An Edmonton woman was diagnosed with a flesh-eating disease and pneumonia while on vacation in Mexico and underwent multiple surgeries, but her family says when a plane was on standby to airlift her back to Edmonton, there wasn’t a single hospital bed available in the city to take her.
“I knew the health-care system was bad. I just didn’t realize it was that bad,” said her father, Curtis Stock.
It started as a huge family vacation in Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast — a celebration of Stock’s mother-in-law’s 80th birthday — “but it turned out to be a vacation from hell,” Stock said.
On the second day of the trip, his 25-year-old daughter Maia Stock started feeling pain in her leg.
They went to a doctor at the resort, who immediately sent her to an emergency room in Puerto Vallarta.
It was discovered she had necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease that put her in danger of losing her leg or even dying.
“It was really scary. I’m a nervous wreck,” said Curtis Stock.
“It doesn’t actually feel like it could have happened or should have happened,” Maia said via videochat from Mexico.
Doctors in Puerto Vallarta operated on Maia three times, removing the bacteria from her leg in the form of gas bubbles that were eating away at her flesh.
They hurried to keep it away from her bone, to ensure her leg wouldn’t need to be amputated.
“The hospitals in Mexico were unbelievable. They were great. The doctors were wonderful. The nurses were wonderful.”
Doctors in Canada wanted to airlift Maia back to Edmonton to continue her treatment, but Stock said they told him even though she was at the top of the priority list — there wasn’t anywhere for her to go.
“There wasn’t a single bed available in Edmonton and there still isn’t.”
“It’s crazy, but it’s also sad because of how overcrowded it is and how overworked all the workers are,” said Maia.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirmed it was working on an out-of-country transfer but an immediate move was not available “due to capacity.”
“When a family requests an out-of-country transfer, and provided the patient is stable enough to be transferred, we will do our best to work with the family and health insurance providers to repatriate patients to Alberta,” AHS spokesperson Kristi Bland said in a statement.
“However, an AHS facility may only accept if they have resources available to provide care.”
Maia was in the hospital in Mexico for two weeks awaiting transport back to Edmonton. She was transferred out of the ICU into a private room, and on Wednesday was discharged.
“She’s been an absolute rock. It’s been unbelievable to watch her go through this,” Stock said.
“The doctors told her before the first surgery that she might lose her leg and she said ‘OK.’ And they said you might die and she said, ‘OK.’”
Stock’s wife Barb remains in Mexico with Maia. They might be able to fly home commercially on Friday, if the doctors give the all-clear.
Though she accepts her situation and tries to be positive, Maia can’t wait for the day she gets to fly back to Canada.
“I want to be be home in my own bed and be with my dog.”
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