Grandad in tears left lying on ice in pain for three hours waiting for ambulance
A son has told how his dad was forced to lay on the snow and ice-covered ground “in that much pain he was literally crying” while an ambulance took three hours to get to him.
George Arnold, 75, suffered a bad fall while walking his dog, Cappie, on slippery footpaths on Wednesday, before making a distressing phone call to his son when he knew there would be no use in trying to get up.
Son Ian rushed to the scene assuming his dad would have been in the ambulance and on his way to hospital.
But by the time her got there he was shocked to find his old man still lying where he fell, chilled to the bone and developing hypothermia, which can be fatal.
Ian and a pal were forced to peel George off the ice and carefully place him onto a fishing bed and into the back of a van.
His embarrassed dad looked at him in distress and fear he was going to “cry in front of everyone” before “screaming in agony” with eyes rolling his head.
Ian told the Echo: “My dad called me and just basically said he had a fall and couldn’t get up. He said a man and a girl who where nearby had called him an ambulance and they said they’re on their way.
“A little old lady who lived nearby had brought him a blanket. I said shall I come down and he said there wasn’t much point because the ambulance was coming.
“I phoned my sister and she said we should go down anyway just in case, so I got a few bits together and we drove up.
“I turned up fully expecting him not to be there, but he was literally just lying on the ice.”
The North West Ambulance Service was battling “100” other emergencies at the time, “waiting in the Merseyside area alone”, a spokesperson said.
The pensioner from St Helens was suffering from hypothermia by the time he was rushed to hospital.
The ambulance service has apologised and vowed to investigate after the 75-year-old’s traumatic ordeal in St Helens, in an area between Clock Face Road and Cranshaw Avenue.
The ordeal began when the pensioner slipped on the icy ground, which was some distance from the roadside, and knew instantly he had seriously injured himself.
Ian said he received a call at around 3.25pm from his distressed dad – who is diabetic and has twice suffered from cancer.
Ian said he tried to lift his dad’s leg to place something underneath him but the smallest movement was agonising.
He said: “He was in that much pain he was literally crying. The 999 operator said don’t move him because it could cause more damage, and just to keep him as warm as we could.”
Ian says he was told an ambulance would be on the way “as soon as possible” but as time dragged on his dad began to deteriorate.
He said: “After about two and half hours my dad was shaking like a leaf, and he said he was feeling sick. He started telling me he could not feel his left leg any more.
“He kept saying, ‘I don’t think I am going to make it’. I phoned the ambulance again and said ‘look, you are going to have to get here now’.”
Ian said the 999 operator could say nothing more than an ambulance was “on the way” and eventually a manager was brought over, who asked to speak to his dad.
But as Mr Arnold was conscious and able to respond, the severity of the 999 call was not escalated and the pensioner was left on the ice.
Ian said he knew at this stage he could not wait any longer, and called his ‘best mate’ John Jenson, who drove as close as possible with the van and the fishing bed.
He said Mr Arnold was struggling to remain conscious, and had been lying on the ice so long his clothes were stuck to it.
Ian said: “I told my dad ‘I’m sorry, we are going to have to lift you onto this fishing bed’. He said ‘but I am going to cry in front of everyone’, as there were quite a few people there by then.
“We had to literally peel him off the ice and he was screaming in agony. We managed to carry him over to the van and all the way to the hospital his eyes were rolling in his head.”
Fortunately Ian and Mr Jenson managed to get Mr Arnold to A&E at Whiston Hospital where he was treated for hypothermia and began coughing up blood – which Ian says he was told may have been related to exposure to the cold.
The pensioner underwent surgery to his hip today and is recovering well, said Ian.
He said: “I understand that there is a pandemic and there must be a lot of pressure, but just because he wasn’t bleeding and was conscious does not mean he wasn’t an emergency.”
Ian also added he wanted to praise the “amazing community spirit” of the passers by who helped including Reese Jones, the man who called 999 and waited with him for over two hours.
He said: “There was quite a lot of concerned people that brought him blankets and stuck around in the bitter cold, and I was cold too, probably -2°, that’s what my car said when I got in it later.”
Ian has submitted a formal complaint.
The ambulance service said it had been under particularly heavy pressure on Wednesday afternoon.
A spokesperson said: “We understand that waiting for an ambulance can be distressing and uncomfortable.
“We are very sorry that we were unable to get to Mr Arnold as quickly as we would have liked, and his family had to seek alternative methods of getting him to hospital.
“Although we do take into account patients being outside in the cold, we must also prioritise incidents based on the severity of their condition, so that we can get to those who need the most immediate help first, and unfortunately, at the time of this call, we were experiencing an extremely high volume of calls, with more than 100 emergencies waiting in the Merseyside area alone.
“We have been contacted by Mr Arnold and we will now be conducting a full review into what happened, the findings of which will be shared with him and his family.
“We do hope Mr Arnold recovers soon and wish him well for his forthcoming surgery.”