John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Girl sent home with broken neck

Theresa Jeffries and Crystal, who had her 15th birthday in hospital. Photo / Doug Sherring
Theresa Jeffries and Crystal, who had her 15th birthday in hospital. Photo / Doug Sherring

A mother who claims her daughter was left to walk home from school with a broken neck and later misdiagnosed at hospital wants answers.

Theresa Jeffries is furious at the treatment of daughter Crystal who, at the age of 14, broke her neck after a fall at a friend's house in Dannevirke during an overnight stay. Jeffries has lashed out at Crystal's old Catholic school and the Manawatu health system.

Crystal, now recovering in Starship in Auckland, injured her neck last May when she fell from a fence and blacked out. She arrived at St Peter's School the next day, and Crystal says she was met with an unsympathetic response to her complaints of pain. "Every teacher I came into contact with told me to harden up," she said.

Jeffries wants an apology from the school, which she alleges was not happy with her after Crystal's late father had a non-Catholic funeral.

St Peter's School principal David Olivier said Jeffries' claims were outrageous.

Crystal never informed teachers or asked to call home, he said. "She told the counsellor she had a headache and had fallen off a trampoline the day before."

Crystal was told to visit the sick bay but Olivier said she went back to class instead.

Crystal's 3km walk home usually took an hour. That day, it took three times as long with Crystal hunched over in what she described as agonising pain.

"I got home ... Mum swung the door open and said 'Oh my God, what is wrong with you'?"

Jeffries rushed her daughter to Palmerston North Hospital where she was x-rayed and discharged. But Jeffries said she received frantic calls soon after from the hospital to return.

Hospital records show the x-ray showed a crush fracture at Crystal's C7 vertebral body, near the bottom of her neck. Jeffries is appalled the first visit failed to establish the injury.

Months later Crystal was still having trouble. In August an MRI scan at Palmerston North Hospital went wrong when an intravenous lure caused sudden paralysis in Crystal's left forearm. This was later assessed by a neurologist as "a possible inadvertent injection" of a nerve near her elbow.

Since then, Jeffries said, Crystal's pain had intensified and she was often bed-ridden.

MidCentral DHB confirmed Jeffries has complained about Crystal's care last year.

Lyn Horgan of MidCentral DHB said there was agreement to put the complaints on hold at the end of 2011 for two months while Crystal was in Starship. The DHB received no further communications or requests for financial compensation from Jeffries, she said.

- Herald on Sunday

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