Stephen Doubleday with his service-dog-in-training Pumba at his Annandale home. Picture: Evan Morgan
Stephen Doubleday with his service-dog-in-training Pumba at his Annandale home. Picture: Evan Morgan

Severely disabled teenager without power for two days

A TOWNSVILLE mother who was without power for two days during the city's flood crisis, says the situation was "very scary" for her severely disabled son.

Stephen Doubleday, 19, has severe cerebral palsy and relies on electricity to survive.

Mr Doubleday is registered with Ergon Energy's life support program. He is hooked up to five different machines that help him move and talk.

His mother Deanne Sivyer, 47, said the pair lost power on Sunday afternoon as floodwaters rose around their Annandale home.

"We weren't told that this was going to happen, we had no warning" she said.

"Over the next two days, I made at least four phone calls through to the life support program to get an update around when we can expect power to be put back on."

Ms Sivyer said the ordeal was extremely frightening for her son, who was acutely aware of his reliance on electricity.

"He relies on a lot of equipment … electric bed that helps with positioning for him, pressure mattress, powered wheelchair, hoist for us to be able to manually handle him at home," she said.

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"It's very scary … he has a lot of anxiety … he has been through a lot of medical treatments, he is very aware if there is something major happening."

Ms Sivyer said she was told by Ergon Energy to take her son to an evacuation centre or a nearby hospital.

"It's not an easy thing, caring for Stephen with all of his equipment … his powered wheelchair weighs 220kg," she said.

"I was also told if you can't take him to an evacuation centre, take him to a hospital … that's not an appropriate place … the hospital system was already being stretched when there are other critical cases."

Ms Sivyer decided to stay home to care for Stephen, borrowing a friend's generator for as long as she could.

While Ms Sivyer said she understood the unpredictability of the disaster, she hoped to highlight the gap in planning for people with severe disabilities.

"What concerns me is the lack of information and knowledge from the life support program," she said.

"Imagine your legs are removed and voice taken away from you … it's a really scary disaster situation."

Ergon Energy spokesman Danny Donald said those on the program were encouraged to seek a contingency plan from their local doctor.

"We encourage people to enact an alternative plan, which might include going to the closest medical facility or relatives or a friends place with electricity," he said.

Mr Donald suggested people in a similar situation to Mr Doubleday should contact emergency services to help move the patient.

"I feel for them … no one wants to have no power for this long … at the end of the day … we encourage anyone who is without power to make alternative arrangements," he said.