HARROWING recordings of 999 calls made by a desperate wife to the ambulance service as her husband was dying were played to an inquest yesterday.
The calls, described by a coroner as “very distressing and horrific”, were made in the space of 42 minutes.
Joyce Pring, 64, was reassured repeatedly by operators: “They are coming as quickly as they can.”
Three ambulances arrived about 50 minutes after the first call – and too late for her husband Fred, 74, of Mynydd Isa, near Mold.
Before he retired through ill-health, he did manual work including as a head gardener.
In the recordings played at the inquest in Ruthin, Mrs Pring told the 999 operator that her husband had “severe pain” in his chest.
He could be heard groaning in the background.
John Gittins, coroner for North Wales East and Central, said the second call was “very harrowing”.
He said: “We can clearly hear the degree of Fred's pain in that call.”
Mr Pring died on March 21. The coroner said the first emergency call was at 1.09am.
Mrs Pring was told by the operator: “We are organising help for you now.”
She was told to give her husband four aspirins to chew.
The second call was 10 minutes later and Mrs Pring told the operator: “My husband is getting worse.”
She said he was in severe pain in the chest.
The operator advised her: “Try and slow his breathing. If he panics, it will make him worse. They are coming as quickly as they can.”
Mrs Pring said: “He’s in agony.”
The third call was at 1.38am. The operator told Mrs Pring: “They will be there as soon as they possibly can. We are very busy in the area.”
Mrs Pring explained: “He’s having difficulty breathing.” She explained that he had heart failure.
The operator told her: “I am organising help for you now.”
Ambulances are meant to reach life-threatening emergencies within eight minutes in 65 per cent of cases.
But last year the ambulance service response had worsened and the performance target was only met 61.8 per cent of the time in Wales.
In her final call at 1.51am, Mrs Pring declared: “This is the fourth time I have rung for an ambulance. It’s too late now. He’s gone. He was 74.”
She declared: “There’s nothing you can do for him now. You’re too late.”
Mrs Pring said: “I just want someone to come and take him. It’s now nearly an hour.”
The operator said the ambulance was “travelling as quickly as it can”.
The widow told Mr Gittins that her husband, a former smoker, had been diagnosed with heart failure in 2010.
The day before the tragedy the couple had been for a drive to Cheshire Oaks retail park near Chester. Mr Pring complained of pain but it went eventually.
However, that night Mr Pring complained again of pain.
“It wasn’t going as quickly as it normally did,” Mrs Pring said.
Just before 1am he called for his wife and stated that the pain in his chest was bad and he wanted an ambulance.
Mrs Pring then rang for one. She said: “I tried to get across the urgency.”
Her husband’s condition deteriorated. “He was in increasing pain and struggling for breath,” she said.
Mrs Pring said: “His condition was getting worse.
“I could see the panic in his face, the fear in his eyes.”
Mr Pring was telling her to ask the ambulance service to hurry up.
She added: “I made a third call and went back to see him. He was getting worse and he just said to me: ‘I’m going’. He just slumped back and stopped breathing.”
He had been sitting on his bed at the time.
Mrs Pring told the inquest she felt there was a “considerable” lack of compassion shown to her in the last call.
His GP Dr Robert Ahree said the pensioner was very ill. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Today, the chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, Elwyn Price-Morris, will give evidence.
Previously he issued a statement stating “there were no resources to send”.
In a statement, ambulanceman Michael Bennett said: “From the moment we came on shift, we were very busy.”
His ambulance waited 99 minutes outside the busy accident and emergency unit at Wrexham Maelor Hospital with another patient.
The hearing continues.