Teenage crash victim 30 minutes from death after three-hour wait for ambulance

A mum has told how her seriously-injured son asked "am I going to die" as he waited three hours for an ambulance at the roadside after a crash.

Ethan Gamble with his family outside their Market Drayton home
Ethan Gamble with his family outside their Market Drayton home

Ethan Gamble, 17, from Market Drayton, had been hurt in a motorbike crash on July 12, with medics telling his family that had he gone another 30 minutes without help he would have died.

Ethan, who works at McDonald's and hopes to study applied sciences, had been out with his father Jason, 46, for a motorbike ride to celebrate his birthday.

However the birthday excitement turned to horror when the 17-year-old hit a branch in the road as they rode through Betton, coming off the bike and breaking his wrist and his pelvis in three places.

Unbeknownst to Ethan or his father, the crash had also damaged his kidney, leaving the teenager suffering from internal bleeding.

It took two hours and fifty minutes for a community first responder to arrive at the scene, and three hours for the ambulance crew which eventually transported him to Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Ethan Gamble hit a branch while riding through the hamlet of Betton. Photo: Google

Ethan's mum, Emma Gamble, told how her son had no detectable pulse by the time help arrived – with medics telling her that another half hour of waiting would have been fatal.

It is the latest in a series of shocking cases which show the severity of the strain on the ambulance service in the county – driven by long handover times at hospitals, and problems with discharging medically fit patients from hospitals to beds in the community.

West Midlands Ambulance Service has repeatedly outlined its concerns over the impact on its response times, saying the number of serious incidents had been increasing every month – as ambulances wait for thousands of hours outside hospitals, unable to respond to calls.

Ethan and his parents had received vital help from several passers by while waiting at the roadside, including community nurse Polly Stevens, senior hospital nurse Gareth Hurley, and an off-duty trauma doctor – as well as two women who stood and diverted traffic.

The initial call to the ambulance service had been at 3.28pm.

At that point, due to the ongoing ambulance crisis, there were no ambulances available in the entire of Shropshire to respond.

Throughout the day the trust's ambulances lost more than 1,900 hours waiting outside hospitals in the region.

West Midlands Ambulance Service has apologised over the response, and said an investigation into the incident is underway.

While waiting at the side of the road four calls were made asking for help and checking when it would arrive.

Mrs Gamble said she did not want to consider what would have happened without the help of those who had stopped.

She said: "If it was not for those people stopping and helping he would not be here now."

The 39-year-old, who works at Muller in Market Drayton, praised the "amazing" actions of the ambulance staff when they arrived, but said they wanted answers over why they had been delayed so long.

She said: "The ambulance crew when they attended were amazing. The length of time is what concerns me. Another 30 minutes and my son would have died from internal bleeding.

"If it was not for those people stopping and helping he would not be here now."

Ethan, who has two brothers, returned home on Sunday after a month in hospital, with hopes for a full recovery.

Mrs Gamble explained the horror of sitting and waiting for help to come.

She said: "It was absolutely heartbreaking. Obviously initially you are scared to death because you hear that he has come off his bike.

"When I saw him I thought 'he's sat up, he's okay' – I could not see any external injuries but as the hours went on and on his lips turned blue and he lost all his colour.

"He looked at me and said 'mum, am I going to die?', I just said 'no, of course you're not'."

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “We would like to apologise to the patient for the delayed response.

"The ambulance service relies on each part of the health and social care system working together so that our ambulances can get to patients in the community quickly.

"Sadly, the pressures we are seeing in health and social care lead to long hospital handover delays with our crews left caring for patients that need admitting to hospital rather than responding to the next call.

"The result is that our crews are delayed reaching patients.

"We are working incredibly hard with all of our NHS and social care partners to prevent these delays, looking at new ways to safely hand over patients quickly so that our crews can respond more rapidly and save more lives.”

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