Carmarthen footballer's 40-minute 999 wait
A FOOTBALLER who lay paralysed after a freak accident on a pitch just half a mile from Glangwili Hospital had to wait nearly 40 minutes for an emergency ambulance.
Although the incident happened in Abergwili, the dad of three, along with anxious family, players, match officials and supporters, had to wait while an ambulance raced the 15 miles from Whitland.
Thankfully, the 39-year-old regained feeling in his arms and legs after hospital treatment.
The ambulance service said it "regrets the delay" taken to reach the scene.
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Speaking to the Journal from his home in Sycamore Way, Carmarthen, Grant Tolchard said: "It all happened so quickly. I didn't really know what was going on — just that I couldn't move my arms or legs."
The accident happened three minutes into Abergwili's home match against Penllergaer last Tuesday evening.
Mr Tolchard, normally a centre-half, had volunteered to play in goal as the team's keeper was away.
He said: "As a goalkeeper, you instinctively dive for the ball, but I thought I had enough room to pick it up. The two players ran into me and I fell backwards — that was it."
The ball ended up in the back of the net but as Penllergaer celebrated, Mr Tolchard remained on the ground. In fact, his arms remained up in the air — still reaching for the ball.
He asked the coach to put his arms down and said he was unable to move.
The club dialled 999 and Mr Tolchard's wife, Sarah, was also called. She rushed over to Abergwili from Tregunnor and said: "I was mortified when I saw him there. I was like, 'Where is this ambulance?'
"By that point it was getting cold and the grass was damp. Shock would have started setting in by then."
She said she was disgusted by the emergency response, adding: "I managed to get there from Tregunnor and we were still hanging around for another 20 minutes."
Mr Tolchard was covered in coats and supporters moved their cars to make it easier for the ambulance to get through. People also waited on the road to guide the paramedics in.
Mr Tolchard was rushed to hospital and lay strapped to a hospital bed for 26 hours.
He slowly began to regain feeling in his arms and legs.
"I am in a lot of pain," he added. "I remember, in hospital, thinking, 'As long as I can feel my chest going up and down, I know I'll be all right."
He will now have to go back for another scan next week to see if he needs an operation to correct two of the slipped discs in his neck.
Mr Tolchard added: "That's no more football for me. I think I'll have to retire now.
"I've played since I was nine years old and I've been pretty lucky, without any serious injuries until now."
The couple thanked the many people who have offered help and sent messages.
They praised Abergwili's club secretary Ron Davies and chairman John Carmody for all their tireless help.
Ironically, Mr Tolchard said he had asked the match referee to move his car before the start of the game — as he had accidently parked in the space reserved for an ambulance, just in case one was ever needed.
The Welsh Ambulance Service confirmed that the emergency call was received at 6.23pm and the ambulance arrived at Abergwili at 7.01pm, a response time of 38 minutes.
Service spokeswoman Sally Bruce said: "We regret the delay in our response to this incident and would welcome the patient involved to contact us should they wish to discuss it further."