It took a long and agonising 18 months for Juliana Main to finally be relieved of excruciating pain.
Unknowingly, Mrs Main was dangerously close to being paralysed from the neck down and the most terrifying part was that she was only one fall away from this reality.
The nightmare began when she started experiencing a significant amount of pain in her shoulders, which spread to her arms and no feeling in her right hand. She was unable to lift her arms and this greatly affected her job.
She went to see a GP to find out what the issue was, but had to book three to four weeks in advance to see someone about it.
Mrs Main lives on a property 85km from Deniliquin between Swan Hill and Barham so each visit to her closest GP is a 170km return trip.
After the lengthy trip, her doctor only prescribed her painkillers to help with the pain, which she later discovered was a temporary solution to a bigger problem.
Mrs Main went on an overseas trip and was prescribed more painkillers without realising the impact it had and when she returned to Australia, the pain only became more severe.
After another doctor’s visit, Mrs Main had an MRI scan and it was discovered she had extreme neck damage.
She was unable to lay down, sit, roll over or drive and she was in constant emotional stress from the severity of the pain and lack of independence.
‘‘The situation worsened when I fell at work and landed on my bad shoulder,’’ Mrs Main said.
She said she insisted on receiving a consultation from another doctor to find out the root of this problem as ‘‘painkillers were not fixing this issue and I was severely suffering’’.
‘‘I was so glad when my GP faxed my records to Dr Michael Wong, a leading spinal surgeon in Melbourne.’’
Within two days, a concerned Dr Wong contacted her and he managed to shift appointments around when seeing patients in Bendigo to ensure he could see her.
Upon reviewing her MRI scan, he believed the unexplained numbness in her arm and shoulder was indicating she was close to being paralysed from the neck down and that just one fall could result in being in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
A few days later, Mrs Main travelled to Melbourne to be treated by a physician, Dr Christine Wong, who fitted her for a brace and went through all the details of her situation thoroughly.
After some more tests and a CAT Scan, Mrs Main was in hospital by the end of the week and she had surgery, operated on by Dr Michael Wong. After surgery, she stayed in the ICU for 12 hours but as soon as she woke up, she could feel her hand again and was only in hospital for two more nights.
Mrs Main also saw Dr Christine Wong who provided her with appropriate medication and was treated by a physiotherapist from their clinic, EPC Health. She wore the brace for six weeks following her surgery, doing physiotherapy and no longer needs to take medication.
‘‘Juliana’s experience emphasises the lack of quality medical services in rural communities,’’ Dr Michael Wong said.
‘‘Everyone should and deserves to have the same level of access. Shortages of GPs and poor access to high quality medical care faced by rural communities is not a new problem.
‘‘However, as an individual medical practice, we must reinvent our services to provide adequate services for rural communities. We need to allocate more clinic time and resources and promote innovative ways to support rural GPs and patients,’’ he said.