Sharri Markson on the ambulance wait that threatened her life.
Sharri Markson on the ambulance wait that threatened her life.

‘I lost 2 litres of blood waiting for ambulance’

OPINION

I didn't know if I'd make it through the night.

I needed serious medical attention for the first time in my life but we couldn't get an ambulance to arrive for almost two hours.

It was 7pm on a regular Tuesday, before the coronavirus pandemic, when I began to feel unwell and called my husband to come home early from work.

I managed to turn The Wiggles on for my toddler just in time before fainting in the kitchen.

I couldn't stay conscious or lift my head off the floor and was vomiting repeatedly.

Even when I came to, I couldn't see anything, it was all black with glittering spots.

I would learn later on that night, when I was rushed into emergency surgery to remove a fallopian tube, that I was bleeding out internally from an ectopic pregnancy rupture.

Because the ambulance took two hours to arrive, by the time I went into surgery I had lost two litres of blood - about 40 per cent of my blood volume.

At the time, I did not know what was wrong but I knew it was serious because I couldn't move, I couldn't see anything, I couldn't stop vomiting.

Sharri Markson lost two litres of blood as she waited for an ambulance to arrive. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Sharri Markson lost two litres of blood as she waited for an ambulance to arrive. Picture: Justin Lloyd

I naively assumed, based on all the positive news stories and press releases from the NSW Government, that when you call an ambulance it turns up within 15 minutes.

I now know this is a lie.

It took six increasingly desperate phone calls to triple-0 to get an ambulance.

The first one at 7.13pm, then 7.18pm, 8.10pm, 8.38pm, 8.43pm and 8.54pm - at which point my mum refused to get off the phone until the ambulance arrived, insisting on tracking precisely where it was.

They finally arrived at 9.09pm - 1 hour and 56 minutes after the initial call.

I've discovered now that 11 per cent of people - one in 10 - wait more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive if their case is classified as "urgent".

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Some wait much, much longer. Hours and hours. But Brad Hazzard and NSW Ambulances cover-up this information, refusing to release it publicly and only releasing data that paints the most positive picture they can about our health system. In the process, they mislead us all.

First my husband was told an ambulance would be there within the hour - a response I couldn't believe.

But when an hour ticked past, I worried I would not survive to see my baby grow up.

"Make sure Raphi watches he's lots of videos of me and don't let him call anyone else mumma," I said to my husband and mum.

As I lay there on the floor, for the first time in my life I felt truly helpless.

While waiting, my family called the Jewish volunteer medical service, Hatzolah, who "provide a lifesaving bridge of medical care during the first critical moments of a medical emergency before the arrival of an ambulance".

They help the whole community, not just those of the Jewish faith.

They gave me oxygen when they couldn't find my pulse and said I was starting to turn blue.

I will be forever grateful for their care.

When we made it to the public hospital at Randwick, the care was immediate and brilliant from all quarters.

Markson says more ambulances are needed to treat patients across NSW. Picture: AAP
Markson says more ambulances are needed to treat patients across NSW. Picture: AAP

The on-call surgeon at the Royal Hospital for Women, Dr Rachael Rodgers, was so lovely that she wore my necklace with my baby's name on it during surgery.

Afterwards, she told me how much blood I'd lost.

"It was life-threatening. We managed to get you to theatre whilst you were relatively stable but if you'd lost anymore blood it would have been really dangerous," she said.

"When someone loses a lot of blood, their clotting factors become abnormal and it can be very difficult to stop the bleeding.

"If you'd lost any more blood, it would have been very challenging surgically. As it was, we had to transfuse three units of blood."

I didn't know I was pregnant, per se. I knew I'd had a miscarriage in January, a month earlier and that my pregnancy hormones, called BHCG, were taking their time to fall.

My obstetrician said sometimes it takes a little while for the pregnancy hormones to drop after a miscarriage.

This was the most likely scenario, he said.

An ectopic pregnancy - where the pregnancy grows in the fallopian tube - was a remote possibility but two ultrasound scans a week apart showed an empty uterus and fallopian tubes.

On the day I collapsed, the pregnancy hormones had fallen from 4000 to 500.

So what went wrong? Quite simply, there are not enough ambulances.

This situation will become even more critical now that the coronavirus pandemic has hit.

The Federal Government strategy to slow transmission is based entirely around the concern that our hospital system will be too overwhelmed to treat patients and that some will be turned away.

It is just unacceptable that the Coalition Government has announced successive budget surpluses, without making sure there are enough ambulances on the road and beds in our hospitals.

Originally published as Sharri Markson: 'I lost 2L of blood waiting for help'


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