A terminally ill man had to wait almost seven hours for an ambulance after suffering a potentially deadly seizure at home.
Matt Smith was left fitting on the floor after he collapsed one evening, and despite his wife Hayley dialling 999, paramedics didn’t arrive until the early hours of the morning.
The 33-year-old has brain cancer and could die at any time because his tumour can suddenly grow.
But Hayley said she had to watch him lying on the floor ‘lifeless’ for hours last week when he suffered his second major fit in two days.
“I called NHS 24 at 6.15pm and they ordered an ambulance at around 7pm but it didn’t arrive until 1.30am, by which point Matt was exhausted,” she explained.
“Anyone who knows someone who’s had a seizure will know how much it takes out of them and, with Matt’s condition, it is much worse.
“So, to watch him just laying there lifeless for hours while I waited for medical help was really frightening. I couldn’t drive him myself in case he started fitting again in the car.”
After five hours of waiting, Hayley got a call from the ambulance control room to check if she definitely needed an ambulance sent to her home in Fauldhouse, West Lothian, because they were so busy.
“I couldn’t believe they were trying to get out of sending him one at all,” she said.
“I replied that he is a terminally ill brain cancer patient, he had fallen from standing when he had his seizure, he had indicated he was having chest pain and was having difficulty communicating, so, yes, he definitely needs urgent medical help and quickly.”
Medics finally arrived in the early hours of the next morning and apologised for the long delay.
“The paramedics were really nice and said when they saw Matt they were appalled that he had waited so long because they had attended so many needless call-outs before they got to us,” Hayley recalled.
“This is the third time this year we have had to wait over four hours for an ambulance to come out to Matt and each time we’re told the same thing by paramedics, so it’s definitely a major problem.
“I just want to ask people to stop and think, before they make a call for an ambulance, whether they really need one because, if they don’t, they’re potentially putting another person’s life in danger.
“Matt is still in hospital and isn’t doing great. He is vomiting a lot and is struggling to communicate so I am worried, and I just wish he could have been taken to hospital sooner.”
Matt, a hedge fund reconciliations analyst, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July 2016, just a year after he and Hayley got married.
He had been suffering from headaches and vision problems and a CT scan revealed a mass on the brain.
He was transferred to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, where a more detailed MRI scan confirmed an orange-sized tumour later diagnosed as a glioblastoma, one of the most aggressive types of brain cancer with an average prognosis of just 12 to 18 months.
After Matt’s chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the couple tried to remain positive and just “got on with life” until a scan in April last year revealed the tumour was growing again.
Matt had his second surgery in October, which took ten hours.
The pair have set up the Matthew Smith Fund with The Brain Tumour Charity. It has raised almost £50,000 to date for vital research.
They have been trying to make the most of every precious moment and, with Covid limiting travel options, Hayley has been arranging fun international-themed days at home.
“He has been through so much but continues to inspire me every day,” said Hayley.
Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie said: “Being forced to wait this long for an ambulance is disgraceful. The Government needs to ensure services can cope with demand.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We’ll be contacting the patient to apologise. Due to high demand, we were unfortunately unable to send a resource in the required time.”