A multi-millionaire former bodyguard of Michael Jackson has revealed his toddler son could have died because of a catalogue of errors by a scandal-hit ambulance service.
Matt Fiddes, 37, was forced to perform CPR to keep his son, who is almost 2, alive after they were forced to wait 21 minutes for an ambulance when the toddler stopped breathing and turned blue.
Now bosses at South West Ambulance Service have admitted Hero may only be alive today because of a paramedic who skipped her unpaid lunch to rush to the scene.
This week, their damning investigation of the phone call, made by Mr Fiddes’ wife Moniqe on a ‘quiet’ Sunday afternoon last October, revealed:
- The female phone operator was ‘abrupt’ in how she dealt with the phone call as she shouted ‘listen to me’ multiple times while Mrs Fiddes was trying to explain
- The 999 call was downgraded from a category one to a category three – as the operator assumed Hero’s life was safe because of Mr Fiddes’ CPR. This could have cost him his life, had it not been for a kind-hearted paramedic on her lunch break
- There were no free ambulances available in Wiltshire to be sent to the scene – which investigators warned was because of a lack of funding
- Hero’s life was saved when a paramedic on her lunch break in a rapid response car heard there was a toddler not breathing. She was under no obligation to attend
- Mr Fiddes argues he would have taken Hero to hospital himself if operators had told him honestly that there were no free ambulances to help his son
When Hero got to hospital, he was treated in the corridors in front of scores of shocked patients as doctors struggled to find space for him.
South West Ambulance Service has defended its controversial move to downgrade the seriousness of Hero’s call. He went from being initially considered in a life-threatening state to being classed in the same bracket as non-severe burns – which means the ambulance target to see him was 40 minutes and not seven.
Mr Fiddes was shocked to discover a paramedic, who was told there was a toddler struggling to breathe, skipped her unpaid lunch break to rush to the scene at their home in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
He told MailOnline: ‘If I knew where she was now I would go and buy her some flowers and chocolates. What an amazing woman.
‘I was very mad initially, but I had no idea that this lady had came off her lunch break and was doing it [helping Hero] for free.
Matt Fiddes, 37, from Wiltshire, performed CPR on his son, Hero, nearly two, as he waited for 21 minutes for an ambulance when he stopped breathing (pictured in the ambulance that eventually turned up after a 30 minute wait)
The millionaire learnt his first aid skills from his time as Michael Jackson’s bodyguard (The Fiddes family hit the headlines in October as the stars of Channel 5’s Rich House Poor House)
‘Why didn’t they tell me there was no ambulances? I thought help was on its way.
‘My child was barely breathing, he was all over the place, it was erratic and could have stopped any second.’
Mr Fiddes said he was expecting someone who ‘really knows what they’re doing’ to get him ‘off the hook’ in three minutes.
But he is now urging people to take up CPR courses. He said: ‘You can’t rely on ambulances anymore, they won’t be with you in three minutes.’
Downgrading the call
Bosses at the service revealed the ‘abrupt’ female phone operator downgraded the 999 call – which could have cost Hero his life.
NHS guidance asks for calls considered category one, which is what the operator originally processed it as, to be answered within eight minutes.
Category one calls are defined as life-threatening injuries and illnesses, such as cardiac arrest. The operator knew Hero had ‘turned blue’ from not breathing.
However, the operator labelled the call, made by Mr Fiddes’ wife Moniqe, as a category three when she found out he was breathing a ‘tiny bit’, because of Mr Fiddes’ CPR – which the operator did not know about.
Mr Fiddes is pictured with his son Hero, nearly two, the night before he suffered a seizure
An ambulance turned up 10 minutes later to take Hero to Great Western Hospital, Swindon – more than half an hour after the original call was made
SCANDALS THAT HAVE ROCKED THE AMBULANCE SERVICE
Scores of furious patients have made similar complaints against South West Ambulance Service in recent months, amid the record winter pressures on the NHS.
It was forced to apologise after a disabled 82-year-old man had to wait nearly two hours in the cold after a fall shortly after Christmas.
John Carrott, of Somerset, fell near his front door as his legs gave way. Kind-hearted neighbours kept him warm.
This was preceded by the death of a paramedic in a suspected suicide days before his co-workers warned the stresses of the job were getting too much.
Tributes poured in for Colin Bolsom, 42, after he was found dead in a public park in Bideford in November.
It came just days before angry paramedics at the service called on their own chief executive Ken Wenman to resign in a heart-wrenching letter.
Mr Wenman came under fire last year after spending thousands of pounds of public money gagging former workers despite saying they lacked money for a safe service.
He and the trust ran up extraordinary legal bills of more than £250,000 to prevent damaging stories about him and the service being reported.
They included a claim – later dropped – that he sexually harassed a paramedic.
Kathryn Richmond, who was 20, died after waiting an hour and 25 minutes for an ambulance because of a catalogue of failings by ambulance bosses in 2015.
Ms Richmond suffered a ruptured spleen and lay, struggling for breath, as six of the 13 ambulances in east Dorset were off the road for meal breaks.
There, he was treated in the A&E unit’s corridors as doctors struggled to find room to treat Hero, his parents claim
Mr Fiddes said he was expecting someone who ‘really knows what they’re doing’ to get him ‘off the hook’ in three minutes (pictured on his wedding day)
THE TIMELINE OF EVENTS
13:13 – Hero stopped breathing, Mrs Fiddes made a call to 999. The operator initially branded it as a category one emergency
13:18 – By this time, Mr Fiddes had performed CPR on Hero and the call had been downgraded to a category three
13:34 – The unnamed paramedic got to the scene following a general broadcast asking if anyone was free to attend. She called for back-up
13:44 – An ambulance arrived and whisked Hero and Mrs Fiddes to the Great Western Hospital, Swindon
Category three calls are considered urgent and should be seen within 40 minutes. But 10 per cent of such calls aren’t responded to within two hours, figures show.
Mr Fiddes has since revealed medical professionals he had spoken to were shocked when he told them the call was made a category three.
Defending the decision
But a spokesperson from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said the decision to assess Hero as a category three was ‘correct’.
They said: ‘It was clear during the call that the patient was then conscious and breathing.
‘A paramedic in a rapid response vehicle responded to the call during their meal break and arrived on scene in 20 minutes and 44 seconds, well within the 40 minute target time.’
Mr Fiddes has since revealed medical professionals he had spoken to were shocked when he told them the call was made a category three
Mr Fiddes is now urging people to take up CPR courses. He said: ‘You can’t rely on ambulances anymore, they won’t be with you in three minutes’ (pictured on his wedding day)
WHAT ARE THE 999 CALL CATEGORIES?
NHS guidelines ask phone operators to sort 999 callers into four categories, depending on how urgent they are. They were updated last November.
Chiefs say it helps them reach the sickest patients more quickly, and end ‘hidden waits’ for lower category patients.
Operators ask three initial questions to make sure patients get the quickest responses, which would improve their survival chances.
- Category one is for people who have life-threatening injuries or illnesses, such as a cardiac arrest or a serious allergic reaction. They need to be responded to in an average time of seven minutes.
- Category two is for emergency calls for conditions such as strokes, epilepsy patients and burns. These will need to be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes.
- Category three is for urgent calls for conditions such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes. In some cases, you may be treated by ambulance staff in your own home. These will be responded to at least nine out of 10 times within 120 minutes.
- Category four is for less urgent calls such as diarrhoea, vomiting and urine infections. In some cases, you may be given advice over the phone or advised to visit your GP. These less urgent calls will be responded to at least nine out of 10 times within 180 minutes.
Jonathan Legge led the report on behalf of South Western Ambulance Service, which has been rocked by a chain of events in recent months.
‘Abrupt’ phone operator
Mrs Fiddes, a former South-African pop star, told the operator twice at the beginning of the call that her son wasn’t breathing – before saying he could ‘a tiny bit’.
Both times the female operator shouted ‘listen to me’, as Mrs Fiddes, who was in floods of tears, begged for an ambulance to arrive quickly to help her son amid fears he would die without urgent treatment.
The investigation also revealed the operator, whose identity is unknown, was too abrupt with Mrs Fiddes and failed to use the calming techniques she had been taught.
A spokesperson for the ambulance service added: ‘We accept that the family felt that the call handler had been abrupt.
‘We fully understand that this situation would be incredibly distressing for any parent and sometimes it is necessary to be firm with instructions on the phone in order to obtain the information needed to achieve the best response in the shortest time.’
No ambulances available
The parents were forced to wait 21 minutes, as Hero’s life hung in balance, because there was no ambulance available in the whole of Wiltshire.
A spokesperson for the ambulance service said: ‘There were 57 emergency calls being dealt with in Wiltshire at the time, including 25 higher priority category 1 and 2 calls.’
Mrs Fiddes, a former South-African pop star, told the operator twice at the beginning of the call that her son wasn’t breathing – before saying he could ‘a tiny bit’
The parents were forced to wait 21 minutes, as Hero’s life hung in balance, because there was no ambulance available in the whole of Wiltshire
Saved by a paramedic on her lunch break
It was only when an off-duty paramedic in a rapid response car heard there was a toddler not breathing and unconscious that he was seen to. It has been revealed that she was under no obligation to attend the scene.
The unnamed medic rushed to the family’s home in Chippenham – despite being on an unpaid ‘meal break’ – and immediately called for an ambulance.
An ambulance turned up 10 minutes later to take Hero to Great Western Hospital, Swindon – more than half an hour after the original call was made.
There, he was treated in the A&E unit’s corridors as doctors struggled to find room to treat Hero, his parents claim.
Bosses at SWAS, which recorded some of the longest waits in the latest set of NHS data, told Mr Fiddes on the phone that a lack of funding was partly to blame.
Mrs Fiddes raised the alarm when she was reversing the car out of the drive of their home in October and noticed Hero was having some kind of fit.
She shouted for her husband, who runs a chain of 700 martial arts schools, who laid Hero on the floor of the living room while she called 999.
Hero recovered following the incident, but the family called for an investigation as to why it took so long for paramedics to arrive on the scene.
The final verdict was released earlier this week.
‘We would have driven him ourselves’
The parents claim they would have driven Hero to hospital themselves if they were aware that no ambulance was on its way.
Mr Fiddes, who was a millionaire by the time he was 21, was a one-time friend and bodyguard to Michael Jackson and ‘moved in those circles’.
Mr Fiddes is now hosting a special one-off CPR class on January 27 for parents to learn essential CPR skills.
Mr Fiddes, who was a millionaire by the time he was 21, was a one-time friend and bodyguard to Michael Jackson and ‘moved in those circles’
Mrs Fiddes raised the alarm when she was reversing the car out of the drive of their home in October and noticed Hero was having some kind of fit
RICH HOUSE, POOR HOUSE: HOW THE FIDDES SHOT TO FAME
The Fiddes family hit the headlines in October as the stars of Channel 5’s Rich House Poor House.
Thanks to Mr Fiddes’ business empire worth a reported £30 million, the family live in a lavish six- bedroom home in the Wiltshire countryside.
He owns a Bentley and top-of-the-range Land Rover, which are parked on the gravel drive alongside Moniqe’s Range Rover.
Mrs Fiddes, 24, a former singer from South Africa, has a vast wardrobe of designer clothes and a cleaner to make her stay-at-home-mum role easier.
The couple’s sons, Hero, one, and Zack, four, and Matt’s daughters Lola, 11 and Savannah, ten, from his first marriage, have only to ask for branded trainers for them to appear.
The Fiddes family Matt, Moniqe, Savannah, Lola, Zach and Hero relocated to Southampton for a week
‘I do spoil them, particularly the girls, because I wasn’t around a lot when they were little,’ he admits.
The couple’s attitude to money? It’s perhaps best summed up by Matt’s admission that he keeps banknotes in the door pocket of his car, ‘and if a few tenners fly out, I wouldn’t be bothered running after them’.
The Leamons, on the other hand, watch every penny. Kim can no longer work, following an accident a few years ago, and suffers from a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which leaves her unable to walk for more than a few yards. She gets around using crutches and a borrowed wheelchair.
Andy’s very modest salary, around £1,000 a month, supports the couple and children Freddie, ten, and Olivia, eight. He works in an emergency call centre for the elderly, mostly doing night shifts so he can act as a full-time carer for his wife.