Medical emergency drama on island

ISLANDERS have defended their way of life after a tide cut off their community during a medical emergency – leaving ambulance staff unable to help. West Mersea councillor John Jowers said he would vigorously resist calls to raise the causeway which links the island with the mainland and insisted the risks were a part of life.

ISLANDERS have defended their way of life after a tide cut off their community during a medical emergency - leaving ambulance staff unable to help.

West Mersea councillor John Jowers said he would vigorously resist calls to raise the causeway which links the island with the mainland and insisted the risks were a part of life.

His comments came after a terrified woman feared her husband was about to die when he collapsed unconscious on the island in the middle of the night.

Jenny Rowland, of Fairhaven Avenue, phoned the ambulance service desperate for help for husband Geoff.


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A vehicle was sent shortly after midnight on Tuesday, but the tide had flooded the Strood causeway and it was unable to cross, leaving the island's specially-trained medical volunteers, Fred and Jean Freeman, to cope alone.

An hour later, the Strood cleared, allowing ambulance staff to take over and ferry the patient, who was suffering severe food poisoning, to Colchester General Hospital. He was released 12 hours later.

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For cost and safety reasons, the Essex Air Ambulance does not fly at night and during high tide the island relies on emergency procedures involving coastguards and lifeboats.

In life-threatening situations, a helicopter from RAF Wattisham can be scrambled.

The island has retained firefighters to deal with fires and road accidents and fire engines can also be used as a last resort to cross the Strood.

But with no ambulance station, Mersea relies to a certain extent on the Community First Responder group, whose volunteer medics are trained in basic first aid, oxygen therapy and in the use of a defibrillator.

Mr Freeman said: "If you live on the island you accept that you get cut off - we quite like it, but this incident shows just how important the first responders scheme is."

Mr Jowers, also leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: "We're not some tiny little hamlet - we're no more cut off than the back and beyond of some places in Tendring.

"We have procedures in place for times like this - as a last resort, the fire engines can also get across.

"But we will not raise the Strood - life has some risks and we have to accept that."

Mrs Rowland, the patient's wife, yesterday praised Tuesday's hero volunteers and said: "I was absolutely terrified. Geoff had collapsed and was being violently sick.

"I managed to get him to the bathroom, but I cannot tell you the relief I felt when Fred and Jean arrived - I thought I had lost Geoff."

A coastguard spokesman confirmed they had been alerted on Tuesday, but no boat was sent out.

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