‘I thought I was going to die’

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A COOKSTOWN woman has described how she feared for her life after her oxygen cylinder ran out at Antrim Area Hospital.

The 38-year-old who preferred not to be named, said she felt abandoned by nursing staff who were overwhelmed with work.

She suffered from chronic asthma and had taken seriously ill on January 2 this year. However when she went to hospital after being referred there by her out-of-hours doctor in Moneymore, she was astounded at how busy it was.

While she arrived at Antrim Hospital at 6.30pm, she was not seen until 7.30pm in Accident and Emergency and a nurse told her that she might have to wait.

However on realising just how seriously ill she was, the Cookstown woman was taken straight away for an X-Ray. On her return to A&E things just went downhill.

“I sat in a cubicle with the curtains pulled and they just kept forgetting about me,” she said. “Everytime I needed the toilet or something it was maybe an hour before they would come with it. I couldn’t even get my hands washed.

“They just didn’t have the time to cope with you. They hadn’t the time to get you anything or work with you,” she said.

The Cookstown woman revealed she had been waiting in a cubicle on a trolley from 7.30pm on Sunday evening until 5am on Monday morning.

Then at 5am she was allocated a proper hospital bed in A&E. “I lay there in casualty until 3pm,” she said. “They had moved that bed out onto a corridor. I was glad because I wasn’t being forgotten about behind the curtain.”

She said she was treated in the corridor. “There was no privacy. I lay in my clothes the whole night because they didn’t have the time to get me changed. They hadn’t even have time to get me a drink.

“I got changed into my pyjamas about four o’clock that day because my husband took me to the toilet to get me changed and washed,” said the 38-year-old.

“Then at 6pm they moved me into a cubicle in the same bed, still in casualty. They needed more room in the corridor. By this stage I had no food or anything,” she said, adding that she eventually got something to eat around 7.30pm.

She got a bed at 11pm on the Monday evening in A3 ward - 17 and a half hours after arriving at Antrim Area Hospital. “I was glad to get the bed.”

She has suffered from asthma since she was seven years old and has been a regular visitor to hospitals over the years.

“This actually scared me. I would rather die than go back to Antrim,” she said.

She explained that when she needs a nebuliser she needs it urgently but found that it was taking about an hour before anyone responded to her requests for one.

She struggled to get to the bathroom. “I couldn’t get my hands washed or anything,” she said adding that she did ask for wipes to clean her hands.

“It was a lot of bother to them because it was so understaffed. The nurses told me every trolley and bed was being used. They had nowhere else to put them.

“Somebody is going to die. My oxygen cylinder ran done. They were running out of oxygen and everything. They didn’t have enough because it was the bank holiday,” she said adding that she was without oxygen for around ten or 15 minutes.

“I’m still not right,” she said.

“The nurse came to me on the Monday morning to give me my antibiotics through the drip and she said, ‘I could just sit down here and cry. I can’t cope anymore’.

“In all my life I have never seen anything like it. No matter how many times I have been in and out of the hospital and casualty - that is the worst I have seen it.

“I thought I was going to die. I managed to text my mum. She was going to come down and take me home. But I just told her I would be back to the start again if I did go home - trying to get through casualty and this rigmarole again. I thought I would be better staying.

“I’ll learn for again that I’ll never be back,” she said.

“My husband stayed for a while but I sent him home as there was that much going on.

“I don’t know if it was the swine flu or what but there were ones running about with masks on.

“It is a downright disgrace closing the Mid Ulster Hospital when it is needed,” she said.

“I have never been treated as badly like the way I was treated in Antrim Hospital.

“No matter how busy the nurses were in Magherafelt they always had time to get you what you needed. They don’t have the resources in Antrim hospital. I blame nobody down there. They just don’t have the resources,” she said adding that she intends to make a formal complaint.

A spokesperson for the Northern Health Trust said: “We cannot comment on a specific patient or their treatment through the media. We would encourage the patient or anyone who has a complaint to contact us through the Trust complaints procedure so we can formally investigate and respond to them.

“The Northern Trust apologises unreservedly to anyone who has had to wait for a bed at Antrim Area Hospital. In common with all major hospitals in Northern Ireland we experienced high levels of emergency activity. Recent prolonged bad weather and increasing numbers of patients presenting with seasonal illness have resulted in increased demand on the Trust’s Emergency Departments.

“We have increased staffing levels to ensure patients receive appropriate care,” said a spokesperson.

“We would appeal again to members of the public not to attend the emergency department unless really necessary. Emergency cases will be given priority.”