Dartmouth mum tells of terror while daughter waited for 999 response

By Kate Cotton   |   Dartmouth Reporter   |
Sunday 19th June 2022 11:00 am
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Lynn Gunnigle and daughter Toni (Contributed )

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A DARTMOUTH mum said she was terrified for her daughter’s life as she heard her gasping for breath down the phone while she was waiting for 999 ambulance call handlers to respond.

Lynn Gunnigle’s daughter Toni suffered a life-threatening anaphylactic shock while at work last Friday. Toni called her mum for support while her boss was on hold waiting for an ambulance call handler to pick up. Frustrated at waiting her boss George put Toni in his car and took her to Torbay Hospital.

She said: “The phone just kept ringing on hold and no one picked up. I could hear her chest rasping and she kept saying ‘I can’t breathe mum, I can’t breathe! I was terrified. She’d taken some antihistamine medication, but it wasn’t strong enough, she needed medical help quick.

“Thank God her boss gave up, put her in his car and drove her to Torbay A&E. She was deteriorating further in the car and he rang 999 a second time on his hands-free, hoping they could meet him halfway. They failed to answer for a second time! It was still ringing out when they pulled into Torbay Hospital.

“Without her boss’ actions I dread to think of the outcome for my daughter. Others may not be so lucky and I don’t believe they were the only people this happened to today . Once might be bad luck, but twice means we had no emergency response at all at some point.”

Lynn’s daughter Toni Mulhearn was working in a Newton Abbot office when she suffered an anaphylactic shock. The 37-year-old mother of two had multiple allergies as a child and has managed to overcome most of them. She used to carry an EpiPen to administer anti-allergy medication but, mum Lynn said, because she hasn’t had a reaction for more than eight years, the pens were going out of date and getting thrown away.

After arriving at Torbay A&E last Friday Toni was stabilised and kept in overnight for further health tests.

Lynn said: “Within ten minutes of her arriving at A&E she was cared for. I’m so thankful to Toni’s boss, George Tranckle, for his quick thinking and assisting her at that crucial time, from all of our family. Also, the amazing staff at Torbay for swift intervention and care - we simply cannot thank them enough. The problem is not the staff on the ground – they’re doing a fantastic job – it’s the structure they’re working in that’s being broken down and sold off around them.

“The problem is not the care given but accessing it. Every nurse is doing the job of three nurses now. It’s really scary, especially for families like mine with allergies and other health issues. I want to weep in anger and fear at what this government is doing to the NHS. They’ve started dismantling the NHS and withdrawn their duty of care. These are acts usually used against an enemy in an arena of war. The NHS feels broken.

“They’re continuing to push through cuts of £430 million across Devon, leaving us all at risk. If we don’t have enough emergency telephone operators there’s nothing left to cut!”

Lynn said she has spoken to others in Dartmouth who’ve struggled to access emergency services in the town.

She said: “Along with many in Dartmouth I feel vulnerable at night when the ferries stop running. We’re cut off here, and now the 999 operators aren’t even picking up the phones I fear the worst is to come. I know of people who’ve left Dartmouth because they’re so worried.”

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said the national target is to answer 95 per cent of 999 calls within five seconds.

They added: “Due to the whole health and social care system being under sustained pressure, some people are experiencing longer call answering times than they would expect.

“We would urge people to only call 999 and request an ambulance in a life-threatening emergency. For non-life-threatening conditions people can access appropriate care by calling 111, visiting www.111.nhs.uk, contacting their GP or getting advice from a pharmacy.”

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