The family of a young woman who died earlier this year say the medical team that cared for her neglected her. They say she would have received better treatment had staff known more about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – the most painful condition on earth. Brad Flahive reports.
Hayley Wyatt’s last words in this world were “mum, mum”. She was sitting on the sofa, and calling out for help.
Then there was a pause. She said “mum” one last time. It sounded urgent.
But there was nothing Charlotte Wyatt could do to help her.
She watched helplessly as her daughter died from complications from an illness experts say is the world’s most painful condition. She called an ambulance – it took 10 minutes to arrive. It “felt like hours”.
When they did finally arrive, the paramedics rushed the family outside while they tried to jolt Hayley back to life with defibrillator paddles.
“When they came out and told us she was dead we just dropped to the ground. I’ve had a gaping hole inside me ever since.”
Hayley spent the final four years of her life fighting Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) – a chronic disorder of the nervous system that can be more painful than childbirth.
The McGill Pain Index lists it as more agonising than the amputation of a finger or toe without painkillers.
CRPS is an invasive neurological disease that causes the nervous system to become irregular and send signals to a limb that it’s in acute pain when it’s not.
If the condition is not detected early it can often be incurable and the severe pain causes such frustration, anxiety and depression. It has also been labelled the “suicide disease” by those suffering from it.
Hayley lived with this condition until her death in January this year. She was 21.
Her misery began after what seemed like an innocuous accident in 2014: slipping on a puddle of water and injuring her arm.
Wyatt says Hayley’s initial treatment made the condition worse, and it left her arm looking bruised and beaten.
“We were given the runaround, and it was a year before she was diagnosed with CRPS.”
It would be the beginning of a frustrating relationship with health professionals and ACC.
The CRPS spread to Hayley’s leg, causing painful open wounds which became infected.
“She was so scared to go the hospital because she knew how she was going to be treated. At times she was treated worse than a sick animal.”
The Wyatt family has lodged a complaint against the Bay of Plenty District Health Board alleging 35 instances of neglect by Hayley’s medical team.
The official complaint includes allegations Hayley was refused entry to a pathology lab because her leg was “leaking too much”, and that one nurse told her that her “leg stinks”.
In response the Bay of Plenty DHB said: “We have been working with Hayley’s family since shortly after her passing to understand and address their concerns over the care she received and we continue to do so.”
During the last four months of her life, the pain was at its worst. But Hayley was not given a pain review, despite the Wyatts “begging” Hayley’s medical team for one.”
The Bay of Plenty DHB has since admitted to the family it was an error that Hayley did not undergo a pain review.
“And now they’re saying, ‘oh, sorry, she fell through the gaps’. It’s just not good enough, she shouldn’t have died.”