Parents hit out at DHB over teen's paralysis

By Sam Hurley

1 comment

The parents of a paralysed Napier teenager say their daughter would still be walking had she received the "right tests" at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

Last year, Julia Paterson's parents were faced with the decision of turning their 13-year-old's life support off after she was discharged from the Hastings hospital with a clean bill of health.

Julia fell from a Tamatea park playground in July last year.

Initially, she just had a sore back but, just a few days later, she would be paralysed and fighting for her life in Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital.

"My daughter was playing on the fireman's pole at the playground, when she came down wrong. I asked her if she was okay and she said, 'My back feels a little weird', so I carried her home but she said she was okay to walk," her father, Alex Paterson, said.

"She started to get a little worse so we took her to the hospital, the doctors said she was all fine and discharged her so we came home, the next morning she was paralysed on one side of her body."

He and his wife, Memory, took Julia back to Hawke's Bay Hospital. Julia, one of seven children, was placed in an induced coma and transferred to Starship for specialist treatment and surgery.

Mrs Paterson said: "Once she got to Starship she went straight into the operating theatre and, before you knew it, she was fighting for her life.

"The Starship doctors said this could have been avoided and their top surgeons were saying this.

"It wouldn't have come to this had they done the right tests at [Hawke's Bay] hospital, she would still be walking."

The couple then faced every parent's worst nightmare - the decision whether to turn off their child's life support.

"The doctors at Starship came to us and asked if we agreed to turn off the life support machines, they didn't think she was going to make it - I'm just so happy that we didn't turn them off."

A Hawke's Bay District Health Board spokesman said the board was unaware of the complaint but would now look into the issue.

Six months ago, Julia returned home from Starship. She is a tetraplegic and suffers from respiratory and other medical complications. The family has spent that time applying for ACC and funding for ramp access to be built at their home.

ACC had declined their applications for assistance and the family sought the advice of ACC advocacy to push for compensation. "You're sleeping at night and you're thinking what would we do if something happened, how would we get her out of the home?" Mr Paterson said. "It's unfair not only for us but for our daughter."

Mrs Paterson said it was a "mission" to take her daughter outside the home. "We struggle to carry her, especially with her respiratory issues.

"Even the ambulance staff when they arrive are astonished that we don't have a ramp. What if a fire breaks out? We just want another exit in the back of the house and we can't afford it by ourselves.

"We did have a temporary ramp but she's come off that twice because there aren't any railings on it. What's it going to take?

"She might not be so fortunate next time, she might land on the concrete."

The Lotto Commission has granted $15,000 for a converted van to help transport her to and from the hospital, but Mrs Paterson said her safety concerns were not fully addressed. "We just don't know where to go from here. It's just like we've walked into a brick wall."

The DHB spokesman said the board did not provide funding for disability access as it was provided from national agency Enable.

"Today [yesterday] the clinical director of the paediatric service has asked for a complete relook at the whole wheelchair access situation for Julia and we will be working with and helping the family find a solution."


- Hawkes Bay Today

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 24 May 2017 22:59:57 Processing Time: 675ms