Man had no help for years

Brain in­jury: SDHB apol­o­gises

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - JONO EDWARDS

TEN years af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing car crash, the South­ern District Health Board has apol­o­gised for not at­tempt­ing to di­ag­nose a for­mer Dunedin man’s brain in­jury which likely con­trib­uted to years of an in­abil­ity to hold a job and out­bursts of anger.

On May 28, 2009, Chris Wes­ley was driv­ing on State High­way 1, near Eden­dale, in low vis­i­bil­ity and hail when an­other ve­hi­cle crossed the cen­tre line and col­lided with him.

The other driver died and Mr Wes­ley was treated for tooth, jaw and other fa­cial in­juries at South­land Hos­pi­tal.

Af­ter this Mr Wes­ley, who lived in Dunedin, went back to work ‘‘ag­i­tated, tired’’ and with bouts of am­ne­sia.

‘‘I started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing psy­chotic episodes.’’

He be­gan act­ing in ways he had never done be­fore, which he was now ‘‘em­bar­rassed’’ about.

In 2010 he was charged with as­sault with in­tent to in­jure in re­la­tion to an al­ter­ca­tion with his wife and spent a month in prison, but was dis­charged with­out con­vic­tion on men­tal health grounds.

How­ever, from that point Otago Men­tal Health Ser­vices did not be­lieve he had men­tal health is­sues, he said.

Notes from doc­tors and nurses about Mr Wes­ley’s case ob­tained un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act sup­port his claim, in­clud­ing one which said it was dif­fi­cult to as­sess his state as he was ‘‘not do­ing a very good job act­ing like he has a men­tal ill­ness’’.

These di­ag­noses fol­lowed him ev­ery­where he went as the health board passed his notes on, such as when he moved to Taranaki, mean­ing he could not get ad­e­quate treat­ment, he said.

‘‘I haven’t been able to hold down jobs, lost re­la­tion­ships. I had months sleep­ing in my car sur­rounded by cider bot­tles.’’

In 2018 he be­gan a process through the Ac­ci­dent Com­pen­sa­tion Cor­po­ra­tion (ACC) and the ‘‘penny fi­nally dropped’’.

Physi­cians di­ag­nosed his head in­juries and linked them to post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der and de­pres­sion.

He is now on a concussion re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion plan through ACC and was ‘‘fi­nally get­ting really good treat­ment’’.

He laid a com­plaint with the Health and Dis­abil­ity Com­mis­sioner and last month re­ceived some clo­sure in an apol­ogy from the South­ern District Health Board.

A let­ter from medicine and women’s and chil­dren’s health direc­torate act­ing gen­eral man­ager Si­mon Don­levy said it was ‘‘very clear’’ from his con­di­tion at the time that he had suf­fered a head in­jury and a CT scan was per­formed which the ra­di­ol­o­gist iden­ti­fied as nor­mal.

How­ever, the health board was ‘‘sorry’’ there did not ap­pear to be a spe­cific as­sess­ment of the sever­ity of his head in­jury or the po­ten­tial risk of post­concussion syn­drome.

‘‘The lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the pos­si­bil­ity that you suf­fered a trau­matic brain in­jury has clearly had a detri­men­tal ef­fect on your treat­ment and we are also very sorry if the lack of this doc­u­men­ta­tion in­flu­enced your treat­ment providers.’’

Mr Wes­ley said it was ‘‘very sin­cere’’ and was help­ing him to move on.

How­ever, he did not re­ceive the apol­ogy he sought re­gard­ing the on­go­ing treat­ment from Otago Men­tal Health ser­vices.

SDHB chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Nigel Mil­lar said yes­ter­day it was sorry to hear of Mr Wes­ley’s on­go­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

‘‘We ac­knowl­edge and take se­ri­ously Mr Wes­ley’s con­cerns. These have been in­ves­ti­gated and we have the ad­vised him of the out­comes of them,’’ Dr Mil­lar said.

‘‘Whilst we can’t com­ment on in­di­vid­ual case de­tails, if Mr Wes­ley has any fur­ther con­cerns we would be very happy to dis­cuss these with him di­rectly and we will make con­tact with Mr Wes­ley to pro­vide him with this op­por­tu­nity.”

Now he is stay­ing with friends in Auck­land and was get­ting to a point where he wanted to leave the long saga be­hind him.

He also wanted to raise aware­ness of the ef­fects un­di­ag­nosed head in­juries could have on your life.

‘‘It’s to say to peo­ple if they feel un­well af­ter a head in­jury to in­sist to their GPs. The down­stream im­pacts are huge.’’

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Fa­tal crash . . . A man died in the col­li­sion that caused Chris Wes­ley’s in­juries in 2009.

Chris Wes­ley

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