A 37-year-old woman claims she ‘died’ for five minutes after going into cardiac arrest in an A&E waiting room, following a wait of more than two hours for an ambulance.
Natalie McMorran woke in the middle of the night with chest pains and believing she was having a heart attack, her partner Thomas Tapping, 35, called 999.
The call handler logged the call but the couple made the decision to drive themselves to hospital after an ambulance failed to show up after more than two hours.
Minutes after arriving at University Hospital Coventry, Ms McMorran says she suffered a cardiac arrest while in the waiting room and her heart stopped for a full five minutes before she was resuscitated.
The former betting shop worker spent a week in intensive care, followed by a further week in the critical care unit (CCU), with investigations ongoing as to the cause of her arrest.
She says she had no pre-existing heart condition, but has since been diagnosed with coronary heart disease and had two stents fitted.
The couple, from Rugby, Warwickshire, have since complained about the incident to University Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust over the ambulance delays.
Ms McMorran said: "I was scared - I knew something was seriously wrong with me and the ambulance kept trying to brush it off.
“We waited two and a half hours for an ambulance before Thomas decided to take me to the hospital instead.
“We waited half an hour in A&E once we got there and I couldn’t get comfy – I had to lie myself on the floor in this little corridor and people kept coming over and having a go at me.
“I begged triage for a bed and threw up in the room but they still sent me back out. I don’t remember much after that as once I was back in the waiting room I had a fit and then a cardiac arrest.
“I was resuscitated after five minutes and moved to intensive care where I stayed for a week before being moved to CCU.
“The doctor said he wished I’d been seen sooner. I feel like I’ve been let down and now I get out of breath just going to the car.
“It could have been dealt with better and if they’d picked up on it sooner it might have been different.”
‘It was touch and go’
Ms McMorran said she started to get chest pains when she woke up at 1am on 22 March, after suffering a “funny turn” earlier on.
She explained: “I had a funny turn earlier on in the day and thought I was just a bit light-headed.
“I went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 1am feeling like I’d been hit with a brick in-between my shoulders.
“I was getting really hot and would go to get some fresh air by the door to cool down before getting really cold and needing to heat up under a blanket."
Her partner called 999 and explained what was happening, but was told they would need to wait.
She said her symptoms began to ease off and she managed to fall asleep, but quickly woke up again and started throwing up and had an extreme temperature.
At around 3am, Mr Tapping drove her to hospital and claims they had to wait another 30 minutes until they were seen by the triage nurse who told her to go back into the waiting room.
Just 20 minutes later, she claims she suffered a cardiac arrest in the waiting room and her heart stopped for five minutes before she was revived by doctors on scene.
Ms McMorran was then moved to intensive care for two weeks and had been told she may need a heart transplant, but she did not require the surgery in the end.
She said she had to quit her job and now has to take 12 tablets a day to manage her symptoms.
The incident has left her with just 25% of her heart function and she says the outcome would have been different if she had been seen by medics earlier.
She said: “I’m just really annoyed that they didn’t take me seriously and palmed me off back to the waiting room.
“It was a really big rollercoaster ride the whole time I was there – it was really touch and go and they told my family they didn’t know if I would make it through.”
A spokesperson for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.
“UHCW NHS Trust is committed to providing safe, high quality healthcare for our patients at all times and aims to learn from all feedback provided.
“Our Patient Advice and Liaison Service will be working with the family to look into their feedback and provide appropriate support.”
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman added: “We would like to apologise to Ms McMorran for the delayed response.
“We received a call at 1.21am on Tuesday 22nd March to a patient with breathing difficulties, a Category 2 call. Further calls were received at 2.00am, 2.18am and 3.13am, during which the patient was re-triaged, and on each occasion a Category 2 response was generated, the second highest.
“The whole of the NHS remains under severe pressure and unfortunately, long hospital handover delays mean some patients are waiting far longer for an ambulance to come to them than we would want.
“We continue to work with local partners to find ways to reduce the delays so that our crews can respond more quickly. Our staff and volunteers work tirelessly to respond as soon as we can.”