Patrick Lawlor spent days at RDH waiting for a stingray barb to be removed. Picture: MICHAEL FRANCHI
Patrick Lawlor spent days at RDH waiting for a stingray barb to be removed. Picture: MICHAEL FRANCHI

Man waits 3 days with stingray barb in foot

ANULA fisherman Patrick Lawlor was forced to wait 40 hours with a stingray barb embedded in his foot, because Royal Darwin Hospital didn't have the staff or time to get the painful prong out.

Mr Lawlor said he understood some people who attended the busy emergency room had more serious injuries - but he was frustrated by the lack of communication.

Twice, he was asked to fast before an operation which was inevitably pushed back another day. The injury happened on Saturday about midday, when Mr Lawlor was out crabbing at Gunn Point and stepped on the barb.

The X-ray of Mr Lawlor’s injury. Picture: MICHAEL FRANCHI
The X-ray of Mr Lawlor’s injury. Picture: MICHAEL FRANCHI

"I didn't know what it was at first - it went into my foot about 5cm," he said.

"They have barbs on the side, so you can't just pull it out."

Mr Lawlor cut his fishing trip short, and went to the Palmerston Super Clinic, where a GP told him to head to the emergency room.

"He kinda freaked out a bit," he said. "As soon as I got into the hospital, they brought me straight in - then they just put me into a room and said 'wait until surgery'."

It was about 5pm on Saturday afternoon when Mr Lawlor arrived at RDH - but there wasn't enough beds to accommodate him.

Mr Lawlor hadn't eaten since breakfast, but was told to fast for surgery. From 5pm to 9pm, a hungry Mr Lawlor waited on a bed which staff set up in the plaster room.

At 9pm, he was moved into a room with someone else, and was told at 10.30pm his operation was scheduled for Sunday.

About 5.30am, Mr Lawlor was woken up, given some rice bubbles and instructed to fast before surgery.

At 2am Monday - after nearly a day without food - Mr Lawlor was told the surgery was rescheduled for later that day.

"I was frustrated - it's not good to have (the prong) sticking into it for so long, I was really worried about getting an infection," Mr Lawlor said.

Finally, at 9am Monday morning, Mr Lawlor had his operation, but said his faith in Darwin's medical system was now lost.

A RDH spokeswoman said patients who presented at the emergency department were seen based on urgency, with those in most need seen first.

"While we acknowledge delays can be frustrating for our patients, our clinicians make decisions based on the needs of individual patients, some of whom are very sick," she said.



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