Drunkenness claims seen as nonsense
The organiser of a rugby tournament has rubbished a clinical suggestion an Arrowtown man drank 24 beers within two hours before collapsing at a Queenstown event. Alex Cottier collapsed because of an arteriovenous malformation – a potentially lethal congenital condition that caused acute bleeding in the right frontal lobe of his brain while he watched the tournament on January 8. His mother, Vanessa, alleged her son’s medical treatment was drastically delayed because event paramedics, and later, Queenstown Lakes District Hospital staff, assumed he was paralytically drunk. A May 1 article outlining Mrs Cottier’s concerns kicked off a Southern District Health Board clinical review of Alex Cottier’s treatment. The board released the review to Mrs Cottier this week and opens on an initial medical assessment that her son ‘‘ had drunk a 24-pack of beer over the preceding two hours’’ before his collapse. However, Sevens with Altitude chairman Clark Frew said strict conditions imposed on alcohol consumption at the event made such a situation impossible. ‘‘No-one can take their own alcohol into the event and licence managers at the beer tents absolutely will not serve anyone who is intoxicated – no way and not at all,’’ he said. The review outlined Mr Cottier’s treatment over the Sunday and Monday, January 8-9, when he was transferred to Invercargill’s Southland Hospital, then Dunedin Hospital for urgent neurosurgery. It acknowledged the Cottier family’s concerns that alcohol was assumed as a cause of his condition, communication was poor and treatment of ‘‘family by staff was inappropriate’’. At a 10pm shift change at Lakes District Hospital on Sunday night, Mr Cottier’s case was discussed and his ‘‘care handed over to the incoming doctor’’, the review states. ‘‘About this time Dunedin intensive care were again contacted to request retrieval, but felt it wasn’t justified at that time, and that Southland Hospital would be a better destination given the history of presumed alcohol intoxication.’’ Before the review, Mrs Cottier maintained that by this time her son was overdue for a diagnosis and treatment – which did not begin until he arrived at Southland Hospital at 6.30pm on Monday. After reading the review her stance had not changed and she was mystified the review had ‘‘clung to a baffling supposition’’ her son, who had never been a heavy drinker, could have drunk 24 cans or bottles of beer in only two hours. ‘‘Reading the review for the first time was absolutely the first time I had heard any mention of the supposed fact that Alex had drunk 24 beers in the two hours leading up to his collapse – let alone at any time on that day. I just thought ‘you’ve got to be joking’.’’ Mr Cottier maintains he drunk three beers over the whole day on Sunday. When asking if the initial diagnosis was appropriate, the review mentioned there were ‘‘mixed reports’’ on how much beer he had consumed and whether or not he lost consciousness. The review says that the approach of ‘‘supportive therapy for alcohol intoxication’’ was reasonable. Mr Cottier was booked for a transfer to Southland Hospital that night but it was halted because of a perceived improvement in his condition. ‘‘They said Alex opened his eyes and said something, when he never opened his eyes by himself until he was taken out of a coma and spent almost two weeks in Dunedin’s High Dependency Unit,’’ Mrs Cottier said. The review states that Lakes District Hospital has no ability to perform a blood alcohol level test. Other factors contributing to a delay in Mr Cottier’s treatment ‘‘include the high number of intoxicated patients seen, and the rarity of a bleeding AVM [arteriovenous malformation]’’.
Denied: Alex Cottier and hismumVanessa in their Arrowtown home.