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Nurse, 61, had to DRAG her 87-year-old disabled mother into a car to take her to hospital when she had a stroke after being told she’d have to wait TEN HOURS for an ambulance


A 61-year-old nurse had to drag her 87-year-old disabled mother into the car to drive her to hospital and save her life when she had a stroke after being quoted a ten hour wait for an ambulance in Wales.

Karen Woods says when she rang 999 she was told paramedics would be there in less than two hours – fitting within the four-and-a-half-hour window for stroke patients to receive the ‘clot busting’ thrombolysis medicine.

However, after a one hour and 45 minute anxious wait at her home near Swansea holding her mother Doreen’s hand, the ambulance had still not arrived, forcing Karen to ring again – when she was told the wait was now a further eight hours.

To save her mother, the psychiatric nurse had to drag her into a wheelchair and carry her out of the house and into the car, with every movement causing immense pain to her mother’s osteoarthritis-ridden body.

‘If you ring an ambulance in Wales, nobody comes,’ Karen told MailOnline.

Karen Woods, 61, (left) with her mother Doreen, 87, who was told there would be a ten hour wait for an ambulance when her mother had stroke

Karen Woods, 61, (left) with her mother Doreen, 87, who was told there would be a ten hour wait for an ambulance when her mother had stroke

To save her mother, the psychiatric nurse had to drag her into a wheelchair and carry her out of the house and into the car

To save her mother, the psychiatric nurse had to drag her into a wheelchair and carry her out of the house and into the car

Karen noticed her elderly mother was ill before she headed out on a shopping trip on Saturday morning on February 3. 

She said her mother’s face and lips were completely white and she was shaking, with one side of her face drooped. 

The stroke left Doreen – a former teacher of more than two decades – blind and unable to speak and Karen knew she only had a short time to save her mother’s life. 

But when she dialled 999 at 9.45am in desperate need for help, she was told an ambulance would not arrive for at least one hour and 45 minutes. 

Karen held onto her mother’s hand throughout that time, waiting in hope paramedics would arrive.

To add to the frustration two ambulances drove past her house with lights flashing, giving the stricken daughter false hope that life-saving aid was nearby. 

‘I was holding her hand and just told her ‘the ambulance is coming, don’t worry’,’ she said.

‘I took her obs and they were horrendous, the blood pressure was horrendous. Everything about her was like she was going to die.’  

When the quoted time was up she called 999 again only to be astonishingly told the wait time had increased to eight hours. 

‘I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted to cry and I don’t do crying,’ an emotional Karen said. 

Doreen (right) playing the slap bass at her wedding party. She had worked as teacher in Lincoln for more than two decades before falling into ill-health

Doreen (right) playing the slap bass at her wedding party. She had worked as teacher in Lincoln for more than two decades before falling into ill-health

(Doreen pictured cuddling her granddaughter, Lily) Karen says the episode has seriously damaged her health and she is now 'one hundred times worse'

(Doreen pictured cuddling her granddaughter, Lily) Karen says the episode has seriously damaged her health and she is now ‘one hundred times worse’ 

‘My mother couldn’t see, she was blind [because of the stroke] and I didn’t know if she understood the situation or not. 

‘That doubled her fear and I’m sure she thought she was dying. 

‘I said [to the call handler] ‘she’s having a stroke you are practically condemning her to death’.  

‘She said ‘it’s not my fault’ and I said ‘I know, I understand it’s the system but my mum is very likely to die or be brain damaged because 999 isn’t working, is that the best you can do?’.’

Her frightened mother uttered ‘no help coming’ – her first words while in the midst of the stroke – which broke Karen’s heart. 

‘I could have cried my heart out as she tried so hard to speak the words and that’s what she said,’ Karen said. 

She knew if she sat and waited any longer her mother would more than likely die, so she dragged her 76kg (12 stone) mother into her wheelchair, and, with the help of her son, ‘crammed’ Doreen into the front seat of her Dacia Duster.

Karen said: ‘I don’t know how we did it – it was hurting her and every movement she was crying out in pain. It was very barbaric.’ 

After making the 20 minute driver to Morriston hospital, help arrived within minutes and Doreen was wheeled into the central hub for seriously ill people.

Karen had to drag her mother Doreen into her Dachia Duster and make the 20 minute trip to Morriston hospital (pictured), in Swansea, in order to save her life

Karen had to drag her mother Doreen into her Dachia Duster and make the 20 minute trip to Morriston hospital (pictured), in Swansea, in order to save her life

The specialist stroke team was around Doreen like ‘bees around nectar’ and after a CT scan administered the life-saving thrombolysis medicine with just 15 minutes to spare until the four hour and 30 minute window elapsed. 

Within two hours she could speak and see again, but Karen says the episode has seriously damaged her health and she is now ‘one hundred times worse’. She now suspects her mother is dying. 

‘You feel so powerless, I think that’s the main feeling,’ she said. ‘Of absolute helplessness. You can’t make a sensible decision, you can’t make a lifesaving decision because it’s taken out of your hands.’

She added: ‘She’s been a mighty fine woman and to be so shabbily treated at the end of her life which should really be the bit where you are feeling secure. 

‘You’ve paid into the system all your life and you think if you ring 999 something will happen. That’s the fundamental right really.’

Karen later found out the the emergency services phoned her home while she was in hospital and told her daughter paramedics would not be arriving at all and it was best for her to take her mother herself.  

‘The system is broken, but the staff when you get in through the door are absolutely fantastic,’ she said. 

‘It’s absolutely horrendous. People are terrified to be ill or to have a car crash as they know there is no help, nothing is coming. Nobody is coming. 999 does nothing. 

‘[Next time] I’ll cram her in the car, I’ll kick her in the car, I will strap her to the roof rack, I will get her to A&E myself. Honestly, I will strap her to a skateboard. 

‘I will never ever ring 999 again as it wasted one hour of 45 minutes of time when my mother could have been treated.

Karen later found out the the emergency services phoned her home while she was in hospital and told her daughter paramedics would not be arriving at all (Stock image of ambulances outside the University hospital of Wales in Cardiff)

Karen later found out the the emergency services phoned her home while she was in hospital and told her daughter paramedics would not be arriving at all (Stock image of ambulances outside the University hospital of Wales in Cardiff)

‘It’s a big pity after everything she has done and given that that the end of her life is full of fear that the one thing you rely on in times of really serious illness like that no longer exists to help you.’

Katie Chappelle, associate director for Wales at the Stroke Association, said there needs to be a faster response for someone with a suspected stroke to give ‘the best chance of survival’. 

‘Every minute wasted shortens the time window for stroke patients who could be receiving life changing treatments,’ she said. 

Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: ‘We sincerely apologise to Mrs Woods and her family for their experience in their time of need. We understand how distressing and frustrating this must have been, and it in no ways represents the level of service we want to give, and patients have a right to expect.

‘The NHS across the UK is under significant pressure as demand increases, putting pressure on our resources and our ability to respond to patients as promptly as we would like. 

‘These issues are well-documented across the country, and it is unfortunate when regrettably, we have to ask patients to make their own way to hospital because we have no ambulances available to respond in a timely manner.’

A Welsh government spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry to hear of this experience which is not the level of service we expect. 

‘The NHS across the UK is under significant pressure as demand increases, putting pressure on our resources and our ability to respond to patients as promptly as we would like. These issues are well-documented across the country, and it is unfortunate when regrettably, we have to ask patients to make their own way to hospital because we have no ambulances available to respond in a timely manner.

‘We will reach out to Mrs Woods as soon as possible to understand more about her experiences, to offer her and her family our apologies and the opportunity to formalise her concerns. 

‘Meanwhile, we are continuing to work closely with our Health Board partners to actively explore solutions to these complex system-wide issues, as the current situation is untenable for patients and staff across health and social care.’



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