Surgery start of journey home

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A gruelling operation last week to save Oamaru woman Mel Sloan from paralysis appears to have gone well, but she is now facing a painful recovery.

Miss Sloan, who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis most of her life, is stranded in the United Kingdom, after she woke one morning at the end of June unable to move and suffering cramping spasms in her legs.

She was rushed to hospital and needed an operation to prevent further damage from discs in her neck vertebrae compressing her nerves and spinal cord.

Mother Barbara Sloan said her daughter was in a lot of pain.

The operation, carried out at Birmingham Hospital, involved both the front and the back of her neck and took more than nine hours.

“The surgeon said things went better than he expected and they did more than they thought they could do. So hopefully, fingers crossed, it’s all going to be worth it in the end. He said she’ll be sore for quite some time.”

Mrs Sloan said she had shed some tears over her daughter’s predicament, and the whole situation with Covid-19 complicated everything.

“Just not being able to be there. I feel so helpless really.”

Friend Audrey Ross set up a Givealittle page to help bring Miss Sloan home to New Zealand. It had so far raised more than $9000.

“It’s been amazing,” Mrs Ross said.

“I can’t believe how generous people have been.”

Reading all the messages people left on the page also helped brighten Miss Sloan’s long days, which she mostly spent lying flat on her back staring at the ceiling.

There had been hopes Miss Sloan might be ready to travel home as early as September, but her mother said this would be dependent on how her recovery went.

“She won’t be going anywhere for a wee while. And she’ll have to be reasonably fit to travel.”

It was expected Miss Sloan would have to quarantine once she arrived back in New Zealand. She would have a support person flying with her, who would also quarantine with her.

Mrs Ross said they were hoping by then there would be quarantine facilities in Dunedin.