Grandmother who had her lower body amputated worried she will be homeless after ACC stopped funding accommodation

A Te Kuiti grandmother – who has had the bottom half of her body amputated – fears she will be left homeless after ACC told her they will no longer pay for her temporary accommodation. 

Bev McIndoe has been living in a motel room, with her carer next door, since the end of 2021. She aims to be in a newly built home in a year. 

National Correspondent Amanda Gillies has the story.

Bev McIndoe loves a joke and is quick with the one-liners.

"My son is naughty, he teases me that he will throw me in the pool and then yell out Bob", she roars with laughter.

She's laughing at herself. But here's what's not funny.

The 58-year-old Te Kuiti grandmother has lost the lower half of her body, amputated in a radical hemicorporectomy operation in 2020.

It was her only option after excruciating pain in her spine, buttocks and legs.

"I said can’t you just cut it off," she laughed. "My doctor said 'we can do that' - it's never been done before round here – it has been done in the states – and I said, 'sweet let’s do it'."

Bev now spends most of her days in her hospital bed in the Waitomo Lodge, it’s her happy place, her sanctuary. It’s paid for by ACC.

But last Friday she was told that ACC won’t pay any more, today is the last paid day

"I guess I’ll go live under a bridge," she shrugged.

So how did Bev McIndoe end up here?

Grandmother who had her lower body amputated worried she will be homeless after ACC stopped funding accommodation
Photo credit: Newshub

She was, in her family's words, a tall, determined, fun-loving mum of three, office manager at the local Cossie Club.

But in 2008, she had a motorcycle accident, just out of Gisborne.

"That was horrific, I was sliding along and looking through my visor thinking “this isn’t good”. And then I hit the sign with my hip, and I thought “oooh this is painful” and everything just went “zzzzz” (the sound of buzzing).

The list of her injuries is vast, simply too many to mention but includes head injury, multiple rib fractures, fracture of the thoracic vertebra and nerve injury to the pelvic girdle and lower limb. She required 15 surgeries and had to quit her managerial job. She was devastated but determined.

She got a job working at the local supermarket on check-out. And balance troubles followed.

"I started falling over, I was like “I don’t know why I’m falling over” it’s just weird. Everything would just go; I would be down on the ground."

It was revealed she had multiple cysts on her spinal cord, which were removed. She was in pain but feeling "okay" until she had another fall, moving from her shower chair to her wheelchair. It left her in agonizing pain and in hospital for nearly two years, weighing just 49 kg.

"The doctors said you have probably got 18 months to live because the infection had gone in the bone."

Grandmother who had her lower body amputated worried she will be homeless after ACC stopped funding accommodation
Photo credit: Newshub

But she wanted to live for her children and grandchildren, so she opted for the amputation from the hips down, figuring it was her best shot at life.

The surgery at Waikato Hospital took nearly 14 hours. It was instant relief.

"My first thought was pretty much "thank God I’ve just done this". They would come in with pills – I was on heaps of morphine – but I just thought I don’t need it, I’m not in any pain.

As for lower bodily functions?

"I have a bag for poop, I have a bag for pee and off we go," she laughed.

She is looked after by a carer, who is in the room next door at the motel for the past two years.

Bev wants to build her own "fit for purpose" home, which should be ready in about a year.

She's just sold her family home, which she couldn't live in because it needed injury-related modifications and was too big for her.

She had hoped ACC would pay for one more year at the motel. And was shocked and devastated when she learned last week that they had pulled the plug on funding.

"The motel manager popped his head in and said “Bev have you heard from ACC” and I said no. And he said “they are stopping paying from the 29th".

That’s today. Bev insists she had no heads-up from ACC, they insist they sent her emails.

"And said to me have you checked your junk, I said I may be old mate but I’m not thick."

Bev says she just needs one more year to build the home she will pay for herself.

"(ACC) Just don't care," she said. So I asked her if she's told them she'll be homeless. "I said i'll live under a bridge and she is like "do what you want".

In a statement tonight, ACC said "Bev has suffered a significant, life-changing injury, and we are supporting her with 24/7 care.

When Bev was discharged from Waikato Hospital in December 2021, we agreed to fund further housing modifications at the property she owned in order to meet her new injury-related needs.

"At the time, we also agreed to fund temporary accommodation for Bev while these new modifications were completed. Shortly after, Bev told us she planned to sell her home. Rather than modify a house that she would move out of, we agreed to give her some time to find a new property. We also funded a social worker to help Bev and her family investigate potential housing options.

"However, after two years with almost no contact from Bev or her family regarding the sale of her home, we arranged another assessment. This assessment found that with minor modifications, her house would be suitable for her to live in, and this work could be completed by the end of February. This would ensure Bev had a suitable home.

"It is important to note that over the two years, we have been in email contact back and forth with Bev about other matters and as such we had no reason to think the emails relating to her temporary accommodation and housing modifications were not being received. Despite best efforts, we were unable to reach her by phone.

"We advised Bev by email in December last year we would fund her temporary accommodation up until the time it would reasonably take for the modifications to be completed.

"Bev has since told us that she has sold her house. While we cannot fund accommodation, we can modify a new property when it is bought or contribute to the injury-related costs of a new build, and we are happy to work with Bev and her family to do this. In the meantime, we have offered to fund a social worker again to help Bev and her family investigate housing options."

So from tonight, Bev McIndoe will be paying for her accommodation.