‘Being a paramedic comes with certain risks, but no-one deserves this’ – Rhys’ story

A PARAMEDIC who was assaulted by a patient has laid bare the physical and emotional impact on his health.

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Rhys Morgan, a paramedic in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, broke his wrist when he was pushed by a patient he was attempting to treat at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales.

The 32-year-old, who has scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – says his condition has since deteriorated as a result of his fall.

The father-of-two had eight months off work to recover, during which time he could not drive or play with his children.

He subsequently developed anxiety, which he now controls with medication.

Rhys, from Bridgend, said: “What happened was a split-second act, but I’m still feeling the impact more than a year on, both physically and mentally.

“Being a paramedic does come with certain risks, but no-one deserves this.

“I’m constantly thinking ‘what if?’ now, in case it happens again.”

In January 2022, Rhys and a colleague were responding to a female patient with a medical emergency.

Rhys said: “It started in the back of the ambulance as I was administering pain relief.

“The patient punched me, and I got a needle stick injury in the process, which is dangerous in itself.

“Then once we’d taken her to hospital and were preparing to leave, she threw herself off the bed, grabbing my wrist, then pushed me through a door, where I hit the ground again.

“It took three security officers and a duty manager to restrain her.

“It was my back I was concerned about initially, and I went up for an MRI scan where the doctors confirmed that my pre-existing condition had been exacerbated by the fall.

“It was only the day after when the pain in my wrist became more apparent, and a second MRI scan confirmed I actually had a fractured scaphoid – a broken wrist.”

Rhys was prescribed a combination of pain-relieving drugs, which meant that he could not drive.

“I was in so much pain at this point that I couldn’t even kick a football with my son,” he said.

“This – and not being able to work, so feeling isolated at home – meant I developed anxiety, which I’ve also been prescribed anti-depressants for.”

Rhys, who joined the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2019 having trained as a paramedic at Swansea University, has returned to work and is awaiting Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) surgery on his back.

He said: “I’m just glad to be back in work, but I can’t do everything I did previously.

“Not being able to do all of the manual handling means that sometimes I’ll need to call for back-up if it’s a larger patient or a tricky extrication.

“That then has implications for the wider service, because it’s a resource which could be helping another patient.

“The support I’ve had from the organisation has been second-to-none, but the truth is that I feel constantly on edge in case it happens again.

“Previously, this sort of thing didn’t faze me and I was able to diffuse situations quite quickly, but now I’m definitely more apprehensive.”

On 02 May 2023 at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, Lauren Barnett, 38, of Cardiff, pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting an emergency worker.

She was handed a four-month prison sentence for the assault of Rhys and a two-month prison sentence for a separate assault of another ambulance worker, suspended for 12 months.

She must pay £100 compensation to both Rhys and his colleague and £85 costs, as well as attend 20 days of rehabilitation activity.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Our people are entitled to go home to their families and friends safely at their end of their shift without the fear of being abused or assaulted as they help our communities.

“Such behaviour towards our staff will never be acceptable and we will always seek prosecution for those that choose to harm our people.

“Our ambulance crews are there to help people, but they can’t fight for someone’s life if they’re fighting for their own.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so now more than ever, we’re asking the public to work with us, not against us.”

In 2021, the Welsh Ambulance Service launched its With Us, Not Against Us campaign to try and reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers in Wales.

Pledge your support to the campaign on social media using the hashtag #WithUsNotAgainstUs or #GydaNiNidYnEinHerbyn.

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