Gerlaine and Jason Moult with son Ethan. Gerlaine's tumour
was misdiagnosed as stress. Photo / Richard Robinson
A woman with a life-threatening spinal tumour was told by
staff she was just stressed and needed to take a "long
Gerlaine Moult, 32, eventually paid $2500 for a private MRI
which revealed the 5cm by 7cm tumour on her spinal cord.
That was after four visits to the Middlemore Hospital's
emergency department over four months, with symptoms
including severe headaches, a stiff neck, difficulty
urinating, neck spasms, numbness and weakness down one side.
"They just told me it was the stress that had seized my neck
muscles completely and it would take some time to get the
movement back," said Ms Moult, of Pukekohe.
By August 2011, Ms Moult was dragging one leg behind her, and
had lost feeling on one side. "I can't even explain the pain,
it was so horrific," she said.
On her husband Jason's birthday party on August 27 that year,
she had to be carried to the toilet and needed help doing up
"She looked like somebody who'd had a stroke, her leg was
dragging, she couldn't feel anything in her body," Mr Moult
Two days later a GP referred her for an urgent MRI, which
revealed the tumour.
"What frustrated us was a doctor diagnosed her in five
minutes and we'd been fighting for four months," Mr Moult
Ms Moult had surgery at Auckland Hospital, which left her
paralysed and unable to walk.
She spent four weeks in hospital, two weeks at a spinal rehab
unit, and underwent six weeks of radiation.
"I promised myself that I'd walk out of radiation and I did,"
A month ago another small tumour was removed from her brain.
Ms Moult said she still felt no one had taken responsibility.
"I got misdiagnosed by people you should trust. If you can't
go to ED and get proper care, where can you go?"
Her ACC claim for a treatment injury has been turned down
because ACC found the delay in diagnosis had not affected the
But Ms Moult believes her ongoing muscle weakness and lack of
sensation could have been avoided. "If I'd been diagnosed
earlier I wouldn't have had to work so hard for the next year
and a half to walk again."
Counties Manukau District Health Board acknowledged Ms
Moult's care at its emergency room didn't meet its standards,
The board also refunded the cost of the MRI.
Chief medical officer Dr Gloria Johnson said a number of
changes made following an investigation.
"We sincerely regret the delay in diagnosing Mrs Moult's
condition and are very sorry for the impact of this on Mrs
Moult and her family."
Dr Johnson said Ms Moult's condition was rare and outside the
experience of the staff who saw her, who attributed her
symptoms to stress rather than a neurological cause.
- Heather McCracken of APNZ