Alexandria Stuart says it’s unacceptable that no specialist in the mid-island region is willing or able to do surgery on her son

Alexandria Stuart says it’s unacceptable that no specialist in the mid-island region is willing or able to do surgery on her son

Teen faces months-long wait for painful foot care

NANAIMO – Autism diagnosis makes simple procedure turn into need for surgery.

A Nanaimo mother is desperate to find medical help for her autistic son after being told the only specialist willing to operate can’t see him for almost a year.

Sixteen-year-old Gabriel Stuart needs surgery to address a painful toe condition, but the only specialist willing to do the work is in Victoria and isn’t available for another eight to 10 months.

The wait is too long for a vulnerable and disabled child in ‘obvious pain’, said his mother, Alexandria Stuart, who is concerned about infection and diminished quality of life. But the family seems to have little recourse.

According to Stuart,  the medical receptionist handling Gabriel’s case called central Vancouver Island podiatrists and orthopedic, plastic and general surgeons, but none wanted to take on the procedure because “either they don’t do toes or because he was a pediatric case.” As members of the private sector, surgeons seem to be able to pick and choose procedures, she said, adding there seems to be no organization that can advocate for her son’s surgery to be expedited.

Island Health says physicians are independent business people and their offices – not the health authority – decide when patients are booked for surgery. And the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C reports it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to regulate the systems in which surgeons work.

“The fact that there is no specialist in the mid-Island willing or able to deal with this seems completely unacceptable to me,” she said.

“If this was you or me with an ingrown toenail and we had the mental capacity not to pick our toes and to wait and deal with it for eight or 10 months, it would be a different thing. This is a vulnerable child.”

Gabriel was diagnosed 18 months ago with proud flesh, a condition where skin grows over the toe nails. His doctor did not appear concerned at first because the issue is common, said Stuart, who was given care instructions.

But the condition started to worsen. Gabriel wouldn’t allow his parents to push the skin back on his nails and would compulsively pick at his toes. Instead of the nail growing out to heal, it started to burrow into his toes, causing inflammation, bleeding and soreness.

He is minimally verbal, but is usually happy and enjoys walks and playing outdoors, Stuart said. He now limps and cries about his ‘poor toes’ and asking to see “Dr. Hospital.”

She said he needs to have the excess skin cut away from his toenails – a procedure that’s normally done under local anesthesia in a podiatrist’s office. But because he had autism the procedure has to happen under general anesthetic in a hospital operating room.

The teen wouldn’t otherwise tolerate sitting still.

“He is looking to us for confirmation it will end at some point, [that] there will be a hospital trip so his sore toes will be fixed and he’s been asking for that for months now,” Stuart said.

“As a parent, to have a child in pain and be unable to help … is, I think, the single most devastating feeling.”

The family is now contemplating a trip to the B.C. Children’s Hospital emergency room – a move that the teen’s caregivers have indicated might be his next best option. There are no guarantees he will get treatment.

“I know what their emergency room is for and that to me seems like an abuse of the resource,” Stuart said. “But if its my last resort and it’s the only way I can get my child out of pain, I will do it.”

Just Posted

Nanaimo author B.S. Thompson has released his debut novel, ‘The Book of Nodd.’ (Photo courtesy Nora Funk)
Nanaimo author invites readers into dangerous world of dreams in debut novel

B.S. Thompson unveils ‘The Book of Nodd’ with online launch June 20

Potters Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter present their joint exhibit ‘Dig It’ at Art 10 Gallery until the end of June. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Potters show pieces for home and garden at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter’s show ‘Dig It’ on display until end of June

Construction work continues on the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (News Bulletin file)
Next phase of borrowing approved as Nanaimo fire hall construction ongoing

City of Nanaimo CAO says construction on Fitzwilliam Street hall on schedule and budget

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read