Vicki Thornton with son Nelson, 8, who was diagnosed with acute appendicitis during an examination on a floor of Lismore Base H
Vicki Thornton with son Nelson, 8, who was diagnosed with acute appendicitis during an examination on a floor of Lismore Base H

Life saved, but mother floored by treatment

By Alex Easton

THE staff at Lismore Base Hospital saved eight-year-old Nelson Thornton's life; but they had to treat him on the hospital floor to do it.

The Alstonville boy's mother, Vicki, is full of praise for the hospital staff and the way they handled her son's emergency admission on October 18, but says the crowded conditions made the visit feel like a glimpse of the Third World.

Ms Thornton said she and her husband, Andrew, found their son in pain on the morning of October 17.

Mr Thornton took Nelson to the hospital that morning where, after a couple of hours of waiting, he was given a provisional diagnosis of severe constipation or appendicitis and was told to take him home and watch him closely.

Ms Thornton returned with Nelson the following afternoon; but this time the crowding was worse.

"The doctor said she didn't have a bed to examine him on, but did I mind if she examined him on the floor," Ms Thornton said. "I did mind, but I wanted him examined.

"So much for not living in a Third World country." Ms Thornton said she and Nelson found the experience distressing and the doctor was clearly embarrassed.

"She was just really professional in really the most unprofessional circumstances, Ms Thornton said."

The doctor diagnosed Nelson with acute appendicitis his appendix was close to rupturing and immediately paged general surgeon Austin Curtin who operated on him Nelson is now home and recovering nicely; but Ms Thornton said she feared what might have happened to another of her children under the same circumstances.

One of her children suffered an allergic condition known as anaphylaxis along with chronic eczema, and could not be safely laid on a hospital floor without a risk of picking up some other illness.

Base Hospital general manager Deb Podbury said an empty resuscitation bed had been available when Nelson arrived, but it was reserved for 'higher category' cases.

The examining doctor was acting in Nelson's best interests, but realised 'the decision may not have been ideal'.



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