The family of a pensioner found dead by an ambulance crew almost 90 minutes after he made the first of two emergency calls for help is still demanding answers from the service – nine months on.
Michael Green, 74, died at his Stocking Farm home on Saturday, September 1 last year.
In two distressed and distressing calls recorded by East Midlands Ambulance Service, handed over to his family and listened to by LeicestershireLive, he can be heard painfully pleading for help.
Mr Green, who suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and pancreatitis can be heard telling operators that he has been stuck in his chair for five hours with a table pressing against his neck and that he was “passing out”.
His family are uncertain how the table came to be pressing against him other than to think it may have happened while he was trying to reach his phone.
They are also unsure why he didn’t call a family member, although it was later discovered he had made five 999 calls, although only two had connnected.
In the first call, at 6.58pm, after explaining his medical conditions and current situation, he tells a controller: “I’ve got stuck on the chair and I can’t get off. I’ve got pancreatis (sic) and everything. I can’t get up to get it (the table) off.”
The call handler responds by telling him to keep calm but warning “it’s going to be a while before we can get to you.
“Help has been arranged but we prioritise our ambulances to attend the most life threatening emergencies… we aim to be with you within the next four hours unless we have an available ambulance sooner.”
With increasingly laboured breathing, Mr Green responds: “Oh, dear, the trouble is me neck’s going dead, I think I need somebody quick.”
Urged to remain calm
The operator urges him to remain calm and repeats it’s going to take them a little while to get out to him because of the high demand.
In his second call to EMAS at 7.41pm, he tells a different operator: “They reckon the ambulance is going to come in about four hours but I’m nearly collapsing now,” later adding “I feel like I’m going numb.
“The table’s sticking in me that much, I’m passing out now.”
The operator offers advice to make him more comfortable, with Mr Green moaning in pain throughout, before adding: ”we are experiencing a high demand from life threatening emergencies at the moment and we’ll have to prioritise our ambulances to attend those first.”
That was Mr Green’s last call.
Attempts at CPR
A double crewed ambulance was mobilised to Mr Green’s Cashmore View home at 8.14pm, arriving at 8.26pm, an hour and 28 minutes after the first emergency call.
The paramedics used a keycode Mr Green had given them to get into his home.
They found him unresponsive and, despite attempts at CPR by the two paramedics and the arrival of a mechanical chest compression device in another vehicle, he was pronounced dead at 8.53pm.
The family want to know why, when he said his neck was going dead, the operator appeared not to investigate this further.
Family still has questions
Although they received a response from EMAS in October last year explaining why they hadn’t responded more urgently the family still had questions.
In a statement questioning EMAS’s response, his daughters, Julie Green, 53, of Thurnby Lodge, Leicester and Tracy Abbott, who lives in New Zealand, said: “His posture was clearly restricting his airways.
“The autopsy picked up on the bruising on his neck where he was stuck on the table.
“We feel the call handlers spent too much time talking over our father and telling him there were more life threatening calls they had to answer, rather than listening to him and asking relevant questions about his breathing.
They said the family’s belief was that the situation had been summarised as “an old man stuck in a chair”.
“Rather than considering the life threatening situation that was communicated to them; a man with COPD, potential positional asphyxia from his neck being trapped against the table, rapid breathing rate, pancreatitis, numbness, sweating and near to passing out.”
Julie added: “I know my dad must have been at death’s door to dial 999, we want the truth and people to answer our questions so we can move on, my dad was failed.”
Want to stop this happening to other people
She said: “He was fine living on his own, he’d got it under control, he was on a care plan.
She added: “We want the truth about what happened that night, we don’t think their system was working correctly, we want to stop this happening to other people.”
The cause of death given for the father of three, who had four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, was bronchial pneumonia.
Julie added: “We didn’t expect him to die, he wasn’t at death’s door. My daughter had been round the day before and he was picking her kids up,
“A neighbour said he’d been gardening that morning.
“This to us does not a suggest a man that was ready to die.
“He was a strong character. We have been unable to start the grieving process or get on with our lives due to feeling that the ambulance service has let him down.”
What ambulance service said
Ben Holdaway, Director of Operations at East Midlands Ambulance Service said: “Representatives from our service have met with the family to personally offer sincere condolences for their sad loss, and to respond to their concerns.
“I am sorry that we were not able to send an ambulance sooner when Mr Green called for help in September 2018, and I appreciate the distress this has caused his family.
“A detailed reply to their concerns has been provided in writing and through conversations with them, and our dialogue continues.”
He added: “Whilst it is of no comfort to Mr Green’s family, significant investment by our commissioners announced in May last year has resulted in EMAS being able to address a fundamental gap in resources (staff and vehicles) needed to respond to emergency and urgent calls.
“The funding allowed the biggest frontline recruitment programme in EMAS’ history with over 200 new, additional colleagues being recruited and trained to join our frontline from the start of this year.
“Added together with further efficiencies at EMAS and our continued recruitment drive, patient services are improving.
“We are getting to patients faster, despite an increase in activity and on-going challenges outside of our control that act on our ability to respond, e.g hospital handover delays.”
His statement added: “The call was assessed and coded as not being immediately life-threatening or serious but requiring a Category 3 response.
“Nationally, the ambulance service aims to respond to Category 3 calls within 120 minutes (two hours) at least 9 times out of 10.
“We were sorry to have to advise Mr Green that we were experiencing a large volume of emergency calls, many of which were a higher clinical priority, and we would therefore aim to get an ambulance to him within four hours.
“However, an ambulance arrived at Mr Green’s home 88 minutes (one hour and 28 minutes) after his call. Tragically Mr Green had died.”
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