A woman who nearly died after her gall bladder ruptured says she was misdiagnosed and ignored by health authorities for a year.
Cindy Bridson - who has received an apology from her district health board for its repeated failures to treat her symptoms - says she feels her life has been destroyed by medical incompetence and lengthy delays.
"I was in pain with gallstones but they didn't listen," Bridson told The Herald on Sunday in her first interview.
"I am an intelligent, educated woman who is perfectly capable of expressing herself. When I told them it was gallstones, they said I had no proof of that, even though my GP had sent my file.
"I am lucky to be alive but in the middle of everything, my liver, heart, and kidneys failed. If I was operated on a year ago, this would not have happened."
Bridson says she wants accountability and compensation for the pain and suffering she's endured. The 70-year-old mother-of-four, says her biggest fear was dying and never seeing her children again.
"I am angry at the bloody system; I need to be compensated serious money to make my life somewhat easier than it is now. 'I'm sorry,' doesn't cut it, the damage is done and it's just not okay.
"My children were preparing for me to die. How dare they put them through hell? This was avoidable."
Bridson's saga unfolded in April last year when her GP confirmed she needed her gallbladder removed urgently. Three weeks later, as Bridson's pain intensified she was given a referral to Waikato Hospital.
In mid-June, the Waihi retiree met a surgeon from Thames Hospital who believed she had bowel cancer and needed an urgent colonoscopy. Bridson waited three months for the results of the colonoscopy that cleared her of cancer. Medical notes seen by the Herald on Sunday showed Bridson's liver was normal and she had chronic cholecystitis (an inflamed gallbladder due to gallstones).
At the end of August Bridson went by ambulance to Thames hospital for abdominal pain. Once again, she told the medical staff it was gallstones, but she says no one listened to her. In late September, Bridson was assessed and told her condition was "semi-urgent." She was added to the general surgery waitlist but in November she was referred to the gastroenterology waitlist, which could take up to four months for surgery.
"This ordeal has taken years off my life," says Bridson. Photo / Supplied
Bridson was confused by the two letters and furious she had been removed from the general surgery list.
"I was waiting for up to four months for an appointment to decide whether they would put me on a list at all. If you have gallstones, they get quite sore. Nobody had looked at my file, their attitude was we might get in touch with you - how arrogant is that?
"I can't tell you how many ambulances I've called and I was having a major attack every three to five days. Each time I would be sent home with morphine.
"I think Thames hospital was only interested in getting the pain meds right and treating the symptoms."
At the start of this year, Bridson was taken to Thames Hospital by ambulance where she was diagnosed with biliary colic with liver derangement (pain that occurs when the gallbladder contracts, causing a gallstone to block the bile duct) and sent home with more pain relief. The doctor was concerned about Bridson's deteriorating health and scheduled another appointment, which was suddenly cancelled via a text message without any explanation.
Bridson's health worsened and after four more visits to Thames hospital, she was sent home with more morphine. On February 13, she went to the Thames Emergency Department and was again diagnosed with biliary colic.
The next day when Bridson couldn't wake up, her close friend called another ambulance and demanded that she be taken to Waikato Hospital.
Bridson's gallbladder had burst. She went into septic shock and her body turned gangrenous from the infection.
"This is criminal neglect. I was dying at that point and I didn't have a clue about what was going on. My stomach feels much better but this ordeal has taken years off my life."
Bridson says she has a strong chance of liver disease and has to have blood tests every two weeks. The retired mother is terrified of going into septic shock at any time.
Bridson has since received an apology from the Waikato District Health Board. Operations Manager of Surgery, Dean Blake wrote," We do not think you received the care that could be reasonably be expected from our services. For his part, the surgeon (at Thames Hospital) apologises for not having more clarity around the expected follow-up of your biliary colic from his clinic appointment. This is one of several events along your journey that culminated in a major complication."
Blake also said; "A cyber attack on the Waikato DHB's information system led to the combination of systems failures, a decision for clinic appointment rather than direct colonoscopy, an ED doctor who did not alert general surgery of biliary colic on 28 August 2021, a delay of more than 4 months for priority assessment, and a perforated gallbladder from gallstones (which) is a very uncommon complication."
Carlene Limmer is furious that she was dismissed by medical professionals. "We had no idea if mum was ever going to wake up." Photo / Supplied
Bridson and her daughter Carlena Limmer have dismissed the apology as meaningless.
Limmer, who describes her mother as vivacious, charismatic, and much-loved in her community, is furious that she was dismissed by medical professionals.
The marketing director said her mother was unresponsive for five days and looked brain dead. As she floated in and out of consciousness, Bridson became paranoid and thought people were trying to kill her.
"We had no idea if mum was ever going to wake up. She nearly died because the medical staff didn't give a s**t about her. The hospital had to fix the mistake of others who didn't diagnose my mum in the first place.
"An apology is not enough, patients regardless of their age need to feel they are valued and cared for and not ignored. My three brothers and I were traumatised mum might not make it. It was a simple operation and mum could have got on with her life but she's had to endure a year of pain, a year of feeling she was worthless, and a year of recovery.
"I think medical staff should treat patients with respect and own up to their mistakes," Limmer said.
Bridson said the apology was patronising and seemed to be an attempt to fob her off, so she would go away.
"I don't feel like quietly going away. I would like to know how many people they have harmed by using covid and the cyber-attack as an excuse."
Bridson is slowly recovering but feels her life is on hold. She is now negotiating an ACC payout but if that's declined, she says she will take legal action.
"It simply wasn't my day to die but the health system is in a hell of a mess. I am really cross I had to wait a year for a simple operation, they put my life at risk and it nearly killed me."