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A GRIEVING Stourbridge widow has told the heartbreaking story of how her husband of 50 years died after waiting 57 minutes for an ambulance after falling down the stairs.

Dorothy Dixon says her late husband Reg, aged 70, spent the last conscious hour of his life in “appalling agony” waiting for medical assistance after the fall at their home in Orwell Close.

When help finally did arrive – the grandfather-of-one was taken to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where a CT scan revealed he had suffered an “un-survivable” head injury, and under two hours later he passed away.

Mrs Dixon says she has been left shattered by her husband’s unexpected death and haunted by thought that if help had arrived sooner maybe the outcome would have been different.

She told the News: “He died an awful death. He was in terrible pain and very scared.”

Prior to the fall her husband had been “a fit and healthy man,” she said – adding: “We could have had many more years together.”

He had been suffering from a groin injury, which had affected his mobility and ability to get upstairs, and he had been living downstairs at the couple’s home until the injury healed but for some reason on the evening of his tragic death on June 26 he must have tried to go upstairs while his wife had popped out.

She returned after receiving frantic calls from the neighbours who had been alerted to Mr Dixon’s screams.

The retired care worker was discovered slumped at the bottom of the stairs but still conscious and urging for help to get up. Onlookers, however, feared a possible spinal injury so decided to leave him in-situ until paramedics arrived.

But as time wore on he began vomiting and became drowsy and by 7.45pm he had lost consciousness. Paramedics, however, did not arrive at the scene until 7.50pm – some 57 minutes after the first 999 call was made at 6.53pm; and it was 9.05pm by the time he arrived at the QE which was chosen over the closer Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.

A post mortem revealed Mr Dixon died of aspiration of gastric contents due to a significant bleed on brain and multiple fractures.

Mrs Dixon believes her husband’s chances of survival may have been greater had he been attended to by medics sooner. She said: “He drowned in his own vomit. It was 40 minutes after the first call when he first vomited.”

At a hearing at the Black Country Coroner’s Office, Oldbury, Dr David Yeo, consultant in emergency medicine at the QE Hospital, could not say whether Mr Dixon would have survived given the extent of his brain injury and other fractures and the court was told he was not deemed suitable for emergency neurosurgery.

Coroner Zafar Siddique said: “Even if he’d had surgery that doesn’t mean survivability would have improved because there are a number of complications, including pneumonia, from this type of surgery – particularly for a gentleman of 70 years.”

But he did say there was a “window of opportunity” for Mr Dixon to have been attended to earlier and he said he had concerns about how calls to the ambulance service were categorised.

The first two were graded at level 3 - and it was only after a third call that Mr Dixon was given a higher priority rating for the ambulance service, which the hearing was told, was experiencing high demand that evening.

Mr Siddique said: “This inquest does raise a number of concerns, particularly the second call made and the operator’s training in terms of categorising that call. I think that was a missed opportunity.”

He said he was also concerned about the allocation of resources given the busy period the ambulance service was under and said he would write a report “to try to prevent future deaths occurring - whether that means retraining or further training and further guidance.”

Mrs Dixon said even if her husband could not have survived his injuries “someone could have come and eased that pain”.

She added: “That was the last hour of his life and he had to spend it like that, screaming in pain.”

West Midlands Ambulance Service has not responded for comment but a report into the incident shows an ambulance had been assigned to Mr Dixon at 7pm but was diverted to a category 1 call at 7.11pm, and a second ambulance was assigned at 7.19pm but was diverted to a category 2 call at 7.33pm.

The report goes on to say the decision to divert the ambulances to higher category calls was appropriate and it concludes: “With the medical evidence provided it is unlikely the final outcome for the patient would have differed had an earlier response been provided. However, it is accepted the response time of 57 minutes is longer than would have been desirable.”