Insurance company refuses to cover Auckland mum with rare illness

Selina Linton, 54, thought she was being responsible by taking out trauma insurance. But after suffering a debilitating ...
JASON DORDAY/STUFF

Selina Linton, 54, thought she was being responsible by taking out trauma insurance. But after suffering a debilitating illness she feels she'd have done better keeping the money in a jar by the bed.

Three months ago Selina Linton fell out of bed, unable to move her legs. She barely remembers the following weeks spent intensive care; doctors can't say exactly when, or to what extent, she will recover.

The Auckland woman was struck by Guillain-Barre Syndrome — a mysterious, debilitating illness that attacks the nervous system. The 54-year-old dental assistant remains in a rehab centre, in nappies, unable to walk.

Her husband Nathan Linton, 53, said he was shattered to learn the trauma insurance policy they had been putting money into for over two decades didn't cover Guillain-Barre. It wouldn't pay out for what the family deemed an "incredibly traumatic" experience.

Selina spent over a month in the North Shore Hospital's intensive care unit.
NATHAN LINTON

Selina spent over a month in the North Shore Hospital's intensive care unit.

The Lintons' discovery is not unusual. Trauma insurance, also known as crisis or critical illness insurance, is a broad term for a highly specific type of coverage.

READ MORE:
* Mum with Guillain-Barre syndrome vows to walk again
* Scientists linked in fight to treat rare neurological disorder
* Wellington Guillain-Barre case under investigation
* Guillain-Barre syndrome paralyses man

It pays a lump sum to be used any way the insured chooses. Selina's medical bills were covered by the state, so Nathan said the money would have gone into modifying their Titirangi home for the wheelchair his wife was likely to return with. He said the family were also "getting kicked" through being one income down.

Selina's family - daughter Lucy and husband Nathan - want to get her home.
JASON DORDAY/STUFF

Selina's family - daughter Lucy and husband Nathan - want to get her home.

Nathan said he hoped others might temper their expectations of trauma coverage after his family's experience: "we'd have done better putting the money in a jar by the bed", he said. Ideally, he wanted Guillain-Barre put on insurance companies' trauma tick list.

A spokesman for AMP, the Lintons' insurance provider for over two decades, said trauma policies didn't cover Guillain–Barré Syndrome for several reasons, including because only 40 to 80 New Zealanders got it each year.

"Insurers can't cover every eventuality – if they did premiums would go up and cover would not be accessible or affordable," he said.

Insurance and financial services ombudsman Karen Stevens says the Lintons aren't the only ones to feel mislead by trauma ...
SUPPLIED

Insurance and financial services ombudsman Karen Stevens says the Lintons aren't the only ones to feel mislead by trauma insurance's all-encompassing name.

Guillain-Barre sufferers who permanently lose their ability to "perform key tasks independently" could, however, get a pay out through trauma insurance, he said. Selina was not eligible as doctors believed she would eventually recover.

Ad Feedback

Karen Stevens of the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) said she had many clients who, like the Lintons, felt misled by their trauma policy.

"Trauma in everyday language means something unexpected that happens to you and plays havoc with your life — but if it's not specifically mentioned in your policy, it won't be covered," she said.

Selina can now use a wheelchair, but her recovery from Guillain-Barre Syndrome will be slow.
JASON DORDAY/STUFF

Selina can now use a wheelchair, but her recovery from Guillain-Barre Syndrome will be slow.

"We recently had a woman come in who had suffered fairly horrific injuries from giving birth to a baby, for example, which left her incapacitated. She said it was the most traumatic thing that could have happened to her, but since birth wasn't mentioned in her policy there was nothing we could do."

Stevens said disgruntled heart attack victims approached the IFSO "constantly". While trauma policies typically include heart attacks, they only pay out if certain events play out.

Since being in hospital Selina has had pneumonia, a tracheotomy — doctors cut a hole in her windpipe to get air to her lungs — a flooded lung, and excruciating nerve pain. Her husband said her "good brain inside a very sick body" — which until recently could not speak — and the ever-fuzzy prognosis of Guillain-Barre had taken psychological tolls too.

She could barely keep her eyelids up at 4 o'clock in the afternoon last Tuesday, in a wheelchair at her Point Chevalier rehabilitation clinic. She held her husband and their 22-year-old daughter Lucy's hands, and cried.

"Now I should be finishing work for the day and going home to cook dinner with my family," she said. She missed the Titirangi trees, her dog, and "catching up with the girls".

Nathan promised to get their wheelchair-unfriendly house ready for her "somehow", to hasten her homecoming. 

"We'll suck it up," he said. "But we thought we were responsible, taking out that insurance policy so that if something like this happened, we'd be able to look after each other comfortably."

WHAT IS GUILLAIN-BARRE? 

- It is a collection of symptoms, rather than a single disease.

- They include rapidly progressive weakness, sometimes resulting in complete paralysis.

- Recovery typically takes three to six months, though two-thirds never fully recover and it can be fatal.

- It frequently follows another health problem such as food poisoning, flu, childbirth or surgery.

- Two cases were triggered by the campylobacter outbreak from contaminated drinking water in Hawke's Bay last year.

 - Sunday Star Times

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Forced to share a home

A family of four ended up sharing bills with strangers at this Browns Bay property.

Family of four found themselves splitting bills with strangers when their landlord rented part of their house to other tenants.

Owens refs under-15 match video

Players from both sides were thrilled to have the popular Welshman officiating their match.

Refereeing legend Nigel Owens warmed up for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup test by officiating a school game in Auckland.

Woman and son missing

Tina Whaitiri is 45 and was last seen wearing black pants and a black long-sleeved top.

Police have "serious concerns" for welfare of a West Auckland woman and her young son.

DHBs budget blowout

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman insists there will be no service cuts to DHBs around the country despite forecast ...

Several district health boards around the country are under pressure to reduce budget blowouts.

Wellington

Disability support a 'black hole'

Nicola Parsons waited a year to get early intervention services for Sam. The Ministry of Education's target is to have ...

Preschoolers and their families waiting months for first appointment with early intervention services.

Ohariu deal canned video

Green Party candidate Tane Woodley has been revealed as the shock last-minute contender for the Ohariu seat.

Greens pull out of their only electorate deal, standing an 11th-hour candidate.

Woman's fight for $50K ring

The woman was unsuccessful in a bid to have her $50,000 engagement ring returned from her former partner.

A Hawke's Bay woman has lost her bid to keep her $50,000 engagement ring after the relationship ended.

New notch in town belt

A map of the land acquired by the Wellington City Council to become part of the town belt.

Wellington City Council has bought 4220sqm of Aro Valley land to add to town belt.

Canterbury

Blacking out and 'stuck' video

Danny Watson says he often has to give several days notice when ordering a taxi, despite companies being required to ...

Danny Watson was blacking out. Paramedics needed to get him to hospital but taking an ambulance would put his life at risk.

Builder lived high life

Former Queenstown builder Jaden Melgren on a duckshooting trip.

Jaden Melgren, who owes at least $670,000, enjoyed a flamboyant life as his business slowly collapsed.

Public barred from park debate

Residents were blocked on Tuesday from talking about a proposal to build a $35.7 million pool, library and service ...

Ratepayers barred from talking about $35.7m facility for Hornby's Denton Park, instead only able to speak about consulation process.

Gangster jailed for a decade

Enoka, the former president of the Christchurch chapter of the Rebels gang, has been jailed for 10 years for his offending.

A former Rebels gang president was "paranoid and certainly irrational" when he broke into a home while armed and high on meth.

Waikato

Mother warns of stranger danger

Blake Crossan, 10 was selling raffle tickets at the Hillcrest shops on Sunday when a taxi driver approached him and told ...

Mother warns parents after taxi driver's reportedly odd behaviour.

Fatal crash near Waihi

Athenree Gorge runs between Waihi Beach and Waihi township, north of Tauranga.

One dead and State Highway 2 closed after collision between car and petrol tanker in Bay of Plenty.

Highway man link to fatal fire

The scene of the fatal house fire.

Man seen standing on the side of the highway near scene sparks police appeal.

Holiday death shocks family

Michelle Robertson, left, photographed with her siblings Shannon, Paul and Kerryn at Paul's wedding.

Waikato's Michelle Robertson died of kidney failure while on a holiday in Rarotonga.

Taranaki

Not looking too far forward for Taranaki No 8

19082017 News Photo ANDY JACKSON/STUFF.  Mitre 10 cup rugby, Taranaki V Waikato at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.  Toa ...

"My actions need to speak for themselves."

The next generation

22082017 News GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Taranaki rugby training. Logan Crowley

Young halfback the next of the Crowley generation to play rugby for Taranaki.

A gender diversity rainbow

Rainbow Youth representative Morgan Butler says there is no right or wrong time to 'come out'.

What do you do if you don't think you're a he or a she?

Sports medals found in raids

Detective Constable Tony Temple with medals recovered in a raid at a Waitara home.

Person found with the medals wasn't old enough to be a veteran runner and "didn't look like an athlete", police say.

Manawatu

Block to road upgrade cleared

22082017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF	
James Line, Kelvin Grove, Palmerston North

Palmerston North's James Line has been cleared for an urban makeover.

More homes for city

Jacinda Ardern announces more state houses for Palmerston North if her party gets into Government. On her right is ...

Political parties go into battle over housing in Palmerston North.

Recap: Labour on tax

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and deputy leader Grant Robertson talk about their tax plan.

Labour says now is not the time for tax cuts, but rules out an income tax or GST hike.

Pond house problems

Jillian Sinclair is struggling to find a house suitable for her special needs children, and fears she'll have to leave ...

She won a Tenancy Tribunal case against property manager, but still lives there.

Nelson

Takahe reintroduction on hold

Wild takahe will be released in the Gouland Downs next year.

Bad weather and early breeeding have delayed the release of takahe to the Kahurangi.

Rough sleeping banned

People like Peter Wilkie, left,  will no longer be able to sleep rough overnight in the Nelson CBD.

Nelson City Council bylaw puts in place ban on rough sleeping in city centre.

Holding pattern for poison drop

A drop of brodifacoum-laced poison bait in the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary is designed to wipe out predators before native ...

Preparations for the poison drop in the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary are in a holding pattern as a last-ditch court challenge is heard.

Salisbury School gets extension

Education Minister Nikki Kaye has given Salisbury School more breathing room.

Richmond school heartened by new talks with Ministry of Education about its future.

Marlborough

Cone and the Marlburian video

Mr Whippy franchise owner Len Shaw has sold a lot of ice cream in Marlborough.

Marlborough's Mr Whippy creams the competition, scoops national award.

Crash on SH6

Accident on SH6 near Rai Valley

A woman in her 20s has been hurt in a serious crash in Marlborough

Sawmill fire could have spread

The Kaikoura Volunteer Fire Brigade put out a sawmill fire on Wednesday.

Sparks from a welding winch have set fire to sawdust at a Kaikoura sawmill.

Duck hunter's maimai meltdown

Hunters use maimais during duck shooting season. (File photo)

Enraged man caught illegally hunting tells female ranger she should be at home looking after the children.

South Canterbury

Evans St traffic monitoring video

23082017  News JOHN BISSET/STUFF.    Timaru Engravers and Giftware owner Ewen Lawson is sick and tired of heavy trucks ...

A mobile camera unit on Timaru's busy main road road would record the number of speeding cars.

$1.5m roading fix

South Canterbury Councils are looking to foot an estimated $1.5 million bill to fix roading damage due to July's deluge, ...

South Canterbury's councils face a $1.5 million clean-up bill for July's floods.

Truck rolls on Evans St

A police spokewoman said it was understood the driver of this truck swerved to avoid another motorist before rolling on ...

SH1 is closed after a truck rolled as it swerved to avoid a aother vehicle in Timaru.

Disease at third farm

Cows on an a farm near Oamaru look likely to have been infected with the Mycoplasma bovis disease from a Van Leeuwen ...

Cow disease Mycoplasma bovis spreads to a third farm, this one in Oamaru.

Otago

No pool for school

Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall says students will have to use the Queenstown Event Centre for swimming ...

Wakatipu High School principal is disappointed the new premises won't have a swimming pool.

Airport has record profit

Passenger growth and night flights behind record profit for Queenstown Airport.

Passenger growth and night flights behind record profit for Queenstown Airport.

Builder lived high life, then fled

Former Queenstown builder Jaden Melgren on a duckshooting trip.

Jaden Melgren, who owes at least $670,000, enjoyed a flamboyant Queenstown life as his business slowly collapsed.

DHBs budget blowout

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman insists there will be no service cuts to DHBs around the country despite forecast ...

Several district health boards around the country are under pressure to reduce budget blowouts.

Southland

Polyfest hits new heights video

Members of the Otatara Kindy on stage at Polyfest 2017

''They like the sense of whanau, they feel like they are a part of something."

Hospitality at the heart of the south

Ronald McDonald Family Room supervisor Helen Walker and volunteer Susan Stenton at the Ronald McDonald House ...

Southland's inaugural Purple Work Shirt Day is raising funds for Ronald McDonald House.

'Stubbornness' gets Grieve home

Dwight Grieve from Fiordland leads Jack McNaughton and Buddy Small in the early stages of the Southland championships in ...

Stubbornness and a want to succeed have helped Dwight Grieve claim the Southland Road Championship title in Te Anau on Saturday.

Quick thinking prevents injury

Fire crews attend a house fire on Dipton street, Invercargill, on Sunday afternoon.

An Invercargill family had a close shave following a house fire in Kingswell.

Ad Feedback