Sam and Gemma Weinheimer at home in Maryborough. The family will not return to the local hospital.
Sam and Gemma Weinheimer at home in Maryborough. The family will not return to the local hospital.

"Absolute emergencies" only

MARYBOROUGH’S Weinheimer family has lived in the heritage city for most of their brave daughter Gemma’s 15 years.

“But we have decided that we cannot risk putting Gemmy through another Hervey Bay Hospital inpatient experience,” said the teenager’s mum, Sam Weinheimer, yesterday.

“Except for absolute emergencies we will drive to Brisbane to the Royal Children’s Hospital to get her treatments. The drive will be worth our not being terrified for Gemmy like we were in Hervey Bay for four days in October.”

Gemma has cerebral palsy and is totally reliant on her loving parents, Sam and Phil, and her devoted siblings, her twin Nikki and brother Brendan.

“We’ve only decided to speak out now because we want to help improve the health system on the Fraser Coast.

“We admire the staff at Maryborough Hospital in particular. They are terrific. And many of the staff we encountered at Hervey Bay were also very good.

“It’s not the staff that is the problem here. It is the health system. It doesn’t work. The staff do what they can under the unfair load of obviously being short of people and under-resourced.”

On Friday, October 23, Gemma was admitted to Maryborough Hospital after her dad first phoned the A and E department to relate what was happening to his daughter.

She was having severe seizures, vomiting blood and was running a high temperature.

“After initial treatment Gemma went by ambulance to Hervey Bay with Phil travelling with her. She was admitted to the paediatric ward.

“Phil gave the staff the number of the on-call specialist at the kids’ hospital in Brisbane. The doctor talked with the specialist. Blood and urine samples were taken. They showed infection and indicated it was getting worse. Antibiotics weren’t working. Gemma was having more seizures.”

Ms Weinheimer said the hospital staff would not administer one of Gemma’s medications until she was 10 minutes into a seizure.

“We told them that would be too late. We know how this medication works with her. So Phil gave it to her. The hospital used our own medications while Gemma was in there. One afternoon they rang home to get a medication brought in because their pharmacy was closed.

“Over four days various antibiotics were given to her. Nothing was working. At one stage her temperature reached 39.9. We were terrified we were going to lose her. No one seemed to know what was wrong with her. I overheard staff saying they were short of nurses. She had an ultrasound to check her kidney. They found it dilated and said it could be an infection.

“On the Tuesday they said they would send her to Brisbane. I was really, really scared by then. They said they didn’t have the resources in the Bay to look after her any longer.

“Then she couldn’t fly to Brisbane on that Tuesday night, they said, because no doctor was available to go with her. Next morning after a lumbar puncture suggested by Brisbane she boarded the plane and Phil flew with her. There was no doctor then, either, but a nurse was on board.”

In Brisbane Gemma was quickly diagnosed with 8mm and 17mm kidney stones, plus other stones. She is now waiting for the safest time for an operation.

“We love living in Maryborough but after this confusing and frightening experience we can’t risk taking our daughter into the local hospital system unless we absolutely have to in an emergency.”

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