I wasn’t planning to blog today as I’m wiped out from physiotherapy, but I am so angered by Douglas Ross that I have to say something.
Douglas Ross is a thoroughly odious individual who leads a thoroughly odious political party, a party which has no hesitation in pursuing cheap political points no matter how spurious, how devoid of context, or how misleading they may be.
At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday Ross attacked the First Minister on waiting times for ambulances, and shamelessly accused her of “hiding behind the pandemic” as though the pandemic isn’t really happening and isn’t really putting immense pressures on the ambulance service along with every other part of the health service. Likewise it is not “deflection” as Ross suggested, to point out that the Health Services in every other part of the UK are also struggling to cope with the extra strain imposed on them by the covid pandemic. It’s just reality. What is really deflection is to pretend that these issues are unique to Scotland in an attempt to score some SNPbad points with the Scottish media.
I have a very personal interest in ambulance waiting times. In October last year, before vaccines were available and with the NHS reeling under the impact of the pandemic, I suffered a massive stroke. In an ischaemic stroke such as the one I had, a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain, causing the part of the brain supplied by the affected artery to experience oxygen starvation. If the blood flow is blocked for more than a few minutes the affected part of the brain dies. Brain tissue that dies does not regenerate. The bodily functions controlled by the damaged part of the brain are impaired.
A stroke is a medical emergency second only to life and death situations when a patient is not breathing or is bleeding out. According to widely accepted response times, an ambulance should be on scene within an average of 18 minutes in response to a category-2 999 call reporting a suspected stroke. (See https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/resource/ambulance-response-times#background) A prompt response is critical, for every minute that a stroke patient is left untreated, 1.9 million neurons die, the chances of making a good recovery diminish, and the chances of being left with a lasting or permanent disability increase. The quicker the patient who has suffered an ischaemic stroke can be got to the hospital the greater the chance that they can be injected with a powerful clot busting drug which can prevent further damage to the brain. That’s why speed is vital.
I collapsed shortly after the onset of the stroke and started vomiting violently. Then I had a severe epileptic seizure as the stroke was making the electrical activity in my brain go haywire. After that I lost consciousness. My husband called 999 within seconds of the stroke starting, but due to staff shortages caused by the pandemic, it was almost an hour before the ambulance got to me, far longer than the recommended 18 minutes for response time to a suspected stroke.
By the time the ambulance got me to the hospital it was too late to treat me with the clot busting drugs that could have minimised the brain damage caused by the stroke. There’s nothing to be gained by dwelling on what ifs, but had the ambulance arrived within the recommended 18 minutes I might not have been left with some of the physical problems that are still an issue for me and which may be permanent. I have very poor motor control, lack of sensation, and significant muscle weakness all down the left of my body, in particular in my left hand and arm. I was left handed, but now I can’t even hold a pen or a knife and fork, far less participate in the artistic and creative pursuits I used to enjoy so much. It is unlikely that I’ll be drawing any more Gaelic maps. These issues are long term, and due to the extent of the brain damage caused by the stroke, I was warned that there’s a significant chance that they could be permanent.
Of course the biggest what if of all is what if there wasn’t a pandemic. Then the ambulance service might not have been short staffed and might have got to me sooner. But there is a pandemic. It can’t just be ignored or wished away. It could not be ignored or wished away all those long weeks when I lay semi paralysed in a hospital bed and couldn’t get any visitors. It certainly can’t be ignored or wished away by an unprincipled shyster of a Conservative politician in search of an SNP bad point.
Douglas Ross wants to pretend there is no pandemic because it gets in the way of him scoring a cheap political point. He wants to ignore the fact that the National Health Service in every part of the UK is struggling to cope with the additional stresses put on it by the pandemic, it is not deflection, as Ross and the Tories claim, to point out that simple reality. What is deflection is pretending that it’s only Scotland which is struggling, and that it’s struggling due to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
As I try to come to terms with my new reality, and learn to live with my disabilities, it’s some comfort to imagine that the ambulance was late getting to me because it was saving the life of someone with covid, someone who is now alive and well and making plans for the future just as I am.
Douglas Ross wants to deprive me of that comfort and make me and people like me believe that the health issues we face were unnecessary and avoidable and entirely the fault of the SNP – as though there is no pandemic. At the same time he is desperate to avoid any scrutiny of the manifest failures and shortcomings of the Conservatives in Westminster in their mishandling of this crisis.
Nicola Sturgeon accused Douglas Ross of insulting the intelligence of the public by trying to pretend the pandemic is not a factor in ambulance response times. I’d go further, he is personally insulting me and everyone else who has suffered the consequences of this pandemic. I am deeply offended that a man whose party has wrought such havoc on the health service in England and on public services in general is now trying to capitalise on the long term health issues and disabilities of me and those like me. I would say he should be ashamed of himself, but Douglas Ross is a Conservative and has no shame. His is the worst kind of unprincipled, unscrupulous ambulance chasing.
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