To hear Bryan Carvill was peddling away on his bike in Tewantin just 12 months ago, it’s impossible to imagine anything but a fit, healthy and happy 75-year-old.
In July last year, Mr Carvill underwent open-heart surgery in Brisbane to have a mitral valve replaced – one of the heart’s four valves which helps blood flow through the heart and out to the body.
Despite a successful procedure, the Carvill family’s world came to a standstill when Bryan started becoming confused and hallucinating once he returned home from hospital.
“Bryan started suffering from severe migraines after the procedure and he described them as being the worst pain he’s ever been in,” his wife Maxeen said.
“On the fifth day out of hospital, Bryan told me he felt ‘drugged’, unsteady, and foggy, but I just thought this was a common side effect after surgery.”
With Bryan’s rapidly deteriorating health, Maxeen was left with no choice but to take him to Sunshine Coast University Hospital where he would spend back-to-back stays between August 2020 and April this year. Unfortunately, that included Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
“At one stage at SCUH, Bryan started seeing ants, snakes, and things crawling up walls. This is when he went into delirium.”
Despite the length of time in hospital, doctors struggled to diagnose Bryan’s condition.
“We were told the open-heart surgery had nothing to do with his violent seizures and hallucinations,” Mrs Carvill added.
The 75-year-old is now undergoing investigations to see whether he has autoimmune encephalitis – a type of brain inflammation where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the brain or spinal cord.
“He experiences stroke-like symptoms including dizziness and delirium. The worst part of it is we don’t know when he’ll be better.
“It just proves even the healthiest of us can become unwell.”
Having firsthand experience of the stress that comes with having a loved one in hospital an hour away from home, Mrs Carvill is full of praise for Wishlist House.
“Every night when I got home, exhausted from the day, I was looking online for an apartment to rent within walking distance of the hospital. Fortunately, a team leader who noticed I was quite stressed one morning, notified the Social Worker who arranged for me to stay at Wishlist House.
“My family and I needed to be there for Bryan whenever he needed our support. There was one night he wouldn’t settle and take his medication, so I walked over at 9pm and didn’t leave the hospital until 2:30am. I felt completely safe walking back to Wishlist House.
“The Wishlist team have been amazing – within short notice the volunteers were able to sort out a bed for me. I loved having a quiet place to get a couple of hours sleep and be only 10 minutes away from my husband.”
Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said the charity’s affordable accommodation facilities – Reed House and Wishlist House – were increasingly busy with patients and carers from Tewantin, Kingaroy, Gympie, Cooloola, Maryborough and surrounds.
“Wishlist House is our closest facility to SCUH which offers a ‘home away from home’ for both rural and remote Queenslanders, as well as locals,” Ms Rowe said.
The increasing demand has also led to the charity obtaining a Federal Government grant to build Wishlist Centre, with construction expected to start in July.
The four-level purpose-built facility will offer accommodation for patients receiving ongoing treatment and those transitioning to and from hospital.
“We are extremely thankful to the Federal Government for a $12 million grant to fund Stage One of Wishlist Centre, however more funding is needed for the fit-out.
“A further $2 million is needed by 2022 to ensure Wishlist Centre is a comfortable and supportive environment for patients and their families during an ongoing health crisis.”
Mr Carvill returned to Tewantin in mid-April and hopes to continue his recovery at home with assistance from SCUH specialists.
For more information on Wishlist’s affordable accommodation or Wishlist Centre, visit wishlist.org.au or phone 5202 1777.