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Patient story: Matthew Gunter

1 Jul 2022

Matthew was 16 years old when he developed appendicitis. His mum, Heather, took him to the local emergency department and he had surgery that night to remove his appendix.

Matthew had complications following surgery and he stopped breathing. He was resuscitated, and was eventually transferred to the ward to recover, despite having coughed up pink foam. The following morning, Heather and her husband David received a phone call to say that Matthew wasn't breathing, and they rushed to be with him. He was transferred to Christchurch Hospital by air ambulance, and given a five percent chance of survival.

A few days after arriving at Christchurch Hospital Matt was finally stable enough to have an MRI. The results were devastating, showing that Matt had no oxygen getting to his brain. After discussions with the family and doctors a decision was made to turn off his life support the following day.

Matthew died of global hypoxia due to negative pressure pulmonary oedema. He should not have died and many opportunities were missed to intervene.

In this video, Heather talks about the events leading up to Matthew's surgery and what happened in the days after.

The director of nursing at West Coast District Health Board, Karyn Bousfield, also talks about what went wrong from a care perspective, the systems and process that may have contributed to the outcome, and the recommendations made to improve these in the future.

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Published: 1 Jul 2022 Modified: 1 Jul 2022