Wife tells of heart attack race for life

A CONCERNED wife today called for specialist heart care in Ipswich after her sick husband endured a race for life across Suffolk and Essex.

A CONCERNED wife today called for specialist heart care in Ipswich after her sick husband endured a race for life across Suffolk and Essex.

Anne Huckle, from Felixstowe, told how she was fraught with worry when husband Brian, 62, suffered a heart attack in the early hours of Saturday morning.

An ambulance crew arrived and stabilised Mr Huckle before taking him on a 65-mile journey to Basildon, during which he suffered another heart attack.

Mrs Huckle, 63, a great grandmother, said the care he received was excellent but the journey had been a traumatic experience for her, admitting she feared her husband would not last the distance.

She has given her firm backing to The Evening Star's Have a Heart appeal, which is raising money to fund a specialist heart attack centre at Ipswich Hospital.

Mrs Huckle, of Exmoor Road, said: “I kept saying to the paramedics when they were in the house 'do we really have to go all that way?'.

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“The journey in the ambulance was just awful. It felt like two hours. It was a real ordeal for me.

“At one point I thought he was going to fall off the bed. You think the worst is going to happen and that he wouldn't make it.

“I don't think he would have lasted without the drugs.”

Since the beginning of this month, serious heart attack patients have been taken to high-tech angioplasty centres in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth in Cambridge and Basildon in Essex, following proposals by the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group.

Mr Huckle was due to be transferred to Ipswich Hospital on Sunday morning where his wife had planned to visit him but due to a shortage of beds, he was forced to stay in Basildon until he was discharged on Monday.

Mrs Huckle said: “He has been well looked after and that is the main thing. He is very happy with the care he received.

“But because he had to stay in Basildon on Sunday, I didn't get to see him all day. I had to get my son-in-law to bring me to Basildon to pick him up on the Monday as I don't drive and there was no transport available.

“I saw the Star's campaign before this and I did support it but it wasn't really something in my mind. But we really do need this centre in Ipswich.”

Mr Huckle was given clot busting drugs in the ambulance before receiving specialist care at the Basildon Hospital. He is now making a full recovery at home.

Do you support this campaign? Tell us why - write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

See pages 6 and 7 for a look at more controversial health issues.

Dr Nick Morton, joint medical director for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “The Basildon Unit opened on September 1, and is already showing some early successes. The decision about which unit patients are conveyed to is based on the judgement of the crew concerned and the distance to be travelled.

“The journey took 1 hour 12 minutes which is well within the acceptable time frame.”

Jan Rowsell, Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman, said: “As we are an emergency hospital unfortunately there are times we simply do not have the beds we need in the right place. We are looking very carefully at this. We are doing a lot of work to manage our beds in a better way.”

Saturday, September 12: Mr Huckle suffers chest pains, believed to be a heart attack.

12.27am: A call is made to the ambulance service

12.33am: The crew from the East of England Ambulance Trust arrives at his Felixstowe home. Before leaving for the hospital, they assessed his condition and stabilised him to ensure he was ready for the journey

1.26am: The crew takes him to Basildon Hospital. He is given clot busting drugs in the back of the ambulance.

2.36am: He arrives at Basildon Hospital where he is given an angioplasty.

10.30am: Mrs Huckle's son in law picks her up and brings her home to Felixstowe

Sunday morning, September 13: Mr Huckle is due to be transferred to Ipswich Hospital but as there are no beds available, he remains in Basildon Hospital.

Monday afternoon, September 14: Mrs Huckle has to get a lift from her son-in-law again to pick her husband up from Basildon and bring him home.

PROPOSALS by health chiefs to treat all emergency heart attack patients in specialist primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres in Norwich, Papworth in Cambridgeshire, and Basildon in Essex sparked outrage among Evening Star readers who feared people would not be treated in time.

Heart tsar Professor Roger Boyle ordered a trial period to test journey times from east Suffolk to the specialist centres.

Currently emergency heart attack victims are given clot-busting drugs by paramedics or in hospital.

The plans by the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group (SCG) would still see them being given clot-busting drugs in the back of ambulances, but they would then would be taken to one of the specialist centres to undergo angioplasty, which involves using a balloon to clear blocked arteries.

After the pilot, which began on September 1 and will last at least three months, experts will study survival rates and then make a further recommendation.

The Department of Health's research shows that of the people who are treated at the Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) centres within 120 minutes of calling for help and do not receive clot-busting drugs, 2.7 per cent die.

For those treated between 120 minutes and 180 minutes after the call, the percentage of people who do not survive reaches 4.5pc. If it takes more than 180 minutes the number leaps to 11.4pc.

Originally health bosses said people in the east should be able to be treated within 120 minutes, then it was increased to 150 minutes, and then 165 minutes - which is the time limit for east Suffolk.

The SCG say the establishment of the PPCI centres will save an estimated 50 lives a year in the east of England

Have A Heart appeal

The Evening Star has been campaigning for a primary angioplasty centre to be set up in Ipswich so residents have the best level of care possible and don't face long journeys for treatment

More than 24,000 people signed a petition against the plans, and the Star took the petition to 10 Downing Street, accompanied by the Heartbeat East Suffolk and prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives Ben Gummer.

After successfully changing healthcare policy with our campaign we have now launched the 'Have a Heart' appeal which is raising money to help set up a catheter laboratory at Heath Road

The Star is asking for just one pound from every person who may need care at Ipswich Hospital's cardiac department in the future - which would collect around �350,000

The lab will originally be used to treat non-urgent heart operations but could eventually be expanded into a primary angioplasty centre

Donations have been flooding in since the Have A Heart Appeal began a few weeks ago.

The appeal is asking for just one pound from every person who may need care at Ipswich Hospital's cardiac department in the future - which would collect around �350,000.

However our readers have been so generous, with many donating well over �1, meaning the total is already exceeding �11,800.

To support the 'Have a Heart' appeal send cheques made payable to Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust to Have a Heart, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or donate money in person at the Star's Ipswich offices.

PLANS to treat all emergency heart attack patients in PPCI centres - which are all outside Suffolk - were revealed after The Evening Star uncovered them in an obscure board paper.

The East of England SCG refused to hold a consultation despite the outrage caused, however the concerns became so widespread that a review was called for just ten days before the move was due to take place.

During a board meeting NHS Suffolk's chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown apologised for not giving the public their say over heart attack care.

Mrs Taylor-Brown admitted the NHS in the east had failed patients by not talking about the changes with them or listening to their views.

She said: “I don't know how I can apologise enough for the way the NHS has conducted the exchange of information about this.

“I fully accept that the NHS got it wrong.”

As a result a series of meetings have been held and leaflets have been sent out to households in the region to explain the situation.