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What started as a happy night, turned out to be the worse night of my life. The evening of the 30th September 2017 changed the lives of my father, my sister and myself forever.
It was my birthday on the 2nd October so my family and I decided we would go out for dinner to celebrate. Afterwards, we all got together at my partners home, I watched my mother look at the clock, turn back to look at me, and say it was time for my parents to head home. At this time my sister and her partner also decided to leave, I walked them to the door, stepped outside and said goodbye. Little did I know that was the last goodbye, that night at 23:45 as she left, my mum tripped off the curb side, fell, broke her wrist and hit her head so hard on the tarmac she suffered (unbeknown to us) a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage (SAH), not one of us was medically qualified or equipped to deal with what had just happened. We could see her wrist was broken, but unfortunately she was lying on a dark damp road side, on the side that took the impact, and we weren’t able to see any visible bleeding. We immediately called for an ambulance - to which we were clearly in a queue of priority.
After standing by and doing all you can, feeling so helpless, and watching your mother start to deteriorate was our worst nightmare. We were told by South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) don’t move her don’t give her anything to drink or eat, they asked “is she breathing”? “Is she bleeding”? Etc.. The usual triage of questions expected, however they couldn’t offer any timeframe to which we could expect the ambulance... Normal or not? So after a time of waiting, we call back, frustrations now are coming into the call. The call handlers were quite rude; which is not what you want to hear, and call number two ended with “if there are any changes call back”. Another wait. Call number three, we are now calling back as there are changes, we see blood, and then she started vomiting. She was complaining about an awful head pain and asking us where the ambulance was. She was cold and laying practically in the gutter of a wet road, we got her blankets, but still no ambulance, she was going down hill fast so we call again, call number four, only to be told again that they didn’t know how long an ambulance will take, how busy they were, how there are not enough ambulances to go around, and to “call back if anything changed”.
By this point she had lain in the wet road for almost an hour, she was worsening all the time and we could do nothing but remain at the mercy of the SWAS. My mother again asked me where the ambulance was and why it was taking so long. A friend we managed to contact who’s a nurse, told us not to leave her if she is vomiting and complaining of severe head pain; that needed medical intervention ASAP, so by call number five, and still having to go through the same set of questions, we had made the conscious decision to lift her up and take her to the hospital ourselves. A horrific experience for us, and yes, we had to make that decision as we had come to a point where we were facing her dying. We didn’t want to exacerbate her injuries, no more than we wanted to see her as we did, and so we took the risk, got her to her feet, placed her in the car and drove her to the hospital; which is a 5 minute drive from where she fell, only to be met by two nurses who came out with a wheelchair and treated her like a drunk, as it was a Saturday night after all so why wouldn’t you assume that?
After what seemed like forever waiting to hear the outcome, the doctor came in and told us that mum was critical and she needed to be moved to the John Radcliffe hospital for a life saving brain operation, how did we get to this? After another ambulance was called which took a further 45 minutes (no hurry) and took her to the wrong building, there was a catalogue of events that led too her untimely death. Time was not on her side with the injury sustained, and with the amount of time waiting around for an ambulance that never came, she died; and we couldn’t help her, and we were failed as a family by the SWAS.
Someone made the wrong decision and we lost our mother and my father lost his wife, this year, 2018, they were going to celebrate their 50th, wedding anniversary they had so many plans; life was good they were both healthy for their ages (she was only 68) and to have that all changed by the hands of a call handler.
I’m asking for change, no person alive should have to watch their loved ones die in such a traumatic way with no help, this is poor and disgusting. We live in a civilised country and I would expect at the very least, we the public, should have been made aware of the state of the service as a whole. Up and down this country people are dying through lack of ambulances and the subsequent wait time; that waiting time helped to end my mothers life. We/I had never called an ambulance before. She needed care immediately, sadly the injuries she sustained were so severe she didn’t make it back to us.
It’s too late for Lynda however this needs to stop. It just shouldn’t be happening. A town of nearly 200,000 Swindon had only 13 active ambulances available, on the night in question only 3 ambulances were available the rest were on a fixed break, or unavailable due to holiday/sickness. I want this subject of the shortage of ambulances readdressed, people shouldn’t be losing lives because ambulances don’t turn up or arrive in enough time to help save the injured person.
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