'They all need surgeries'
HSC student Sam McCauley, has never met Nicole Perko but his petition urging the state government to fund her life-saving surgery has reached 20,000 signatures in four days.PT1M21S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vajl 620 349 October 10, 2013
In the eyes of Nicole Perko, it's a black-and-white situation.
"It’s pretty simple - without the surgery, I will die," says the Sydney mother, who has become the focus of an online campaign over cancer treatments.
I was placed on the one-month priority waiting list in July - and three months later I am still waiting. It’s like being on death row
More than 20,000 people had by Thursday morning signed a petition on change.org calling on NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to intervene in Ms Perko's case.
"Without the surgery, I will die." Nicole Perko with husband Eddie. Photo: Supplied
And that was before Russell Crowe tweeted about it to his million-plus followers.
Ms Perko is one of a number of patients awaiting peritonectomy surgery at Sydney's St George Hospital.
The surgery, which involves removing cancer from a large part of the abdominal area, is the only hope of a cure for some cases of cancer.
Nicole Perko and daughter Evie: the Sydney mother is awaiting peritonectomy surgery at Sydney's St George Hospital. Photo: Supplied
A world expert and pioneer of the procedure, David Morris, had been operating for three days a week at St George, the only place in NSW that performs peritonectomies, but has been forced to cut his operating days to two due to the growing surgery demands across the hospital.
However, the number of operations he can perform each month remains limited, and he is unable to treat interstate patients, many of whom cannot access treatment at home.
Sam McCauley, an 18-year-old school captain at Macquarie Anglican Grammar School, Dubbo, had never met Ms Perko but started the petition after seeing the issue discussed on social media. He is calling on the Health Minister to instruct St George Hospital to perform the life-saving surgery and to review funding for all patients who need the surgery.
The petition also calls for an investigation into four deaths Professor Morris claims will result because of the long surgery waiting times.
"Every minute that passes without the surgery being performed increases the risk of detrimental effects on Nicole’s health. This is unacceptable, and an appalling disregard for life by the NSW government," he said.
Something that should be sorted out http://t.co/WawWwQuZjY— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) October 9, 2013
Ms Perko, 40, who has three children and two stepchildren, said she was overwhelmed with the support people had shown by signing the petition.
"This isn't about queue jumping - it's about saving people's lives," she said.
"I was placed on the one-month priority waiting list in July - and three months later I am still waiting. It’s like being on death row.
"The problem is not classifying me as an emergency. It’s about providing enough funding so that St George Hospital can carry out more than six peritonectomy operations each month."
In response to inquiries, Ms Skinner said a Peritonectomy Clinical Review Committee, including Professor Morris, meets weekly to prioritise the clinical needs of peritonectomy patients at St George Hospital.
"I am aware a petition is circulating regarding Nicole Perko. I will refer her case to this expert committee for consideration," Ms Skinner said.
TV personality Charlotte Dawson has been tweeting about the campaign to rally support for Ms Perko, who she said was an old friend.
- with Amy Corderoy
Clarification: The original version of this story quoted Professor Morris as saying that four deaths had occurred at St George Hospital as a result of chronic underfunding. However, Professor Morris now says that four people have progressed to inoperability.