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"Paralysed down one side."

About: Derby Hospital

(as the patient),

I have been going to Derby Hospital for 2 or 3 weeks with back pain. They didn't do any x-rays, ultrasounds or blood tests. Each time the same nurse was on and she would tell me I was okay and send me home with ibuprofen and paracetamol. I also went to the Aboriginal Clinic about my back pain and I got the same response and was just sent home with Ibuprofen and paracetamol.

Finally one night we had to call the ambulance because I collapsed. I was completely paralysed down the left side of my leg. The same nurse who had seen me each time at the hospital came. The ambulance officers were outside and the nurse tried to force me to get up. She then put me on a plastic house chair and dragged me across the floor. While she was pulling me across the ridges on the floor, I was frightened the chair was going to break. But she didn't seem to care.

When I got to the hospital they didn't seem to know anything. A young doctor took one look at me and said, I think she's got a spinal problem. When they realised how serious the problem was they then had me transferred straight to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. The next day they called the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital to inquire how I was, I think because they knew how much of a mistake they'd made.

They found an abscess on my spine which caused the problem.

I have now been transferred back to Derby Hospital and I am walking with a walking frame. My leg is still numb and they don't know if I will ever make a full recovery. I have just been told to keep doing my physio.

If it wasn't for that young doctor, I don't know if I would be permanently paralysed.

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Response from WA Country Health Service 7 years ago
We are preparing to make a change
Submitted on 19/10/2016 at 3:55 PM
Published on Care Opinion at 3:56 PM

Dear Paralysed

We are so sorry that you had a spinal abscess. It is an awful condition to have. We hope you make a full recovery.

One of the terrible things about a spinal abscess is that people often suffer several weeks of back pain before there are other features to enable doctors to recognise it as an abscess rather than another of the many causes for back pain. When you came to the hospital and the Aboriginal Clinic at the start there was nothing to indicate that this bad back pain you had was not as a result of an injury. There was therefore nothing to tell us that we should get any further tests done. We do not routinely do further tests for back pain, and even if we had done more tests, a spinal abscess does not show up on xrays or ultrasound. It was only when you became paralysed that it was clear that this was more than a back injury causing pain, and the doctors needed to refer you to Perth for further tests. This was now clear to all of the doctors who were treating you, so it would have happened even if the young doctor wasn’t there.

We are very disappointed to hear that the manner of some of our staff made you feel your pain and concerns were not being taken seriously. We have talked with the staff concerned about this.

We often phone the big hospital after we have referred a patient there. This is because we are concerned about how you are going. It is also so we can find out what the further tests have found, so we can all learn.

We have looked very closely at your visits to the hospital and the assessments that happened on your visit so that we can learn from this to prevent the same thing happening to anyone else. We have talked with all the doctors in the hospital and at the Aboriginal Clinic to remind us all that we need to think of an abscess as a possible cause for someone’s back pain. We are also reminding people again that it is very important for us all to listen very carefully to people who come to see us.

We are very sorry that your getting from your bed to the ambulance was such a painful process. As a result of your feedback we are looking at ways in which we can help to do this in a better way to save it happening to others.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. We are all working very hard to provide a kind, caring, high quality health service for our town. You letting us know where we have fallen short will help us to do better next time. Thank you.

We wish you all the best.

Roger Brown

Senior Medical Officer Derby Hospital

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