Stroke vic­tim stranded

Court In­surer re­fuses to cover flight

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By RHI­AN­NON MCCON­NELL

Travel in­sur­ance failed a Pare­mata fam­ily forced to bor­row more than $10,000 af­ter their Scot­tish mother had a rare stroke while vis­it­ing.

Celia Mathe­son, 81, thought she had all her ducks in a row when she paid al­most £450 for in­sur­ance be­fore vis­it­ing New Zealand in April.

Two weeks into her hol­i­day, Mathe­son had a rare spinal stroke that left her bedrid­den.

Thanks to a re­cip­ro­cal health ar­range­ment be­tween Bri­tain and New Zealand, Mathe­son was cared for un­der the pub­lic health sys­tem.

Now she must re­turn to Scot­land to have specialist spinal care.

Her Bri­tish-based in­sur­ance com­pany, Capita, has re­fused to pay for her flight or care be­cause it be­lieves the stroke is re­lated to her high blood pres­sure.

How­ever, Mathe­son’s doc­tors have told the in­sur­ance com­pany the stroke had noth­ing to do with a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion.

‘‘It was a down­right dis­grace. [Capita In­sur­ance] re­fused al­to­gether to have any­thing to do with it,’’ Mathe­son said.

‘‘ They have per­sisted and told [ the doc­tors] I was not cov­ered. What more can we do?’’

‘‘We are ab­so­lutely stranded by this. It’s hard enough hav­ing all this, with­out the fi­nan­cial worry too. I re­sent it strongly.’’

Capita In­sur­ance does not have a New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Kapi-Mana News in­quiries to its Bri­tish of­fice went unan­swered at the time of print.

Mathe­son’s doc­tor, Kate Barnard, said staff at Cap­i­tal and Coast District Health Board had been in con­tact with the in­sur­ance com­pany sev­eral times.

Barnard said that un­like brain-re­lated strokes, spinal strokes were not caused by high blood pres­sure.

‘‘In a spinal cord stroke, the un­der­ly­ing cause may be from a blood ves­sel dam­aged by a tear or in­fec­tion, or by a blood clot which forms some­where else like the heart,’’ she said.

Though Mathe­son was fu­ri­ous at her in­sur­ance com­pany, she said the New Zealand health sys­tem had been ex­cel­lent.

Mathe­son now has to ei­ther move to a hospi­tal with spinal fa­cil­i­ties, with the cost fall­ing on daugh­ter Dee Lind­say and her hus­band Stephen, or get home to Scot­land.

The Lin­days had no op­tion but to bor­row the $10,500 needed to get Mathe­son home.

‘‘[The Bri­tish Con­sulate] agreed to help cover the fares for now. But my pass­port is taken off me un­til that is paid back,’’ Dee Lind­say said.

Mathe­son has to fly with an as­sis­tant, Dee. They need to travel busi­ness class be­cause of all her med­i­cal equip­ment.

With the fam­ily be­ing un­der fi­nan­cial stress, Dee said she had con­cerns about re­pay­ing the money.

‘‘ We sim­ply do not have the money. That’s left us stranded.’’

Stephen Lind­say owns a busi­ness that spe­cialises in fix­ing leaky homes, but the past few years have been tough.

The cou­ple said the com­mu­nity had ral­lied be­hind them, with bake sales and a Give a Lit­tle page be­ing started. She said any help was much ap­pre­ci­ated. Mathe­son and Dee plan to fly to Scot­land on June 16. To help, visit givealit­tle.co.nz/ cause/helpdeesfam­ily.

Photo: RHI­AN­NON MCCON­NELL

Let down: Stroke suf­ferer Celia Mathe­son with her fam­ily Dee and Stephen Lind­say and their chil­dren Akira and Kal­ton.

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