Woman Details Frustrating Experience With The Ambulance That Led To Her Husband's Death
"I promised her that I would tell her story."
What started off as a friendly chat unveiled the dire state of emergency services in Malaysia when Syahiza Radzi found out that her neighbour's "perfectly healthy" husband had passed away several weeks ago.
"Walking to my apartment this afternoon, I noticed that the wife of the couple next door is at their entrance hall (they had moved out temporarily since the beginning of August due to burst pipes that needed some extensive fixing). So I say hello and ask how the renovations are going," Syahiza wrote on Facebook.
"She paused and tells me that it's been slow... and that her husband passed away seven weeks ago; which shocked me as that is approximately the last time I saw them both and he was perfectly healthy."
Seven weeks ago, Syahiza's neighbour received a call from her husband when she was out. He'd complained of chest pains and difficulty breathing, to the point where he couldn't make it down the stairs by himself.
After calling 999 to get an ambulance for her husband, she'd rushed home "to find him labouring to breathe".
Most alarmingly, she'd arrived before the ambulance did.
"Some might ask why she even waited that long, why didn't she just take him to the hospital herself? Well, she was not confident that she wouldn't do more harm than good - she knew that she couldn't support him if he collapsed on the stairs (they are pensioners). So she waited for the ambulance," Syahiza wrote.
Not only did the ambulance take 35 minutes to arrive, it did not even deploy its sirens. Nor did the personnel indicate that they had arrived until the ailing man's wife went onto the street to look for them.
"When the ambulance arrived, it didn't even have its sirens on. They didn't call or even ring the doorbell to let her know it was there. So she didn't even know it was there until it had taken so long that she went onto the street wondering where the hell it was
And when she frantically went to them, desperate for them to help her husband, they leisurely told her she had to back her car out of the driveway first, before they could do anything. She didn't argue."
It soon became clear that the personnel were under-equipped to handle the situation. Lack of medical supplies aside, they did not even bring along an oxygen tank because it was too "heavy".
"After they had parked the ambulance, two out of three personnel sauntered into the house, empty handed. She asked them where was the oxygen tank. When she called emergency services she had specifically told them her husband couldn't breathe and was likely having a severe asthma attack. Their response was:
'Oxygen tank tu berat, kak.' (The oxygen tank is heavy.)
So they didn't bring it. There was no oxygen for a man who was dying because he couldn't breathe. The ambulance was totally empty of supplies."
"By this point, he had collapsed, knees folded behind him."
"The third guy who sauntered in with blankets (for the stretcher) asked the others to help him lift the husband. One guy's reply was: 'Kau luruskanlah kaki dia dulu' (You straighten his legs first).
None of them were particularly concerned with doing it so in the end, it was the wife who did it, desperately wanting these men to just load up her husband into the ambulance and rush him to the hospital."
The ambulance personnel attempted CPR and manual breathing assistance on the man, but he passed away before he even reached the hospital. Unfortunately, there is nothing his wife could do.
Seeking to figure out how the situation escalated to that point, Syahiza's neighbour visited the three hospitals involved. She has specifically told the emergency operator to contact the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), which was down the road from their residence, but they never got the call.
"The operator, who is located in HKL (Hospital Kuala Lumpur), had instead gotten an ambulance from PPUM (Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya), which is much further away. And when they went through dispatch records, it had taken the operator seven minutes, from receiving an emergency call, to actually contacting a hospital for an ambulance," Syahiza wrote.
The grand total number of calls that operator got requesting an ambulance that specific day? One."
"I'm writing this post because she told me what had happened to her husband in order to raise awareness of the (dismal) reality of emergency services in Malaysia."
Syahiza added that this is a situation that "hundred, if not thousands, of people" have gone through the same harrowing ordeal, "only to have loved ones dying unnecessarily at the hands of people who are untrained, unprofessional and clearly don't give a rat's a** about lives."
"But where's the anger? Where's the action? Where are the demands that something be done to fix this f***ed up situation?
Malaysians can kick up a fuss about a bunch of guys wearing flag bearing swimming trunks to the point where our messed up government actually takes action, but shrug their shoulders at people literally dying, saying 'Oh, that happened to me. Like that la. What to do?'. Priorities, people," she wrote.
What do you think can be done to improve the country's emergency medical services? Let us know in the comments section below.