Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Woman unable to blink since op

Linda Cole's eyes have been wide open since surgery six months ago

Being unable to blink is painful and life-disrupting for Linda Cole. Photo / Rhys Palmer
Being unable to blink is painful and life-disrupting for Linda Cole. Photo / Rhys Palmer

When Linda Cole told staff at Waikato Hospital she couldn't close her eyes after surgery she was told, "well, you won't go blind" and she was sent home.

She hasn't blinked in the six months since.

The Raglan woman had an operation last September for bilateral jaw replacement, as the pain in her jaw prevented her from eating properly.

Cole believes the surgeon pulled her muscles back too tightly, resulting in her being unable to blink.

Since then, she says, she's been "a prisoner with a really big cell".

"I live in Raglan, which is like living in Wellington — we have a strong westerly — so I can't go out because it dries my eyes. The sunlight burns my eyes. I can't vacuum because the dust gets in, my hair drives me nuts because my fringe blows into my eyes."

She puts cream in her eyes every other minute to keep them moist and tries to shut them every 15 minutes: "It's a huge disruption, massive".

Cole says she is highly frustrated with Waikato Hospital.

"You tell someone post surgery 'my eyes are sore, it feels like my eyelashes are stuck in them' and they just ignore you.

"And then I got told by the next person, 'well, you won't go blind'. I thought 'hold on a minute, I have an issue here'.

"I'm losing faith. I'm paying to see specialists outside of the hospital realm because I don't feel safe."

She was also fed up with ACC, as it took six months before her injury claim was accepted.

A Waikato District Health Board spokeswoman said Cole's concerns would be investigated.

Cole went to outpatient clinics in February and March and is due for a six-month review shortly.

"It comes as a bit of a surprise to us that she does have some issues."

Following Herald on Sunday inquiries, Cole was contacted by DHB staff with information on how to make a complaint.

An ACC spokeswoman said treatment injury claims such as Cole's were often complex and could take many months to consider.

"In Mrs Cole's case, we did not initially receive all the relevant clinical records we required from the DHB, which caused an initial delay. That information then needed to be referred to an external specialist for his clinical advice.

It took 3 months to determine cover, which is not an unusually long timeframe for a case of this type."

Cole, who also suffers from a rare hereditary bleeding disorder, said the issue with her jaw was still unresolved.

"I haven't bitten an apple for a long time, I have to slinky them in a machine so that they're thin," she said.

"I just want to go on a holiday, somewhere there's no wind."

- Herald on Sunday

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