Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I remember 3 years ago writing a post about my frustrations with ACC over them declining my cover when my Cochlear Implant needed replacing after the electrodes migrated out after surgery. Back then, the surgeons were sure ACC would cover as it arose from surgical complications. ACC grabbed on to the face that it was something else and simply refused to cover it. Very frustrating, as because they took so long, I was totally deaf for nearly a year.

Now it's my ankle.

In 2010, I rolled my ankle while walking down the main street of Kaitaia. At the time I remember going ouch, but carried on walking. About 24 hours later, the ankle/foot really started hurting, and two days later I couldn't weight bear at all. The ankle started swelling then. I was taken to Kaitaia Hospital, where they told me I had sprained it, put a bandage on it, given crutches, and sent home. I was on crutches for 3 weeks before I was able to weight bear. In the meantime I went to my GP who sent me for an xray (which showed nothing), and to physio who was convinced that I had really damaged my ankle, much more than a sprain, and urged me to see a sports physician as soon as possible. As I was leaving to go to Blenheim one week later, I had to wait until then.

As soon as I got to Blenheim, I went to see a GP, told her I had been advised to see a sports physician, but she told me there was no such thing in Blenheim and promptly referred me back to Physio. The Physio here said exactly the same thing as the physio in Auckland and finally referred me to an Orthopaedic Surgeon. He said I had a coalition injury which he picked up on the xray, and that it would settle down. He then referred me back to Physio. It had now been nearly 3 months since the accident and all that had happened was to-ing and fro-ing with no real commitment from anyone to find out what was wrong. Several more weeks of physio appointments and the ankle was no better, so I insisted on being seen by the orthopaedic surgeon again. This time I was referred for an MRI. They found that the tendon had been severed, so it was decided to operate. ACC and my private health insurance Southern Cross went halves each for the operation. 

Operation was done in July 2010 and I was in plaster for 10 weeks. When I came out of plaster the foot was still very sore. This *NEVER* got better. In November 2010, I finally convinced the Orthopaedic Surgeon to do another MRI to find out what was wrong. The Co-alition injury was then picked up again, and it was at this stage that I was referred to a Surgeon in Auckland. One that specialised in feet and was internationally reknowned. I couldn't get an appointment until February 2011. I was then told that yes, I had to have the operation to remove the coalition. This is basically two bones that were fused together from birth, which I happened to have injured when I rolled my ankle. At this stage I still said to Matthew Tomlinson that I thought there was more than just the Coalition injury as I seemed to be in pain in more than one place. 

Anyway, ACC was applied for, and accepted and I went ahead with the Surgery 2011. That took care of that part of the pain on the side of my foot, and that particular operation was successful. However I was still in pain inside my ankle, as I had always been since I rolled it. Despite the pain, and by taking regular pain killers, I went to Europe to see my daughter (she shouted me for my 50th birthday), but really it was no better. I decided NOT to wait until March to revisit the foot, and rang ACC to get help to see the surgeon again. At this stage I told ACC that I thought it the originally injury was still unresolved. I managed to get an appointment in December two days before Christmas. An ultrasound was done and they found another coalition over my ankle. Removal of this would not take away the pain, so it was decided that a fusion of the Subtalor joint would do the trick.

Once again funding from ACC was applied for. This time they turned it down. My private health insurance kicked in, and they covered the operation instead, on the proviso that I fight ACC all the way to Mediation, otherwise they would ask for my money back. So I was between a rock and hard place. It would have been nice to just forget ACC then, but I couldn't.

Operation was done in July 2012. Plaster for 8 weeks, non weight bearing. Plaster came off and I was pain free for about a week. Then the pain came back - right in the middle of my ankle. I got home from surgery to a letter from ACC stating they had revoked the previous operation as well, done in 2011 but 'in a matter of good faith they won't ask for the money back'. WTF??? The ACC Mediation was today. I was asked questions to try and trip me up, to find out if I had been lying about my injury. I hadn't. They didn't trip me up because I have never lied. Their oral submission insinuated that they thought I had provided false information, lied, that I had lied to the surgeons, and they were also in cahoots with me and acting unprofessionally. These are surgeons of high international standards who would be quite frankly appalled to hear what ACC said. At this stage ACC has only said this orally. They also said I have already have had my fair share of operations from ACC. To be honest, I didn't realise there was a limit! Do car accident victims who need multiple surgeries to be corrected get told that 'that's enough'?

I have asked for it in writing due to my deafness, and the fact they didn't supply any interpreter or face to face mediation. Instead, a speaker phone conference was supplied which I couldn't hear properly. This means, I may have got the wrong end of the stick, but if I have, they knew I was deaf, but they weren't able to interpret the oral submission for me.

On Friday, I was walking a short distance when my right foot must have landed on a stone. My right foot rolled. As I have no balance, and my left foot is already badly injured, I just went down on the ground very rapidly. I have no way of righting myself without balance, and without a good foot. As long as I have pain in my foot, I am at increased risk of falls because of my lack of balance. I'm about to register a new ACC claim for Friday's injury.

I have discussed amputation with a few friends of mine. The pain isn't mild, its very severe. I spend most of my days on my chair with my foot up. I can't bear that for long as I like to be active, especially when out taking photos. Camera club trips need to be planned, normally I have to just keep near the car. I can't walk long distances or on uneven ground very well. I can't walk to the end of my street without pain. I can't mow my own lawns. Frustrated is an understatement. Amputation would mean six months of healing, a prosthesis and hopefully a new lease of life without pain. It's very very tempting. Another 3 years of pain would drive me insane. Half an hour upright and the foot swells terribly. The swelling and pain go hand in hand.. Some days I can't get my shoe on.

I cannot understand ACC's stance. Both surgeons have made it clear that the evidence is from the original injury. The specialist in Auckland is New Zealand's top foot surgeon. He based his evidence on what he saw during the operation. Unless ACC have a specialist opinion from someone on an equal footing to my specialist, then they can't refute it.

Prior to the injury, I had no problems with my ankle. I walked (trained for the Oxfam back in 2008), I was training for the half marathon in 2010, in fact, I had booked and paid for it but had to pull out due to my ankle injury. I used to go to the Gym in Auckland 6 days a week doing aerobic and weight training. I used to walk for miles for fitness in Auckland, and belonged to an informal running group with the oxfam walkers.  All my friends can vouch for this and can bear witness to this. They, like me, are horrified it has come to this and I'm sure they'll comment on this blog post.

These days? I can do...  Nothing.

I had planned to join tramping clubs here in Blenheim when I moved down. I planned to do the Queen Charlotte Track, the Abel Tasman walk, the Walks up at the Nelson Lakes. No go so far.

I live in hope. I just need two good legs...


Rachel Chaikof said...

This is terrible, Robyn! ACC should be ashamed of what they have done to you. I hope that you can get assistance to fight for your rights and get your foot better.

Morgan said...

I feel annoyed that as a fellow NZder, we put our money into ACC and then they simply try to worm their way out of actually paying when we have legitimate claims for assistance. Yours is not the only case I have heard of like this. It makes we want to stop paying them (yes, as a business owner I actually have to pay ACC myself, not some employer!)

In your case it is absolutely clear that your injury is due to the accidental rolling of your ankle. Prior to that incident you never had any trouble at all with your ankle. Its a shame that one small accident has changed your life so much from being someone who hikes the countryside taking photos to being stuck at home with your leg up! This isn't the Robyn Carter I know! I respect that surgeons sometimes need to operate a few times to fix something so its not their fault. I think its terrible that as well as putting up with the pain (which must be awful) you have to also put up with the "pain" which is ACC as well.

Come on ACC, pull your finger out and do the right thing. Robyn would like to get her life back.

√Āirenn said...

Frankly I am shocked that your situation is so dire that you are considering amputation! I have known you for 22 years and you have been an inspiration to me how you have risen to the challenges of your Minier's Disease - I know that you will find a way to transcend this too Robyn - and I pray you get the full support from the ACC that you deserve!