Something of an interesting day!
After exiting Drakeholes tunnel and traveling some way further along the Chesterfield Canal we came across a 77 year old man (Mr Clayton) in serious difficulties with the onset of hypothermia. He had tripped and stumbled on the towpath and as a result had fallen into the canal. Landing head first he had been completely submerged. He had however managed to claw his way to the bank and pull himself out of the water. He had also crawled along the towpath for a short distance. Some time afterwards (estimated at 45 mins) we came across him, he was in a terrible state. The weather was just above freezing and the wind chill was quite significant.
We immediately sent for an ambulance. Using the map apps on the android phone we were able to pinpoint our exact location to summon the emergency services. We were then able to guide them to the exact spot. We sent a crew member back to meet the paramedic and lend a hand to carry his equipment along the towpath. Within 15 minutes the first paramedic arrived on scene. He soon had Mr Clayton wired up to a heart monitor and swaddled in blankets to help stave off the effects of hypothermia. We were able a bit later to give him a cup of tea to help keep him warm.
It was not a good spot for access for the ambulance or to to get the patient off the towpath. The only chance would require access through a locked CaRT gateway. CaRT have a new number for emergency contact number. (08004799947) We witnessed the outcome of placing a call to the emergency number. The paramedic placed a call to the CaRT emergency number, however he had to wait 25 minutes for his call to be answered. They had no immediate answer to his request but said they would call back.
Due to the delay in answering his call, the paramedic in the meantime felt the need to initiate an urgent call for the fire service to use their cutting equipment to open the gate. Some 35 minutes after the call to the CaRT emergency number had been made. CaRT called back to say the duty supervisor would ring back.The duty supervisor for the area rang a further 5 minutes later and said that they did not know the key code for the gatelock or anyone in the area who did. The fire brigade had by now already arrived on site some time previously. Their equipment was set up ready and they were about to cut the gate off its hinge. When by chance a local turned up who happened to know the password for the gate.
To cut a very long story short, the ambulance made its way to a point as close as possible to the patient. The patient was then carried along the towpath on a stretcher. Several boaters had gathered at the spot where the ambulance was to cut back the hedgerow and other overgrowth to make an access point. The patient was then carried over a fence into a farmers field where it had been identified as a possible point where a helicopter could land if the patient could not be extracted by ambulance. He was carried from there to the ambulance where he was stabilised before being transported to hospital.
If an emergency call to CaRT takes almost half an hour to answer - then it begs the question is it really an emergency number?
If the AA regard themselves as the 4th emergency service - I wonder where does CaRT come in the league table. I can't imagine that the AA would have you waiting for such a long time. Imagine how it would be if you dialed 999 and then waited 25 mins for someone to pick up the phone. Then after holding on - the answer was "we don't know, we can't help."