Fire hydrant flush almost kills Te Puke man

By Pauline Carney - Te Puke Times

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The routine flushing of fire hydrants nearly cost a Te Puke man his life when it affected his dialysis machine.


Len Follett is still coming to terms with the $100,000 dialysis machine installed in his home at the beginning of the year, primarily designed to keep his body functioning. But last Wednesday Mr Follett thought he was losing his battle.


Mr Follett was about halfway through his four-hour dialysis routine when City Care workers started to flush water out of the fire hydrants along his street.


"All the bells and whistles started to go off. It gave me a hell of a fright," he said.


Luckily his wife, Gayle was around to help turn off the pumps and filters so none of his blood was spilled.


"I don't know what would have happened if Gayle hadn't been right here.


"It was a first for us," he said. "We are still learning about using this," referring to the large machine that is plumbed into the water supply and electricity, and which pumps his blood through filters to purify it, a function his kidneys can longer perform.


Mr Follett is on the machine on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for about 4 and a half hours each time.


He understood his address was listed with local power and water service providers as one to be alerted before planned outages.


"I don't blame the boys doing the work on the street. It is their boss who should have been awake that a drop in water pressure affects sensitive medical equipment," Mr Follett said.


"Other people in Te Puke have machines like this.


"Do they have to suffer the same thoughtlessness?


"Even as a ratepayer, I would have expected to be told about any work on the water supply."


It would not be a problem if he knew the water was to be cut, or the pressure lowered, as long as he wasn't on his machine.


"If they'd rung and said they were going to flush the hydrants or mains, I'd plan my dialysis to start later in the day.


"I hope they keep me in mind when they start work on replacing the water mains along the street. We are supposed to be having that done in a few months."


The Folletts have lived in Harris St for 43 years and Len worked for the former Post Office (P&T) lines department. He took redundancy when it was offered some years ago. Western Bay of Plenty District Council utilities asset manager Ulrich Glasner said the council did have a list of dialysis patients in district. Waikato Hospital had requested that the council inform patients if there was a planned water shutdown.


"Council ensures their contractors comply with this request for water shutdowns.


"The issue here seems to be that this was not a water shutdown but a planned water mains flushing which was advertised in advance in newspapers.


"This process can cause pressure drops in the system, which is possibly what may have affected the machine's performance. Staff were unaware of the specifications of these machines and have not been requested to notify patients directly when flushing is to occur, therefore they were unaware flushing could cause a shut down.


"Now staff have been made aware flushing shuts the machines down, they will make a specific point of ensuring dialysis patients are advised when water mains are flushed."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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