Teen flown in rescue Helicopter to Dunedin as treatment delayed

Praneeta Mahajan

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, 14 November 2022

The Young Girl’s Ordeal explained by her Mother (Image Supplied)


High School is a special time for everyone. Life is changing and a world of opportunities is waiting to welcome you. You are finally ready to explore career choices, experience an independent life and celebrate the journey so far with your friends, teachers and family.

But that would sadly not be the case for one teenager in Queenstown, who ended up being put on an Otago Rescue Helicopter and sent to Dunedin Hospital where she was diagnosed with bacterial strep pneumonia affecting both lungs and spent three days in ICU.

The ordeal she and her mother had to go through, in order to receive the treatment, shows a grim picture of our health system.

The young girl’s mother, Mrs Sunitha Karunakaran said watching her 18-year-old daughter struggle to breathe in a cold portable Hospital building unit on the night of October 25 was one of the worst moments of her life.

Prior to their arrival at Lakes District Hospital, staff was made aware of her condition by doctors at Queenstown Medical Centre since she had spent the day at the medical centre on an IV before going home at 6pm following Urine and Blood tests.

At 7pm the doctor called the family to advise blood tests revealed the teenager’s white and red blood cell counts were concerning, and she needed to go immediately to hospital.

Staff at the hospital confirmed they had spoken with the medical centre, that the situation was “urgent” and that her daughter would be seen soon, Mrs Karunakaran said.

“It was too cold out there, but we were just ignored and told we had to wait as there were other patients who were more ill that arrived in an ambulance,” she said.

After being made to wait in a portable building outside Queenstown’s locked hospital for three hours, all they received were a dose of paracetamol, a Covid-19 test (which was negative), and a blanket, which also took repeated requests.

Lakes district Hospital, Queenstown and the room in question (Image supplied)

Mrs Karunakaran was told repeatedly that there were patients who were more serious as “they had arrived in ambulance”. Despite it being dark and her daughter having high fever, they were told to use an outside portable toilet if required.

As her daughter’s condition deteriorated, several attempts to get attention from hospital staff using a buzzer outside the locked hospital were ignored. With her younger child at home alone, and her husband out of the country visiting family in Malaysia, when Mrs Karunakaran got no indication they would see a doctor soon, she had to make the tough choice of going home instead of waiting in a cold room with her daughter and left the hospital at 11pm.

The next morning staff at Queenstown Medical Centre sent her daughter back to the hospital in an ambulance. Since her oxygen level was down to 20%, she had a fever of 38.7C and was coughing uncontrollably, she had to immediately be put on a rescue helicopter and flown to Dunedin.

Otago rescue helicopter

Karunakaran said the episode was “extremely distressing”. She said that “If [the hospital staff] had seen us that night then my daughter wouldn’t have got to the point of almost losing her life.”

Her daughter’s recovery time is 6 weeks which during that time she has her NCEA Level 3 exams and interview and testing for the entrance into her course for university. Being a committed student, she is worried that her academic performance might now be adversely affected.

Talking to Indian Newslink, Mrs Karunakaran spoke about the anxiety that has set in due to their experience of apathy and inconsideration, which has made her worry even more about her daughter’s well-being once she starts University. She said “I was feeling absolutely helpless all night seeing my girl suffering and unable to breathe. How will I be able to send her away to University after the traumatic experience we went through as a family?”

Sadly, for the family, this wasn’t a one-off experience. “This is the second time this year that I almost had 2 of my family members, my husband and daughter who both almost died due to the negligence of the DHB, said Mrs Karunakaran.

Her husband had Covid on 27th June 2022 and he had a tummy bug at the same time. He was unable to have any food and drink for almost 5 days but was turned away as he was covid positive. “My husband could hardly walk due to dehydration and he was pale and his skin was dry without water. On day 7 I took him to the QMC and they put him on drips . He had 3 IV’s and medication. I was told that he would have died if I didn’t take him in on time” she said recalling the incident.

Being an active member of the community and secretary for a Multicultural society, Mrs Karunakaran has great affinity to Queenstown, a place she has called home for more than 17 years.

The distress in her voice as she narrated the incident was discernible when she said “I am devastated to know that people are treated badly in the Lakes District Hospital. I came to New Zealand for a better life and I have been doing community work for over 10 years. It’s extremely depressing to see there is no humanity in the medical area in this town. I would have lost my husband and my daughter this year because of the DHB’s negligence.”

As a mother, she prays nobody is left to feel so helpless and traumatised and no young person has to risk their future plans simply due to lack of timely help from any medical professional.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

Share this story

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement