Shocked solo mum 'sent in error' letter indefinitely postponing life-changing endometriosis surgery

Elicia Andrews and Bay of Plenty DHB letter 'sent in error'.
Elicia Andrews and Bay of Plenty DHB letter 'sent in error'. Photo credit: Elicia Andrews

A single mum is "shocked and relieved" to learn a letter postponing her life-changing surgery was sent in error.

However, the 26-year-old was surprised to be informed of the mistake by Newshub, instead of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.  

Elicia Andrews is one in 10 New Zealand women suffering from endometriosis - a disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found in places outside the womb. The side effects include pelvic pain, bowel problems, vomiting, fatigue and infertility.

Some days, the psychology student can't get out of bed. Drugs as strong as morphine are used to ease her debilitating pain.

While trying to build a life for her three-year-old son, the letter brought the single mum to tears.

In a consultation in June, Andrews was told her surgery was "semi-urgent".

Two weeks later, the Bay of Plenty DHB wrote to her advising it was "unable to confirm a date or timeframe" for when surgery could take place, "due to COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on hospital services". 

The document stated hospitals are limiting the delivery of planned care services to ensure they are "prepared to respond to the pandemic".

Andrews remembers feeling extremely anxious. Her heart was broken as the surgery was a "light at the end of the tunnel" after her 13-year battle against endometriosis. 

Commonly, the longer the surgery takes, the more likely fertility is affected. 

In an email to Newshub, a DHB spokesperson apologised for the distress caused following an enquiry into Andrews' case - but the mother is confused as to how a mistake so severe could occur.  

The spokesperson believes the letter was an "administrative error" and the content contained only applied to the level 4, 3 and 2 periods of the COVID-19 response.

Quick facts about endometriosis.
Quick facts about endometriosis. Photo credit: Newshub

The young mum has battled endometriosis since she was 13, but was only diagnosed at 21. 

Endometriosis is incurable, but surgery can help to improve fertility and reduce pain levels.

Five years ago, she had surgery to treat her endometriosis and says it changed her life, giving her more freedom and comfortability to raise her son.

"It's not a surgery I can live without. It's a lifechanging operation for me, it's not really one I can just skip." 

Andrews wants better awareness of endometriosis in New Zealand, feeling misunderstood by doctors and nurses when she tried to get help.

In March 2020, the Government released a 'best practice guide' for endometriosis treatment. The guide aims to empower health professions to identify symptoms, diagnose earlier and improve outcomes for patients.