Five-hour hospital wait then sent home to die - grief-stricken woman wants answers after partner dies aged just 52
PUBLISHED: 06:30 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 05 February 2018
"He should still be here" - those were the poignant words of a woman whose 52-year-old partner died on the side of the road in back of an ambulance, after he had been discharged from hospital just hours earlier.
Sat in her cosy living room in High Kelling, surrounded by cards of condolence and the last bunch of flowers her partner, Brian Havard, ever bought her, Ms Day relived the traumatic hours before his untimely death.
“It was Monday (January 8), we were meant to fly to Thailand on the Wednesday,” she said. “He loved Thailand, absolutely loved it, he rented rooms there.”
Mr Havard had come home from work at Kier to the couple’s former railway cottage in Bridge Road. But he soon popped out to their off-the-grid cabin off Cromer Road to pick up a few bits before their holiday.
“But then the phone went and he said ‘can you come up here I need help’, Ms Day said.
“So I dropped everything and when I got up there he was outside the door collapsed, holding his chest and vomiting violently. I went to put my arm around him and he said ‘don’t touch me, it hurts too much’.”
Ms Day, 63, called 999 - it was 11.32pm - and an ambulance arrived at 11.40pm.
“I used to do palliative nursing,” she said. “But there was very little I could do for him, I got him inside to the bed. He was very agitated, which was not Brian, he was usually so laid back he was almost horizontal.”
Ms Day said paramedics arrived and did an ECG - which did not show anything - but they worked on Mr Harvard in the back of the ambulance for at least half an hour before setting off to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), where they arrived more than two hours after her first call, at 1.34am.
At the time, the region’s NHS was under intense pressure, with ambulance queuing at A&E and patients being treated in corridors.
“On the way he asked for pain relief, he asked for morphine. The two women, the paramedics, they were amazing. But he kept asking how much further.”
When they did arrive at A&E, they were told they were 17th in a queue of 20 ambulances and they would face a five and a half hour wait.
“During the wait a nurse came out and spoke to the paramedics but she never examined him,” she said.
“I might have been better taking him to the vets, we sat in the back of that cold ambulance for hours.”
They were finally taken in at 6.02am, but Ms Day said he had continued to vomit in the back of the ambulance.
“I was getting worried because both our dogs, Shadow and Lacey, were up at the cabin - we called it our hobbit house - but in A&E they said they were waiting for another blood test and a chest x-ray, and they said he’ll be fine and would be there a while.”
So Ms Day - who was still in her dressing gown - got a taxi home, intending to look after the dogs, get changed and rush straight back to Mr Havard’s side.
But as she was leaving to head back to the hospital - having only been gone a maximum of two hours - the phone rang.
“It was Brian,” she said. “He said ‘can you come and get me, I’ve been discharged?’”
In disbelief, Ms Day drove back to the hospital and found Mr Havard sitting in the public area of A&E, where he told her he had been sick again.
“I took one look at him and he was hardly able to move. I asked if it was okay and they said yes, he’s to go home,” she said.
He had been told he was simply suffering with skeletal pain.
“I helped him into the car, disbelieving everything, but what could I do? I stopped three times on the way home for Brian to vomit and I said ‘I’ve got to take you back’ but he said ‘no take me home’. We got home, in the door, and managed to get him upstairs and he collapsed, that was it.”
Ms Day’s son called 999 at 11.59am, and a paramedic in a car arrived 12 minutes later. However, an ambulance wasn’t available to take Mr Havard to hospital for more than an hour and a half - two ambulances were diverted to higher priority calls during this time.
“Even the paramedic was angry,” she said. “I saw him on the phone quite irate. We waited and eventually he said at last a crew is coming - they tried to divert it and he said ‘no I need it now’.
“Brian was on my bed in agony. Had he been in that hospital and collapsed like that there would have been everything there, if that had happened at the hospital he would have been taken straight to the ICU.”
Ms Day was told the ambulance was around five minutes away, so to go ahead in her car and meet them at the hospital.
“Brian opened his eyes and said ‘kiss, cuddle, love you’,” she said.
And was the last time Ms Day saw him alive.
“I got to A&E and I waited for an hour, I went to the desk and they said he wasn’t there yet. I stayed there until tea-time-ish, I even went round to the A&E where the ambulances were and someone escorted me out.”
Finally, hours later, she was taken through to a small room.
“As soon as I got in that room with no windows I knew what was coming,” she said. “I was told they had to stop on the side of the road and call the air ambulance and they fought for an hour on the side on the road and failed.”
Mr Havard, who has two sons and was a grandfather, was just 52.
And Ms Day said he had been welcomed into her family when she met him at the beginning of the summer in 2016.
Now, she said she had been left heartbroken and wanting answers over how a seemingly fit and healthy man could have died.
“I still have no cause of death, nearly a month later,” she said.
“It’s been a nightmare since, I go to bed and Brian is there. I’m devastated, I’m numb, It’s like a living nightmare. I keep going over and over it.
“He should never have been discharged - he had a massive heart attack 12 years ago, surely they should have looked at that.
“He was my world. When I met him he looked like a sunset on a long afternoon in his orange work suit. It was the first time I have been happy in many, many years.”
“He was a hard-working man. He was content with life, he worked to live and get to Thailand - I need to take his ashes back there. But people are in jeopardy, their lives are at risk in our own NHS system now.
“I know Brian would fight for what is right and if I let this go I would in my mind be saying what happened was okay. And if this makes a difference, this has got to stop.”
• Ms Day said donations were being collected in Mr Havard’s memory for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, and could be made via Foxes Funeral Directors in Cromer.
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Trust said: “We would like to send our condolences to the family of the deceased and apologise for any distress caused by the wait for an ambulance.
“At 11.32pm on January 8, the ambulance service received a 999 call to reports of a patient with breathing problems and chest pain in Cromer Road, High Kelling. An ambulance arrived at 11.40pm and took the patient to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for further treatment.
“The patient arrived at the hospital at 1.34am and was handed over to hospital staff at 6.02am.
“At 11.59am on January 9, the ambulance service received a 999 call to reports of a patient passing out at a property in Bridge Road, High Kelling.
“A rapid response vehicle attended and arrived at 12.11pm.
“Two ambulances were assigned to the job at 11.59am and 12.17pm but were diverted to higher priority calls.
“When an ambulance became free at 1.45pm the crew was assigned the job and arrived at 1.58pm and took the patient to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
“If the family of the patient would like to get in touch, the trust would welcome the opportunity to look in to this further.”
A spokesman from NNUH added: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of Brian Havard following his death last month.
“As is our normal practice, an internal investigation has commenced and we will keep Mr Havard’s family fully informed.
“When the investigation has been concluded, we will of course offer a meeting with the family to discuss and openly share our findings with them.”