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'Angry and let down': Meningitis sufferer fighting for her life was left for four hours in a hospital corridor

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:36 15 March 2018

Amanda Buckland at her home in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Ian Burt

Amanda Buckland at her home in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

She lives in the knowledge that her extremely rare form of meningitis could claim her life at a moment's notice.

Amanda Buckland at her home in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Ian BurtAmanda Buckland at her home in Rockland All Saints. Picture: Ian Burt

But Amanda Buckland always thought that if the worst happened, doctors and nurses would act quickly to save her.

Yet while she is full of praise for paramedics who rushed to her aid when disaster struck on Boxing Day, the five-and-a-half hour wait for treatment she faced once arriving at hospital has left her feeling “angry and let down”.

Friend Mark Woods dialled 999 after a flare-up of her Mollaret’s meningitis – a recurring viral form of the disease – caused her to become feverish, start vomiting and experience severe muscle pain and confusion.

Paramedics Simon Read and Matthew Laws, from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), attended and took the crucial step of searching Google for more information about the condition before they arrived.

That decision proved crucial in saving her life, because treatment for a more common form of meningitis does not work with Mollaret’s and it meant she got the right care early.

Mr Read and Mr Laws also phoned the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in advance to warn medical staff of her condition.

But after arriving, it was 1hr and 30mins before Ms Buckland was taken off the ambulance due to the high level of demand, with the NNUH facing extreme winter pressures.

And when she did get into the hospital, she was left unconscious in a corridor for another four hours – meaning she waited a total of 5hrs and 30mins for treatment, even though her condition was potentially life-threatening.

Her long wait was only discovered because friends and family, along with Mr Read and Mr Laws, went back to the NNUH regularly to check on her.

Asked to comment about the case, a spokesman for the NNUH said: “We always treat patients according to clinical need, including during periods where demand on our services is high as was the case over Christmas.”

However there were said to be “quite heated discussions” with doctors about why the 35-year-old was not being treated sooner – particularly when it appeared people were being treated for less serious conditions while she waited.

“It makes me feel angry,” said Ms Buckland, who works a beauty therapist and a delivery driver of car parts.

“Someone who has had a few too many is getting treatment and I’m lying in a corridor fighting for my life.

“Why are they being attended to because they’re drunk and you’re fighting for your life?

“It makes me feel quite angry and let down. I’m a patient that needed attention straight away.”

Ms Buckland, of Rectory Road, Rockland All Saints, near Attleborough, believes the hospital could improve its triaging system – the order in which in treats people.

However the 35-year-old, who used to work for the rapid response unit at Wymondham Health Centre, also believes the hospital was under huge demand from winter pressures.

“A lot of ambulances were queued up to get in,” she said.

“It was complete chaos.”

The winter period was one of the most difficult periods the NNUH and other hospitals have had to face, as a higher level of sickness meant it dealt with higher demand than ever.

According to figures released by NHS England, more than 700 patients waited more than four hours at the NNUH’s emergency department during December.

The figures showed A&E waiting times across the country hit their lowest point in 14 years, with an average of 81pc of patients seen within the four-hour marker in the last month of 2017.

A&E department heads, including Tarek Kherbeck from the NNUH, later wrote to prime minister Theresa May to warn her of their “very serious concerns” for patient safety.

Ms Buckland, who knows of only three people in the country with the same condition as her, believes part of the responsibility falls to patients to make sure they do not unnecessarily put pressure on A&E departments and only visit in a genuine emergency.

Instead she believes patients should make use of services such as out-of-hours GP arrangements and the NHS’ 111 telephone service before going to hospital.

The NNUH said it “would encourage Ms Buckland to get in touch with us directly and would welcome the opportunity to discuss and address any concerns she may have”.

Ms Buckland receives support from charity Meningitis Now. She is a member of an online support group where she speaks to people across the world who have the condition.

Symptoms of meningitis include, fever, cold hands and feet, vomiting, confusion and irritability, severe muscle pain, pale, mottled skin, a dislike of bright lights, severe headache and stiff neck.

If you suspect that someone has meningitis, call 999 immediately.

For more information, visit www.meningitisnow.org

Heroic paramedics

“They’re my heroes – they saved me.”

That was Amanda Buckland’s response to the quick-thinking actions of East of England Ambulance Service paramedics Simon Read and Matthew Laws, whose response to her meningitis flare-up helped save her life.

Friend Mark Woods dialled 999 after a flare-up of her Mollaret’s meningitis – a recurring viral form of the disease – caused her to become feverish, start vomiting and experience severe muscle pain and confusion.

Whereas many medical staff might have immediately treated her for more common forms of meningitis, Mr Read and Mr Laws Googled her condition so they knew exactly how to treat her.

“I have never had anyone look up the condition to help me and for them to go that extra mile blew my mind away,” she said.

“My mum and friend told me what happened and it is lovely to know that they care about their job and they went that extra mile to help and they kept checking up on me at hospital.

“If I had waited I would not be here today to thank them.”

The 35-year-old, of Rectory Road, Rockland All Saints, near Attleborough, was reunited with Mr Read and Mr Laws recently, where she thanked them for their service.

“They were absolutely amazing, to learn about my condition before they actually attended,” she said.

“For them to do that means a massive amount to me. They are my heroes, they really are – they saved me.”

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