After months of limbo, health ministry gives abrupt deadline to Bigelow family

A long battle between the father of a brain injured son and the British Columbia Health Ministry came to a close when months of silence ended in a two-week deadline to bring Dr. Christopher Bigelow home.

  • Tue Apr 13th, 2010 6:00am
  • News

By Jasmine Franklin

A long battle between the father of a brain injured son and the British Columbia Health Ministry came to a close when months of silence ended in a two-week deadline to bring Dr. Christopher Bigelow home.

After four months of confusion, Kevin Bigelow, father to Dr. Bigelow, 33, currently receiving treatment at Ponoka’s Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury has been told his son will return home April 26.

The abrupt decision was given by the British Columbia Health Ministry April 10 — nearly four months after the initial threat to cut off funding for Dr. Bigelow and return him to his native province of B.C. where a treatment centre appropriate for his needs does not exist.

“I must rethink our position, as I put my trust and Chris’ future in people that said they cared and I believed them, they have sorely let us down,’ Bigelow writes on his blog. “Chris cannot defend or speak for himself I will be his voice and spirit and I will fight every minute of every day to make these people accountable for their inaction.”

The B.C. regional health authority, Fraser Health, told the Ponoka News April 12 that it can be assured all patients under Fraser Health’s care have a complete medical plan in place. Spokesperson Joan Marshall would not explain the coverage or whether any plan is in place for Dr. Bigelow’s specific needs.

Bigelow said in his blog he believes no therapists or specialists have been set up for his son’s return home.

“So at the moment we are trying to squeeze Chris’ departure into a two-week slot because of a knee-jerk reaction. A time frame that all had agreed was not do-able, it has not allowed for planning or thought of process, no therapists in place, no written commitment to as how long we will have access to this house, no therapists have been contacted or interviewed,” Bigelow writes. “Let’s throw more money aimlessly out the door when we do not have enough to look after our injured in the first place. Not one person agrees with this, not even the facility Chris will go to.”

Dr. Bigelow will be placed in a private transition home, called Connect, where it was decided in February that specialists would need to be brought in to meet his needs. However, another nurse would need to be hired, as well as outside professionals, to handle physiotherapy, speech therapy and other kinds of treatment.

“All they have done is stir the pot and create confusion and a lot of emotions,” Bigelow said. “We came here and pushed the limits to get Chris to where he is today and get things happening. Then in the middle of that, they took it away and the sad part is there is no accountability on their part except for the shame and guilt they receive from being in the media.”

Background

Dr. Bigelow was a new doctor from B.C. making a difference when he was involved in a car accident in November 2007 that left him with traumatic brain injury. After medical care, it was decided he would receive the best treatment at Ponoka’s Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury. Since Dr. Bigelow’s stay in Ponoka, beginning in March 2009, he has experienced improvement.

Currently, Dr. Bigelow receives rehab treatments including speech therapy, physio, cycling and aqua therapy that are helping him to rebuild the connection he lost.

Threats from B.C’s Health Ministry to cut off funding began in January 2010. The ministry claimed Bigelow would be cut off from all funding by Feb. 15.

B.C. Health Services released statements in January to the media claiming that the decision to cut off the funding would come from the opinion of medical professionals and not the ministry itself. However, Bigelow said he finds error in this comment after one of Dr. Bigelow’s former doctors from Surrey Memorial— neurologist John Diggle — submitted a letter to the health ministry Nov. 27, 2009.

“I am writing this letter to support Dr. Bigelow’s extended stay in Ponoka, Alberta,” the letter reads. “He is receiving aggressive rehabilitation for his traumatic brain injury and, according to his treating physiatrist, has made moderate gains in his functional status.”

The B.C. Health Ministry deemed the letter unclear, and asked for another letter to be written. Dr. Diggle wrote another letter with the same requests and received a reply that the neurologist and Bigelow were to formulate their own therapy services and all essential plans for Dr. Bigelow to return home.

After public concern, a meeting was held around the February deadline grouping together 13 B.C. health specialists and Dr. Bigelow’s current doctors to decide the best strategy for bringing him home.

After the teleconference, Bigelow said he had not heard a word until he received the phone call April 10 with news his son would be returning home in two weeks time.

“I will never stop being vocal and loud about this,” Bigelow said. “If you give people the right tools miracles will happen. He’s already gained and he’s still gaining.”

Bigelow maintains a detailed blog with updates on Dr. Bigelow — a tool he says has generated many responses. Visit the site at www.drbigelow.blogspot.com Bigelow can be reached at drbigelow@shaw.ca