Asthmatic choked by dust

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014
Rebecca Hamilton Barclay
JOHN KIRK ANDERSON
STRUGGLING FOR BREATH: Rebecca Hamilton Barclay, who has chronic asthma, in her earthquake-damaged and since-repaired Rolleston home where she is involved in a battle to replace the carpets, which she believes are worsening her condition.

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Rebecca Hamilton Barclay speaks through clouds.

Oxygen floats about her face. A tank bubbles beside her. She breathes, looks to her 8-year-old daughter Ashleigh, and then talks.

"What do you have to do to get them to take it seriously?"

Hamilton Barclay was born with acute asthma. She has to be on oxygen 23 hours every day and has been to intensive care more times than she can remember. If the situation becomes life-threatening, as it often does, Ashleigh knows what she has to do.

"No 8-year-old should know how to draw up a vial of adrenaline," Hamilton Barclay said. "But she does."

If her airways close and Hamilton Barclay needs to call an ambulance, that adrenaline will buy her about 15 minutes. If she is unconscious, Ashleigh will have to inject it for her.

Last week, Hamilton Barclay was forced to move back into her Rolleston home. Her carpets, initially included in the EQC's scope of work, were deemed to be replaced. She had to move out of her home, owned by her mother, while repairs were done. However, the carpets were not replaced and plaster-dust from the repair work became embedded in the floor.

Hamilton Barclay can usually walk to her mailbox, but the dust means she cannot spend long around the carpets before she struggles to breathe. She has been sleeping in her garage with Ashleigh to avoid it.

However, apparent miscommunication means it was months before EQC finally decided that the carpets would not fall under its policy. By this time the family had already moved back in. It said Hamilton Barclay would need a separate policy for contents with a separate EQC levy.

Her insurer said yesterday it was sending someone to assess the carpets with a view to replacing them if required.

"The biggest issue is that none of the authorities have taken on board the seriousness of Rebecca's health issues," said support person Jenny Harkness.

She has been helping Hamilton Barclay, who sometimes cannot speak, let alone walk the short distance to the mailbox.

Hamilton Barclay has laid complaints with Fletchers about the dust.

"They are playing games with us," she said.

Repeated notes from her doctor warning of the danger of the dust had come to nothing.

A Fletchers spokesman referred the issue to EQC, which did not respond to requests for comment.

However, in private correspondence, EQC apologised for the delays in clarifying Hamilton Barclay's entitlement.

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The stress of the situation has meant she has been using extra nebulisers to help open up her airways. She said Ashleigh has been picking up on it.

"She didn't want to go to school today because she did not think I would be OK. I'm her only parent. It's horrible."

- The Press

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