Friday 29th October 2021 I received a panicked call from my daughter to inform me that my mum was not well. I dashed to her side to see that my mum was having a stroke.
My daughter had rung the Northwest Ambulance Service (NWA), and she was asked to triage my mum over the phone. Now bear in mind this is a much-loved grandmother she is trying to get help for, and she was asking desperately for help. My daughter was asked if my mum could smile which she had trouble doing, she couldn’t lift her right arm and she couldn’t say ‘the early bird gets the worm’. My daughter informed me on arrival that her nan had been repeating the term worm and had not mentioned the bird. We were informed by the NWA that we were not to move her, and my daughter explained that my mum was not well enough to be moved.
She was then informed that it would be a wait of 75 MINUTES before the ambulance arrived, and we were to keep her calm. This alone makes a mockery of the FAST advert we were told to act on.
By this time both my brothers had arrived and my eldest sister who has Covid was beside herself on the phone as she knew she could not get to her mother. 75 minutes exactly we were on the phone only this time they got me.
Where is the ambulance I asked only to be told that she needed to be triaged again. So, trying to keep my 80-year-old mother calm but you could see she was becoming distressed. Trying to calm her down I asked her to smile, and she had difficulty doing so, and the right arm was still causing an issue and she was struggling with the 6 words they asked. So, I asked where is my ambulance? Many apologies but they were busy….bearing in mind the FAST advert and that it could be another hour. How I kept cool by this point is beyond. me, but we did not want mum panicking. My daughter was in tears in the kitchen and my eldest brother was struggling to cope with it all.
Time was ticking on and on and I had had enough and rang the NWA service again and got a young man who asked yet again for her to be triaged. I explained that no she couldn’t smile, and no she couldn’t raise her arm and no she couldn’t say the early bird gets the worm, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer and 2.5 hours into having a stroke, I had to yet again bother my mum. By this time, she couldn’t say the words and scariest of all, she did not know who my youngest sister was, and she had walked through the door into her flat.
I was informed that there were no ambulances available as she was breathing and conscious and that if she took worse to ring back…”what for….says I…what will you do? Send an ambulance?” I was so fed up by this point that it was decided we would move her. If we continued to wait for the very people who are supposed to act FAST, she could well have died at home.
We struggled to get an 80-year-old lady suffering from a stroke into one of our cars and dashed to hospital. Turning up and A&E there were several ambulances just sitting there. More on that later.
I dashed into A&E and asked for a wheelchair because mum was having a stroke, only to be told there is one at the door. Now I know that some people might not know where they are, but I do and there were none. I explained to this administrator and trying to remain calm that there were none and that she needed one now. She promptly got up and went and stood by the double doors talking to her chum mate whoever, but she was actually talking. Gesticulating to me that she couldn’t get in there at the moment. Now, I don’t know about you but if I was in that position I would have banged on the doors and told them that there was an unwell woman outside but nope. It was almost 10 minutes before this woman got me a wheelchair and then she brought it out of an empty room and just gave it to me….
My daughter and I got mum into the hospital and had to go through the rigmarole of getting her booked in. You would think the words “she is having a stroke” would set the alarms ringing but nope….she had to wait in her chair.
Eventually and with us reaching our despair mum was called in. She was wheeled in by our younger sister with the full breakdown of what mum had gone through the evening. Whilst waiting I saw a sight that made my blood boil.
These ambulances that were not available by NWA tipped up…2 of them. One contained a drunk and one contained a gentleman who had obviously damaged his nose. Now according to their own rules no ambulances should have been sent as they were more than breathing and conscious, these were actually walking and talking which is more than my mother did, infact the drunk was making a bloody nuisance of himself and had 2 nurses with him in A&E…remember that 2 nurses.
Eventually my sister comes out and tells us that mum needs a brain scan, however a nurse had told my sister that mum would be going home. Oh no she won’t I said and that is above her pay grade to even mention it as she is a nurse and not a consultant and certainly not a brain specialist, and how dare she make even a stressful situation worse.
My brother, my daughter and I were informed that we all could not stay, and we agreed that my youngest sister would. We left with lots of kisses to mum and the promise that if anything changed we would be informed by our sister.
A very quiet night slipped by, and we were all wondering why it had been quiet as mum had had her brain scan and nothing, until my brother and sister who had swapped shifts informed me that mum had been left in a chair in A&E all night. A stroke victim left in a chair all night.
From arriving at the hospital by 2330htrs until 0630hrs, she had been left in a cold chair in A&E without any observations, and my sister had to go and beg for something for mum to eat as she is a diabetic. It was only when a member of the nursing staff saw my mum 7 hours after arrival that she finally got a bed.
She is an 80-year-old arthritic diabetic with a pacemaker who had not been seen since the start of her stroke by a consultant and it was 12 hours later that she did.
To say I am fuming and angry is an understatement. My whole family are angry at the treatment of my mum. We are angry at Northwest Ambulance as this is the second time they have lied to us. The last time she needed an ambulance was before she had her pacemaker fitted and for 4 hours they were lying to us telling us that the ambulance was on its way, when it clearly never was. We were even told by one operator to stay on the line as they were coming and to let them know when they knock on the door. Great thought I and the operator on the phone said she had another call and had to go. Little did I know that it was a get out of the situation call and no ambulance ever arrived. So, they will be finding a very large complaint on their hands to deal with. It’s the lies they say that I cannot stand. If no ambulance is coming then for God sake tell the family that and let them get their loved one to the hospital, and not keep them hanging around for something that will never come.
It is an immoral and deadly game they are playing with peoples lives and I for one will be starting to demand changes, because if they can do it to us with our elderly relative, how many more are they doing it too….Is it suddenly that the elderly don’t matter anymore? The previous time my mum was in hospital my sister was told to take her home and let nature take its course. Wow….the level of care is just under whelming at the moment.
You can imagine as a Governor of the hospital I am very unhappy and no I did not inform anyone I was a Governor, there should be no need as bringing an 80-year-old in having a stroke should make emergency staff take control of that person, and sadly they didn’t, and we don’t know the damage that is permanent with mum.
Now we as a family will take care of mum and I do have meetings with the hospital themselves and I am lucky in that I went straight to the Chairman and CEO to express my anger and disappointment, but there are many people who won’t be able to do that, and I want to fight for them. I want to fight for those who are our elders in society and fight for their right to get the best medical care. After all, the nursing staff stood in front of them do not know if they were a soldier, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher etc in their working life. It is not just an old body in front of you but someone who loves and is loved, and we trust you to do your best when they are poorly, and sadly this was not done for my mum. Infact, my sister informed me that the gentleman who looked like he had been through a ringer on his face hadn’t seen anyone either the whole-time mum was there, but the thing she did see was lots and lots of staff doing lots and lots of chatting and laughing, and not much else.
This is not what we want to see in any A&E, and I am going to start campaigning to make changes. A&Es have to have a triage team that meet ambulances to take the patients off them. Some hospitals do that and that enables them to release the crew to go to another patient and I don’t even know what happened to the fast paramedics who would come in a car. They seem to be nowhere.
There has to be the triage system run the same way as the military do. Have a doctor, a senior nurse and another staff member meet the ambulance and decide there and then if they are go to X-ray, minor observations ward or major observations ward and certainly start to make some effort because even when we have gotten her there in a ambulance when one was available she was stuck in a cold corridor waiting to be seen for over an hour, and that meant the paramedic was there too. It is a complete waste of time and time to others is urgent….
The left hand is not seeing what the right hand is doing, and there has to be a named nurse for people who come in with such issues. It is a failure of the system when a stroke sufferer is left 12 hours before being seen by a consultant and left 7 hours in a cold A&E with nobody keeping check and taking her vitals. There needs to be someone in A&E who will take responsibility for those who are the most at risk but to leave them could end up killing them.
So, as you can gather we as a family are angry, hurt and determined to make a different. I have since taking up my post of Governor asked for a defender of the elderly. Someone who they can turn too and make their voices hurt. After all they deserve it. This for me is the way forward. Sometimes I wonder whether it would be easier to let my older sister loose on them as she is akin to a Tasmanian Devil but that will get us nowhere as a family….instead we will make suggestions to change it within.
If we can make a difference to one elderly person then we have achieved something, and they won’t be left the way my mum was.
The whole system is not fit for purpose and needs to be urgently looked in as all parts of the NHS are not speaking to each other and this needs to change or else there will be more and more relatives hurting at the care their loved ones received.