Seizure in street brings DHB apology

'TICKED OFF': Kelly Rozier had an epileptic seizure after being refused treatment at Nelson Hospital.
'TICKED OFF': Kelly Rozier had an epileptic seizure after being refused treatment at Nelson Hospital.

Nelson father Kelly Rozier, 23, had an epileptic seizure while crossing a busy road after being refused treatment at Nelson Hospital on Monday.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has acknowledged it appeared a mistake had been made, saying the seriousness of Mr Rozier's condition may not have been understood. It has apologised and is investigating further.

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology student has experienced violent grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures approximately six times a year since being diagnosed with epilepsy in 2011. Mr Rozier was forced to drop his apprenticeship as a timber machinist after his diagnosis, and also lost his driver's licence.

He was at home with son Bailey, 4, and former partner Sarah Lafferty when severe convulsions hit around 8.30am on Monday.

"Normally he just starts slowly, like ‘Tick-tick-tick', but this one went ‘Whoomph' and I knew it was different," said Ms Lafferty.

She said Mr Rozier fell backwards off a chair and hit his head on the floor before seizing heavily for five to six minutes. He confirmed this was the worst episode he had experienced.

Ms Lafferty said in the past, she had called an ambulance to take him to hospital after he experienced seizures lasting two minutes or more, but this time she asked a neighbour to give him a lift. She said the cost of the ambulance was a factor.

"I don't remember leaving home but I remember my next door neighbour putting me into his ute and taking me to hospital," Mr Rozier said.

He said when he reached the emergency department, a receptionist refused to refer him to a medical professional: "They pretty much told me to go away and see my doctor."

He said previous seizures had prompted staff to hold him at the hospital for about three hours, carrying out tests on his reflexes before determining he was fit for release. He has sustained a fractured skull, broken teeth and lacerations on his tongue as a result of past epileptic episodes, describing himself as "like a wrecking ball" during the events.

"If I'm standing up and fall over I won't put my hands out or anything, [it'll be] just straight down.

"To be quite honest, I was just so ticked off about [the dismissal]. It honestly felt like I was being told off for complaining about a little cold."

Following his visit to the hospital, Mr Rozier decided to walk home along Waimea Rd to his home in central Nelson, but a second seizure hit as he tried to cross the road. He said he woke up in a roadside car park with a passerby taking care of him, and he did not remember much of the rest of his journey back to Nelson.

"It's pretty much like getting Mike Tyson to deliver you a king hit, you don't remember a thing."

Ms Lafferty said she had attempted to place a complaint, but was told the complaints desk was closed. She intended to place one as soon as possible.

"There is no reason why he should not have been examined. What if he walked out into the road? It's terrifying when it's my son's father."

Epilepsy Foundation chief executive Murray Tracy said a five-minute-long seizure certainly warranted attention from hospital staff. People who regularly had violent seizures should seek advice from a medical professional or neurologist, saying some had a MedicAlert bracelet or necklace tag to provide more information for others.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said it was not part of the DHB's policy to refer patients like Mr Rozier who presented at the emergency department following an epileptic seizure to general practice. Patients who reported seizures should be monitored and have their medication levels checked.

"We are investigating exactly what occurred and will be taking steps to remedy any shortcomings in our system . . . Based on what has been reported we offer our apologies to Mr Rozier as it would appear that the seriousness of his condition may not have been understood."

Mr Fleming also extended his apologies to Ms Lafferty, saying her confusion over the complaints phone line was due to the Christmas closure message accidentally being left in place.