Bianca O’Reilly is distraught after learning Queensland Health has downgraded her urgency category and is delaying her surgery.
Bianca O’Reilly is distraught after learning Queensland Health has downgraded her urgency category and is delaying her surgery. Scottie Simmonds

Neck injury paralyses life

A SOUTH Kolan mum with two ruptured neck discs fears she will remain in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, after a Brisbane hospital downgraded her surgery priority level this week.

Mother-of-three Bianca O'Reilly suffered a serious workplace accident last year while working as a bodyguard for mental heath patients at Cairns Base Hospital.

"One attacked me and we both went down (on the ground) and I hurt my back," she said.

"It's progressively got worse."

The 38-year-old cannot walk, bath, dress herself or even use a knife and fork, and relies on her partner, Dave, to carry her around.

The former bodyguard was referred to a specialist at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, where she was put on a waiting list as a category one urgent patient, which meant she should have been operated on within 30 days.

"Now it's nearly three months late, and I'm now paralysed," she said.

On Thursday, Ms O'Reilly received a formal letter from the hospital informing her that she'd been downgraded to a category-two patient.

She said instead of being able to see a neurosurgeon when she was a category one, she would now have to see an orthopaedic surgeon.

"I need to see a neurosurgeon to stop my spinal chord getting crushed," she said.

"I need emergency surgery - I needed this two months ago."

The mother of three adult children said she had not been able to seek disability assistance from Centrelink because it needed to know her surgery date.

"The way I'm going, it looks like I'm going to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair," Ms O'Reilly said.

"I'm supposed to see an orthopaedic surgeon on the 19th (of December), but that's not for the operation - that's just for a review."

RBWH executive director David Alcorn said Queensland Health had twice approached Ms O'Reilly seeking written consent to allow her condition to be discussed.

"We have not received that consent and, without it, I cannot discuss specifics of Ms O'Reilly's treatment," Mr Alcorn said.

"What I can say is that a patient is placed on a surgical waiting list after their clinical condition is reviewed by a senior doctor with many years' experience.

"That clinician will determine what category the patient should be allocated, based on that clinical assessment."

Ms O'Reilly said she was unable to sign the form at Bundaberg Hospital because she could not get there, and her partner did not drive.



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