CQ woman faces heart surgery in the middle of a pandemic
Brooke Anderson is getting used to high-risk heart surgery, but her most recent procedure has taken post-op trauma to a new level.
Diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever at eight years old, her life has been punctuated by life-saving surgery every 10 years or so.
Last year in October, at just 38, she travelled from Rockhampton to The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane for her third cardiac valve surgery.
Being a high-risk surgery, these hospital visits were never easy, but having undergone the procedure twice already, Ms Anderson felt fairly confident she knew what to expect going into this one.
Unfortunately, she couldn't have been more wrong.
The months following her surgery were filled with visits to the Rockhampton Hospital and her local GP due to complication after complication.
Now, almost six months later, Ms Anderson was not only preparing to be cut open yet again but was doing so in the middle of a global pandemic.
According to her partner Keith Morrell, after her surgery last October, Ms Anderson was sent home without any in-home care.
Instead, he said they were given a sheet of paper with instructions detailing how to look after her wound.
Four weeks later, Ms Anderson went to her GP with an infection and was sent to the Rockhampton Hospital.
Mr Morrell said while there, his partner contracted a Staph infection and was sent back to TPCH for a wound wash out in December.
According to him, after the washout Ms Anderson was not stitched back up again for two days, until a different surgeon saw her and arranged it.
"They washed her chest out but didn't actually stitch her back up again and because she was on blood thinners and everything, she bled for two days," Mr Morrell said.
Following this, Ms Anderson seemed to be healing properly and doing a lot better until early April.
Around this time, she and Mr Morrell noticed smaller infections beginning to pop up in two places on her stomach.
A few days passed and they realised these infections were being caused by two wires that were starting to protrude through her skin.
"She started getting little infections on her belly and next minute there's nearly two inches of blue and red wire coming out of her," Mr Morrell said.
Ms Anderson and Mr Morrell were under the impression these wires should have been removed before she was stitched back up, however according to a spokesperson for TPCH, sometimes these wires are purposefully left it.
"In some patients who undergo this surgery it is clinically necessary to leave the pacing wires in the chest to prevent life affecting complications such as bleeding," the spokesperson said.
"In Ms Anderson's case, it was deemed clinically necessary by the treating cardiac surgical team to leave the pacing wires in for her own safety."
Regardless of why they were there however, as they began to protrude, they were causing Ms Anderson almost unbearable pain.
"I just can't believe she's got wires coming out of her stomach, every time she sits up, they poke straight out of her belly," Mr Morrell said.
"She's in a lot of pain, she's got huge lumps under her skin that are all pussy and yucky because of the wires."
Ms Anderson went to the Rockhampton Hospital for treatment, but according to Mr Morrell was not treated appropriately.
"They put a bandage on it and sent her home," he said.
Mr Morrell says it was their local GP who called TPCH to arrange another surgery.
"She's been amazing, she saved Brooke's life," he said.
The surgery was booked in for this week, meaning that Ms Anderson and Mr Morrell have had to pack up and leave their kids again, this time in the middle of a global pandemic.
The couple have six children between them and the past few months have taken a huge toll on the family.
Neither Mr Morrell nor Ms Anderson were employed due to Ms Anderson's heart problems and as a result of COVID-19, they have no idea when employment will be possible in the future.
Travelling back and forth from Brisbane has taken its toll mentally as well as financially.
Ms Anderson's two children are only two and six and cannot properly understand what their mother was going through.
According to Mr Morrell the older of the two found things particularly hard.
"She's developed PTSD from all the surgeries, she's spent nearly six months away from her mum due to her being in hospital," he said.
"Now that she's got to go back again, the poor child is just falling apart."
Both TPCH and the Rockhampton Base Hospital were contacted for comment.
A spokesperson for TPCH said Ms Anderson was provided with appropriate follow up care after her surgery.
"We have reviewed Ms Anderson's concerns, and our staff have been in phone contact with her on a number of occasions to discuss her concerns directly," the spokesperson said.
"We are sorry that the care Ms Anderson received did not meet her expectations."
Rockhampton Hospital Acting Executive Director Andrew Jarvis deemed the care Ms Anderson received appropriate and apologised that Ms Anderson was not satisfied with it.
"I am sorry that the care Ms Anderson received did not meet her expectations," he said.
"She presented to Rockhampton Hospital Emergency Department and was seen and treated appropriately by a specialist surgical consultant under the advice of the cardio thoracic specialist team at TPCH in Brisbane."
The Morning Bulletin will provide follow-up reports on Ms Andseron's condition.