Terrified Scots mum feared baby would die after lack of ambulance crews left family stranded


A terrified mum battled to keep her two-year-old alive on a harrowing journey to hospital after being told there were no ambulances available.

With little Calli Milne turning blue, her parents Samantha and Stuart, both 36, feared she would die before she got to hospital.

But the ambulance service told them they did not have a crew who could get her and asked if anyone else could drive her to hospital.

With the nearest accident and emergency an hour away by road, the panic-stricken parents had no option but to drive her themselves.

Calli suffers from the breathing condition croup, which can develop into stridor – a condition which causes the voicebox to swell and restricts the airways.



Call handlers told Samantha no ambulances were available (file picture)

When her condition gets really bad, Calli has to be given urgent steroids at hospital or she could die from lack of oxygen.

Mum-of-three Samantha told how she dialed 999 as Calli struggled for breath.

She said: “She was trying to speak but couldn’t get her words out. At one point she said, ‘Mum, mum, Calli can’t breathe, Calli can’t breathe’.

“That was the most horrible part. Her face was the color of beetroot trying to get a breath and her mouth and nose were going blue.

“When I phoned 999 it ranged out for ages before it was even picked up.

“When I eventually did get through, the first question they asked was if she was breathing. I said, ‘Yes’ but that she was really struggling.”

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Samantha told the phone operator what had happened and then the controller told her: “I haven’t got an ambulance for you, there is nothing available to give you. Do you have a relative who could drive you?”

The family lives in Rhu, in Dunbartonshire, and the nearest A&E is an hour’s drive away, in Glasgow.

So, they had no choice but to get Calli into the car and drive.



Samantha thought Calli - pictured with sisters Courtney and Brooke - was going to die
Samantha thought Calli – pictured with sisters Courtney and Brooke – was going to die

Samantha said: “I had to hold her neck up because she couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even get her in the car seat. I was holding her de ella as
Stuart drove.

“I don’t know how fast we were going but it was far from safe – we were absolutely flying along that back road. All we wanted was to get Calli some help but there could have been serious consequences.

“As we were driving, she vomited but she didn’t have the puff or energy to get her vomit up out her throat.

“I had to put my fingers in her mouth and scoop out the vomit to try to clear her airway. By then we knew if we drove to Glasgow Calli wasn’t going to make it.

“It was only another five minutes to the local Vale of Leven Hospital, so although they didn’t have an A&E department I knew they would have equipment which could keep her alive so we decided to go there even if they turned us away.

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“My child was literally fighting for her life in front of us.”

When the couple arrived at the hospital in Alexandria, staff took Calli in straight away and administered steroids.

Within two hours, the little girl had recovered enough to be allowed home.

But Samantha’s local MSP, Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, has demanded answers over the family’s order two weeks ago.

Baillie said: “That journey must have seemed like a nightmare.

“If a mother was trying to stop her two-year-old from suffocating on her own vomiting it must have been the scariest thing.

“I can’t believe they were dismissed on a phone call.

“The need for an ambulance was self-evident to everyone including her parents and the people who saw her at the Vale.

“For someone to basically tell parents they were on their own with a child struggling to breathe is shocking.”



Labor MSP Jackie Baillie has demanded answers
Labor MSP Jackie Baillie has demanded answers

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service blamed a high volume of calls that evening for the “longer wait time for an ambulance for this patient”.

She said: ”Although we are limited in what we can say due to patient confidentiality, we advised the patient’s family that we were extremely busy and asked if they had any other means of traveling to A&E.

“At no point was an ambulance refused, and we advised the caller to ring back immediately if there was any change in the patient’s condition.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The pandemic has been the biggest challenge the NHS has faced in its 73-year existence and has heaped pressure on our ambulance service and wider NHS.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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