Has health sys­tem failed Jef­frey Bran­der?

Long wait led to seizure, brain tu­mour di­ag­no­sis

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DARRELL COLE darrell.cole@amher­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Christe Bran­der knew some­thing was wrong with her son when he started hav­ing fa­cial numb­ness last May.

But it wasn’t un­til he su ered a seizure and col­lapsed by his par­ents’ bed­side that the health­care sys­tem took his com­plaints se­ri­ously.

“It’s one of the scari­est things you can go through as a par­ent, hav­ing your son lay­ing on the oor and not be­ing able to com­mu­ni­cate with him,” Bran­der said.

It was fol­low­ing his Dec. 26 seizure that 22-year-old Jef­frey Bran­der was di­ag­nosed with a ter­mi­nal brain tu­mour. He un­der­went surgery in Hal­i­fax soon af­ter, but the prog­no­sis is not good.

To Bran­der, the sit­u­a­tion could have been di er­ent if her son, who also has Asperger’s, was able to see a doc­tor sooner.

Jef­frey be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fa­cial numb­ness in May, but she said he had to wait three months to see a fam­ily doc­tor at the col­lab­o­ra­tive emer­gency cen­tre in Tata­m­agouche. He got into see the doc­tor in Oc­to­ber, but she feels the doc­tor was so over­worked that he wasn’t able to give her son the care he needed.

Her son was sup­posed to go back to the doc­tor in Jan­uary.

“I’m not try­ing to blame our doc­tor be­cause he was swamped. He was in and out in 15 min­utes and when I asked what was go­ing on the doc­tor, talk­ing to me from be­hind the counter, said he thought he was ne that it could have been a nerve,” she said. “I asked if he should have a CT-scan and he said no that he’d see him in three months.” en the seizure hap­pened. Bran­der said Jef­frey came to the bed­side in the mid­dle of the night com­plain­ing that his hand had gone numb. His speech was slurred and one side of his face was droop­ing.

“I turned to my hus­band and told him to call 911. When I turned around he had col­lapsed,” she said. “His whole right side had gone par­a­lyzed. He could hear us, but couldn’t talk. He in­di­cated he had a ter­ri­ble pain in his head. en he stopped re­spond­ing.”

A CT-scan in Truro found a large hematoma and he was trans­ported by am­bu­lance to the QEII Health Sci­ences Cen­tre in Hal­i­fax where surgery found an orange-sized tu­mour on the left side of his brain.

While sur­geons re­moved most of the tu­mour, it has grown back and the prog­no­sis is not favourable. He un­der­went a ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy ro­ta­tion dur­ing the sum­mer and the fam­ily is wait­ing on an MRI he had ear­lier this week. She is con­vinced the news could have been di er­ent had he seen the doc­tor ear­lier.

“The wait time try­ing to get into a doc­tor was a huge is­sue. I think if we had or­dered the CT-scan in Oc­to­ber or did it ear­lier he wouldn’t have had the hematoma in De­cem­ber, the paral­y­sis and the other things, like the anx­i­ety, that he suf­fers to­day,” she said, adding her son was a tal­ented pi­anist prior to the seizure. “We need more doc­tors so they’re not so over­loaded. Be­cause they’re over­loaded, pa­tients are not be­ing cared for prop­erly.”

Bran­der is also strug­gling as his care­giver and be­cause she couldn’t get into a doc­tor in a timely fash­ion her­self, be­cause she was in Hal­i­fax with her son, she is hav­ing dif­fculty get­ting her in­surer to sup­port her.

“I’m with him al­most ev­ery hour of ev­ery day,” she said. “Be­cause of his Asperger’s his anx­i­ety level is so high he doesn’t sleep well at night and doesn’t like to be left alone. It’s drain­ing.”

Cum­ber­land North PC MLA and health critic El­iz­a­beth Smith-McCrossin has seen ex­am­ples of this across the prov­ince and is frus­trated the prov­ince won’t ac­knowl­edge some­thing is wrong with health care.

“It’s a heart­break­ing story, but hers is one of hun­dreds across the prov­ince,” Smith-McCrossin said. “ere are a few is­sues at play, but the big­gest is a physi­cian re­source is­sue.”

She be­lieves the depart­ment needs to work with doc­tors on so­lu­tions and sug­gested physi­cians need to have in­put as mem­bers of the pro­vin­cial health au­thor­ity’s lead­er­ship.

Smith-McCrossin, who is a nurse, raised the is­sue in the leg­is­la­ture on Oct. 20 ask­ing Health Min­is­ter Randy Delorey when his depart­ment is go­ing to come up with so­lu­tions to re­duce wait times.

The min­is­ter re­sponded the health-care sys­tem is very com­plex and in­ter-re­lated, which means there is no sin­gle so­lu­tion to ad­dress the chal­lenges of any one par­tic­u­lar area. He said the depart­ment is tak­ing a look at health care as a pro­vin­cial sys­tem.

e min­is­ter was not avail­able for fur­ther com­ment, but a depart­ment spokesper­son said he could not speak on speci c cases.


Christe Bran­der be­lieves not be­ing able to get into a doc­tor in a timely fash­ion led to a seizure and brain tu­mour di­ag­no­sis for her 22-year-old son, Je rey.

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