JusticeforLB campaigners. Hacking, trolling and persecuting hapless staff members. And more. Blaming staff. Blaming everyone but themselves. There was no looking glass among the Sloven senior exec. Or Oxfordshire County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group. No reflection whatsoever.

A tawdry soup of typically self-serving, smug, arrogant and sometimes nasty individuals. With inflated salaries and no understanding of what it is to be human.

Percy took her massive pay off, disappearing in to the early winter sunset last October. Waiting in the wings to re-launch herself as a leadership consultant on Linkedin.

Meanwhile, the new and remaining board members took it upon themselves to exonerate her in the recently published (and now suddenly removed from their website) 2016/7 annual review. She displayed neither “negligence or incompetence” apparently “during her time with the Trust to the extent that would warrant her dismissal”.  Despite two prosecutions underway.

Psst… board members – past and present – do you really not understand that patients have experienced serious harm or died under Percy’s leaky leadership?

Really?

Imagining a guilty plea

Just imagine. A guilty plea from a Trust who have forced us to fight every step of the beyond distressing way for accountability. Full pages of black redacted pages while other people leaked key quality reviews, briefings and more. Lies, more damn lies and non-disclosure across 51 months to us, to the coroner, and I assume to the police… Smears, delay and prevarication. Desperate attempts to prevent an Article 2 inquest and jury.

Valerie Murphy recently sharply shifted from a four year blanket denial of failings to partial admittance at her tribunal. Will Sloven, having steadfastly trawled through the darkest of dark practices, suddenly shift to a guilty plea?

If they plead guilty what does it mean? Can we can expect an apology for everything we’ve endured since LB died? The mother-blame shite. The staff witness statements with their ‘my relationship with Dr Ryan’ sections. The #fuckingpest commentary from the Berryman board member’s son. Will the abusive caller acknowledge I wasn’t a vindictive cow…?

Will there be recognition that we were collectively trying to get accountability for LB’s death?

Will Oxfordshire County Council and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group hold up their hands and finally admit their role in commissioning and enabling crap care on their watch?

Will people/organisations actually take responsibility for LB’s death and their subsequent actions?

An unexpected call

On the bus to work this morning, my phone rang. It rarely rings. Sloven CEO, Julie Dawes. Ringing to update me about Monday. She wanted to run her statement by me, given we’ve been upset about earlier Sloven statements. Reflecting on our upset over previous statements is good. The statement she read out was an improvement on previous Sloven statements. More heartfelt and human.

It was missing any reference to the impact of Sloven’s actions on us since LB died though. What they forced us to endure. Walking through Cornmarket I tried to explain to Julie what it was like to listen to the Sloven barrister argue that drowning was a natural cause of death during LB’s inquest. Just one example of the slippery dishonesty the Trust demonstrated. I tried to explain how damaging this process has been.

Julie listened and said she’d try to reflect this in the statement. She said she wouldn’t attend the hearing on Monday ‘for various reasons’, she recognised how distressing Monday will be be and said if there was anything she could do to help I should get in touch. She reiterated this a couple of times. She asked if I was going to read out my witness impact statement on Monday. No, I said.

I thanked her, hung up and an hour or so later wondered why she, or the board chair, weren’t going to attend the hearing. It’s a criminal prosecution and most people don’t get to not attend ‘for various reasons’. If nothing else, it’s a simple sign of respect.

Given the earlier offer of ‘anything she could do…’ I thought I’d call her back to ask her. Number withheld. She could phone me, generating distress, but I couldn’t call her back.

I’m left wondering how much of the call this morning was driven by an underlying concern about reputation and managing comms. I mean if the Trust seriously wanted to demonstrate evidence of change the CEO or Board Chair would attend the hearing on Monday. And I wouldn’t be asked if I’m going to read out our victim impact statement.

The day after LB died Sloven wrote ‘Mother’s blog may cause a risk to the reputation of the organisation’. Over four long years later the only risk to this organisation remains themselves. And their actions.

 

A levels, love and waiting for the tribunal

A ‘day off’ from the GMC tribunal which continued in private today. Day three of deliberations to determine the facts.

A level day.  Early morning jitters (and humour) from Tom:
Tom
He stormed it. We could not be prouder.

Funnily enough, a photo of Tom and Owen from 2012 popped up on Facebook. A day out in London months before Tom’s childhood was to change irrevocably. Owen, then 17, turned turned 18 the day before LB died. [I know].

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A friend messaged earlier saying congratulations and Tom has ‘done his part in saying ‘fuck you’ to the system and not allowing it to control’. Rosie, Will and Owen have also done their part in doing this. They have, in addition to the death of their beyond loved brother, endured home becoming a site of activism, anger, rage, despair, distraction, tears and more tears.

About a year ago now, at some particularly low point, Rich and I decided during an unusual weekend home alone that we would chuck in the towel on the fighting front. It was too much. It wasn’t fair on the kids. We were trying to climb a super smooth glass NHS mountain coated with a combo of pig grease, melted butter and olive oil.

We told Tom on his return expecting relief. A levels looming and all. He was shocked we’d even consider it. The love, concern, steadfast and unquestioning support and humour they have demonstrated over the last four years, mirrored in the actions and support of their partners and friends, is something we treasure beyond words.

These last few weeks have been particularly unpleasant. We’ve been shoehorned into even more extreme spaces by the careless fuckwaddery actions of the Nursing and Midwifery Council sharing our personal details and Mr P’s brutal and unnecessary cross-examination last Tuesday.

Wilful attempts to discredit without any relevance to the allegations under examination.

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On Wednesday we waited for the tribunal to begin again in public. A inhumane waiting even without the unchecked, salacious and unnecessary savaging. I lay on the settee, under my Routemaster blanket, refreshing twitter repeatedly. Bess dozed on the chair opposite. I took a pic of her on my ipad and tweeted it.

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#Waitingforthetribunal

This generated an unexpected and hilariously heartwarming set of photos; the pets of twitter. Waiting in solidarity for the tribunal. Including a plant (a groot?) which I can’t find now (sorry).

Names, spaces, commentary and love.

I’ve written about pets and health, we’re currently putting together a funding proposal with vet colleagues to further explore this area and yet I didn’t expect to find such solace in the sharing of photos of much loved animals on twitter. It made me chuckle. It was grounding. It was kind of reassuring.

Yep, I thought. These non humans could teach us a lesson or ten. If we would only start listening.

Late morning tomorrow (Friday) the panel are due to announce their determination on the facts (whether the doctor is guilty of the remaining charges she has not admitted to). The tribunal will then be rescheduled to continue at some point in the future.

We will continue waiting. Four years and six weeks on.

Being (in)sane in insane places… in four parts

Part I

Waiting for the GMC tribunal to come back from ‘in camera’ (secret) discussion today. It’s impossible to do anything constructive. Wait. Mope about in bed. Play Candycrush. Clean the floor badly. Answer a few work emails. Pace around the house. Play Candycrush. Poke at weeds for a bit. Mope. Back to bed. Wait.

Agitate.

Part II

We’ve waited four years. But the events of last week make it impossible to concentrate. The cross-examination brutality, the revelation that this blog was causing anxiety among consultants before LB was admitted to the unit and other outlandish arguments by the doctor’s barrister, RP.

Including his bizarre claim he had no computer access to produce submissions for the Friday morning. In central Manchester… sitting next to a colleague with a laptop.

There was incredulity and practical info on twitter.

The next morning RP circulated a set of handwritten bullet points ‘not in narrative form’:

He later argued:

Not all of us are au fait with narrative… You have to find a computer first and then go into free text…

Oh my. Did he handwrite a set of bullet points (a day or so after deftly destroying me as a reliable witness) to demonstrate the point that computers aren’t necessary to do a good job as a consultant?

The day ended with this comment:

Part III

The GMC are keeping us informed about the timetable and process of this hideous process with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

This is where we are at:

The panel are currently reviewing and considering the evidence given last week and need to agree the position on each charge that has not already been admitted and draft a full decision referring to the evidence, setting out their reasoning for each of the charges.  
 
The hearing will reconvene in public and the determination will be read out. Parties may need time to fully consider the determination then the hearing will move to the second stage. Further evidence can be called and submissions will be made on behalf of the GMC and the doctor in relation to whether the doctor is impaired. At this stage, the Tribunal meet alone again and need to make a decision on two matters: 1. whether the facts found proved are serious misconduct (the meaning of which is set out in various case law) and 2. if so, whether the doctor is impaired by reason of her misconduct.  It is not known how long it will take for the Tribunal to make this decision.
 
Depending on the Tribunal’s determination on impairment, the panel will consider the position of sanction. This would involve further submissions by both parties and another determination by the Tribunal.
Apparently the panel are unlikely to give a determination on the facts tomorrow.  The determination (the next step before the next stage) will likely now happen on Thursday. Coinciding with Tom’s A level results.
Part IV
This hearing has dominated the last few months for us. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) data sharing breach-too-far is bubbling on in the background. We’re less than four weeks from the Health and Safety Executive prosecution. We managed to polish off the personal impact statement yesterday, thank fuck. In less than a page.

You should include the fact you haven’t had a bath since LB died.” said Rosie. “And you loved them. I remember when we were little and we used to come in and chat to you. Sitting on the toilet…”

My definition of crap has taken such a battering I no longer have words for what we’re enduring.

We’ve been pushed into such an extreme space now that daily interaction with people is becoming difficult. Throwaway conversations in the street about the weather, summer holidays, dogs are hard to engage with. You can’t lay the shit storm we’ve been subjected to on any passerby or acquaintance. At the same time, saying, vacuously “Yeah, fine” is harder to say.

This led me to think about another layer to the campaign and social media activity; the sharing of rage, distress, incredulity and bafflement. The discussion and commentary. We know we wouldn’t have got ‘this far’ without social media. I hadn’t thought about how we would have personally been derailed months or years ago if we were experiencing this in isolation.

An hour into Mr P’s interrogation last Tuesday I was doubting myself.

It’s harder to doubt when so many others express sense, offer expertise (in any shape or form) and solidarity. And genuinely care.

 

The bleat action continuum

Over two years ago now I was writing about ground elder and the #LBBill. I’ve moved into the front garden recently, leaving the elder battle in kind of easy truce [I failed]. The front garden has tall ‘weeds’ with yellow tops which grow to middling head height every summer, leaving columns of snappable woody stems in the autumn.

Turns out these fuckers are worse than the ground elder. They have incredibly dense interconnected knotted lumps of a main root with shaggy swathes of stringy roots. Each one involves a hefty dig, more digging and almost full body wrestle to remove it from the ground. I can almost hear the earth breathing as they are lobbed into the brown bin.

Today we were due to hear the outcome of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) investigation into how they could possibly have shared personal details to the six nurses under investigation and their counsel.

Given the General Medical Council (GMC)* tribunal into Dr M’s fitness to practice starts on Monday in Manchester for two weeks and Rich and I are on extreme stress settings, I naively hoped that the NMC would be in touch early on in the day to limit the stress. We’ve had way too many 5-5.30pm Friday disclosures over the last four years.

The day dragged on. I punctuated work tasks with patches of root wrestling. Still nothing from the NMC. By 4pm I drifted onto twitter. It was impossible to concentrate. There was some discussion around what time we might expect to hear from the NMC and recognition that the Friday afternoon ‘disclosure dump’ is clearly modus operandi for public sector organisations with no heart or feeling. I resorted to tweeting the CEO about the cruelty of this delay.

The email pinged into my inbox. At the very outer edges of the allocated time.

Tip: Because you say an investigation is going to take x amount of days doesn’t mean the investigation has to take x amount of days. Focusing more attention on a complete balls-up to reduce the time the investigation takes and the accompanying stress for the family is the least you can do in a situation like this. Particularly if

  1. you had an additional 15 days between discovering the data breach and bothering to contact one of the four people affected.
  2. you have previously and publicly spent £250k redacting documents requested by another bereaved family in a breathtaking self protective act.

One of the numerous shite practices we’ve noticed over the past four years is the tendency for senior public sector staff to bleat ‘It was not our intention to do x, y or z’ despite doing it. Or ‘On reflection we should have done…’ when they didn’t.

What this really means is senior staff act with intent (and speed) when it involves their (organisational or own) reputation/skin and don’t when it doesn’t. The briefing on my blog circulated the day after LB died is an exemplar of this bleat action continuum.

The NMC letter outlined how sorting out the return of our personal data (first shared in November 2016) is shambolic. A mix of returned data, alleged destruction of data and outstanding information about copies made.

About as unreassuring as you could get.

And then, in a move not worthy of being written into a cheesy, made for tv movie, it turns out that after discovering the data breach in July 2017, they re- shared my personal details with three of the nurses. Yes, you read that correctly. Re-shared. Nine months after first carelessly tossing them around. But only [bleat] the same information (minus my bank details) to the same people…

There is nothing like heavy handed, dosh drenched redaction when it ain’t your reputation under threat. Nope. Nothing like it.

Fuckers.

*The GMC have been exemplary in the approach to this: clear, detailed information, communication and organisation.

The victim statement, party and pond re-activity

 

In May, the Health and Safety Executive asked if we wanted to write a Victim Personal Statement that would be shared with the judge in the prosecution against Sloven. They offered support to write it while acknowledging we probably wouldn’t need it. At the time I thought it would be a ‘minor task’. I mean I write, howl and rage on an almost daily basis.

Eight weeks later the statement remains unwritten. Well that’s not strictly true. I circulated a brief draft to Rich, Rosie, Will, Owen and Tom last week. Rosie fed back it was pretty rubbish and contrived (in less brutal words than these).

“Can’t you use an old blog post…?” she asked.

We said we’d talk about it this weekend because we’d all be together for Tom’s 18th party.

The party was on Friday night. It was pretty raucous with a lot of laughter, food and drink. Late evening with the dodgy disco light doing its thing, a Bowie track came on and the room of lively, loud and exuberant 18 year olds became a bit blurry. Rosie was there with a hug. The family grief morse code working as it seems to.

On Saturday morning after a brief party debrief and some groaning about sore heads we talked about the statement and I jotted down notes about what it should contain. This was largely a checklist of Sloven crap actions. We didn’t talk about the impact of Connor’s death on us which is what the statement is supposed to be about.

Later that day, attention turned to the disappeared pond in the front garden. Owen and I dragged the second of two monstrous plants out of the pond and left it sitting upright on the grass overnight. A solid, giant mass of roots, smelly black sludge and detritus with an enormous crown of green fronds that wouldn’t look out of place on a Doctor Who episode.

Rich dug the pond with the kids about 12 years ago now. It was a major operation based on serious pond research. Considerable depth in parts, different levels, shallow shelves for inhabitants to clamber in and out of, grey blankety stuff underneath the rubber sheeting and a couple of plants from an aquatic garden centre in Wheatley. A pond was born.

Life went on. Pond life flourished. We kept the weeds at bay for several years and children from the local primary school visited to see the frog spawn and tadpoles.

The two plants grew. And grew. Life took an unexpected turn. The pond disappeared under the foliage and was largely forgotten about. Apart from a hilarious dog sitting experience a year or so ago when Ned, a husky-cross, went for an unexpected stinky black cool down.

On Sunday morning, I was outside drinking coffee and studying the beached plant which was almost as tall as me and twice as wide. A woman stopped and said primly:

Ah. You’re attacking the jungle. Good! Have you just moved in?
Er, no. We’ve lived here for sixteen years…

She wandered off.

Owen and Tom set up camp in the afternoon for a couple of hours with music, borrowed footwear and gloves, an axe, spade and pair of shears, and the plant eventually disappeared into various bins around the neighbourhood. They later threw themselves into topping up the pond with a hose too short.

It’s incredibly hard to write a ‘personal victim statement’. The impact is unimaginable for each of us in different ways, at different times, in different spaces and with different people.

The fabric of family life continues to be brightly woven with people who didn’t meet LB. Partners, a baby due in November. Life goes on. My camera continues to capture delights. And they are delights.

The moments in between, and occasionally during, remain filled with an unresolvable ache that feels like a rock at the back of my throat or my chest being crushed. I don’t know if people’s hearts actually ache but for me it’s a throat/breathing thing which seems to have a direct line to tear production.

I just miss him.

We all do.

A Brum based step towards accountability

On a plane to Tenerife last November for a conference I sat next to a woman who had a hush hush job to do with environmental failings. As we chatted, our involvement with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) cropped up. There were overlaps with whatever she did. She suggested very seriously that I should read the full Alton Towers report. I did when I got home. The key part is here in the HSE press release:

There was a meticulous unpacking of the evidence to show that the failings came from the top rather than the people working that day who were directly involved in the ride that crashed so horrifically.

Rich and I went to Birmingham today to meet the HSE and the barrister they appointed shortly after that trip. It turned out to be the same barrister who represented the HSE in the Alton Towers prosecution. Funny old world.

During the meeting we learned more about the legal process. Hopefully I’ve got this right but it sounds like there will be a hearing at the Magistrates Court in Oxford or Banbury on September 18. At this hearing, the HSE barrister will present a case summary which will distill the complexity of the evidence into a digestible document highlighting links to the wider documentation. I assume (but am a bit hazy on this) Sloven’s legal counsel produce a response to the prosecution’s case.

Then a computer randomly churns out a date for a ‘plea and trial preparation hearing’ which will be held 28-35 days later. This may be heard in a Magistrate Court, Crown Court or High Court.

If Sloven plead guilty on that day no date will be generated. Instead the judge will send the case for sentencing.

So many connections and oddities.

An extract from my book. [As an aside, I’m sure I’m taxing the patience of both the production and copy editor off the planet with my last minute revision attempts – I’m sorry. And I’ve stopped now (yesterday). Sorry.]:

Ten years later we may be back at the Oxford Magistrates Court. For real.

Who knows, it may even be the same magistrate. Unlikely I know, but I wonder if he’d remember the young boy who was bursting with excitement and enthusiasm that Saturday morning. Beyond thrilled with the tour of the court, the cells and the car park where the G4 vans park. A young boy who listened to and took the mocked up case so seriously, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the process of the British justice system.

I bloody hope so.