Thursday 20 June 2024
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Ambulance workers speak out after being attacked by a patient’s dog while responding to an emergency call

Paramedics Asha Patel and Rebecca Dunn and student paramedic Cerys Hughes were victims of the attack which took place in Leicester in August 2023.

The owner of the dog, Pradipkumar Dayal, 55, of no fixed abode, was sentenced at Leicester Crown Court last week to 25 months imprisonment for charges including three counts of possession of a dog dangerously out of control. He was disqualified from keeping a dog indefinitely. He was also sentenced for separate charges of common assault, criminal damage, cultivation of cannabis and two counts of possession of cannabis.

Asha and Cerys first responded to the emergency call in one of our fast-response vehicles. Rebecca arrived later to help transport the patient to hospital in an ambulance.

When the crew arrived, the dog was shut away in the property, however it was later released without warning. Initially the dog was calm, but while escorting the patient out of the house, the dog attacked Cerys, chasing her into the garden, barking, jumping up and biting her, causing her to fall. Rebecca got between Cerys and the dog, got control and returned it to the patient.

The dog was released again, chasing Cerys out of the garden. Asha and Rebecca rushed to help their crewmate and the three struggled with the dog to control it. They desperately tried to find somewhere to escape and Cerys and Rebecca were forced into a neighbouring property’s garden. The dog then chased Asha into the street. Rebecca, not wanting to leave her colleague, left the garden to help. They were further attacked and wrestled desperately with the dog until police arrived to help.

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During the attack, Rebecca sustained serious injuries to her chest, shoulder, arm and legs requiring hospitalisation and surgery. Now, over 150 days later, she is still unable to return to work and the job she loves.

She said “The memory of that day will never leave me. I just remember thinking if I don’t get control of this situation it’s going to end badly for us. I remember my legs being bitten and I could feel the flesh ripping, but the adrenaline masked the pain. The realisation that the dog wasn’t going to stop, and I had no way of defending myself, was the scariest thing I have ever experienced.

“The dog clamped onto my arm and shook me like a rag doll. I remember thinking to myself ‘stay on your feet or you’re going to die’. Asha and I wrestled with that dog for what felt like an eternity until we finally managed to restrain it. It wasn’t until I was on the ambulance afterwards, I realised the full extent of my injuries. My uniform was torn and blood-soaked. I was shaking through shock and the intensity of the pain hit me.

“Anyone who knows me knows how much I love dogs. It breaks my heart to think this incident has ruined that for me. I don’t blame the dog; it’s irresponsible owners who damage the reputation of the many responsible owners out there. I still have a way to go with my recovery, but I’m determined to get back to normal as soon as I can.”

Cerys, in her first year of her paramedicine degree, was badly bitten on her leg and arm. She said “I’m not sure any of us believed we were all going to make it out alive that night. After I fell to the ground, if it wasn’t for Rebecca helping me to stand and physically shielding me from the relentless mauling, I think I would have been killed. The extreme terror that caused me to freeze that night will haunt me forever, as will the guilt and helplessness I felt witnessing my crew mates being attacked. They fought bravely to get that dog under control, and we are all alive because of it.”

“This ordeal has taken huge toll on my mental health, but I am determined that it will not stop me from pursuing the career that I love.”

Asha, who received minor physical injuries and has since suffered with a deterioration of her mental health, said “The emotional and physical trauma caused by this unprovoked, horrifying attack that we were victims of in the dark early hours of that morning, will remain with me forever. The events, emotions and screams of my colleagues from that morning are constantly on my mind.

“As we fought for our lives whilst attempting to stop the dog, without any additional assistance until the police arrived, I thought with absolute certainty that one, if not all of us, were going to die. As the dog diverted its attention to me, I remember falling to the ground and hoping that this wasn’t the end.

“As I treated my colleagues on the back of the ambulance that morning, I felt numb and in shock. Witnessing both Rebecca and Cerys in that amount of distress and pain was heartbreaking.

“I had become scared to return to work, fearing for my safety, however, I do not wish for this attack to define my career and while I am now back part-time, I hope to return to work full-time. I will always be grateful for my colleagues, their support and actions that night.”

Between December 2022 and November 2023, there were a total of 1259 assaults recorded against EMAS staff and volunteers, including physical violence and verbal harassment.

In Leicestershire, comparing recorded incidents in April 2023 – November 2023 to the same period last year, we’ve seen an unacceptable 59% increase of incidents.

In 2022 we rolled out Body Worn Cameras to all frontline colleagues. In November last year, footage from 62 incidents were saved to be used by police as evidence for reports affecting EMAS staff.

EMAS is part of the ‘Work Without Fear’ campaign to help promote respect and a safer work environment for front-line ambulance staff and volunteers.

Director of Operations, Ben Holdaway, said “Our colleagues work hard every day to help people across the East Midlands and it’s unacceptable that they face harm and threats during the course of their duties.

“We take a zero-tolerance approach to incidents such as these, and we will do all we can to support investigation of crimes against our staff, as well as supporting them through the court process.

“Equally, whilst we appreciate the legal process draws part of this incident to a close for our crew, we understand the lasting impact that such horrific events have, and our local leadership team will continue to provide support.”

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