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Diabetic who feared for his life was refused ambulance

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: July 04, 2013

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A DIABETIC has relived the terrifying moment he was refused an ambulance as he felt himself slipping into a potentially fatal coma.

Now he is warning other patients in the mid-Somerset area not to give up if they too are refused an ambulance.

Kevin Browne was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about 15 years ago and has to have four life-saving injections of insulin each day.

While people with Type 2 diabetes can often manage their health very well, the severity of Mr Browne's Type 1 condition rules his life with devastating health consequences.

Over the past decade and a half, the 43-year-old has had to call out an ambulance between 15 and 25 times. Twice he has had to be brought out of a diabetic coma.

But after falling ill last Tuesday night, Mr Browne – who lives alone – feared the worst.

"I had been sick for three to four hours and was, literally, lying on the bathroom floor," he said.

"I could feel myself slipping closer and closer into unconsciousness."

But his middle-of-the-night call for help turned into a nightmare when the 999-call operator refused to send out an ambulance to his Stratton-on-the-Fosse home.

He said: "I could hardly speak and kept being sick but he just kept asking lots of questions. I can't even tell you what he was asking me. It went on for about 10 to 15 minutes.

"I know at times he couldn't understand me, but he just kept saying he needed these questions answered. In the end I was screaming down the phone 'get me an ambulance please, please, please'.

"I was frightened for my life. I could feel it getting worse. I knew it would take 20 minutes or so to get an ambulance to me and I'd already wasted about 15 minutes on the phone call.

"He was completely ignoring what I was saying. I knew I only had minutes left."

When the operator eventually told him he didn't think he needed an ambulance, Mr Browne slammed down the phone and immediately dialled 999 again.

"I was panicking but I explained as best as I could to the second operator what was happening and he immediately sent out a paramedic.

"He called out an ambulance but I don't really know anything that happened then.

"By the time the ambulance had arrived I couldn't speak."

Mr Browne said he was taken by ambulance to Bath RUH where for three days he was treated for his symptoms.

"When I was in hospital I made an original complaint and then when I came home on Friday I had all the forms sent to me," he said.

"Normally I'm a laid-back kind of guy, but what if this had happened to an elderly patient with diabetes, or someone who didn't realise how severe it was getting? It would have been fatal.

"That is why, in hindsight, I'm so disappointed with the reaction from the operator. At least the call was recorded so I hope that will help to make sure this never happens again.

"But if any other diabetic patient finds themselves in the same position do the same as I did, put down the telephone and ring again. Don't give up hope."

An investigation is now being carried out by South Western Ambulance Service.

Diabetes UK has advice for patients. See www.diabetes.org.uk for more information.

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