Mark* was far from home when disaster struck. He and his wife had set off from Queensland to caravan through NSW, when he suddenly lost movement on his left side. He was rushed to RPA, where a tumour was discovered in his brain. Head of Neurosurgery, Dr Brindha Shivalingham operated on him at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
Following surgery, Mark was immobile and confused. As his condition moved from acute to rehabilitative, he needed help getting home.
The family learned that the aeromedical support he needed would cost $12,000.
“It was probably the most challenging discharge I’ve ever faced,” said Kristina Parungao, Nurse Unit Manager of surgical ward 8 North.
The situation was so stressful for Mark’s family his wife suffered a strain-related attack and was admitted to RPA herself. His son flew to Sydney.
The family felt they had no choice but to pay the extraordinary cost. But Kristina assured them she would do everything she could to help.
“They said, ‘maybe we’ll just have to pay’, and I said ‘no, let’s try another way’.”
Kristina worked with Brindha and the neurosurgical registrar, Kaishin Tanaka, to escalate Mark’s case through the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) for special consideration.
“It was such an emotional and stressful time for the family,” said Kristina. “I was speaking to QAS on the phone and saying, ‘If there’s any way I can get an idea so that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.…”
The team put Mark’s case in writing, and it was escalated to the QAS commissioner. It was approved.
“His son was in tears,” said Kristina. “They were so thankful to this place. In the end they didn’t pay anything.”
“Healthcare is so complex to navigate but it was so nice to see other organisations working with us to achieve that patient-centred goal.”
* Name changed to protect patient privacy