Pontypool woman's neck slashed open by shattered fish tank in freak accident

Kathy Catt and paramedics Joshua Edwards and Charlotte Fry
Kathy Catt, her husband Paul and paramedics Joshua Edwards and Charlotte Fry Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service

A woman's neck was slashed open when she fell down the stairs and crashed into a fish tank.

Kathy Catt of Blaenavon, Pontypool, needed four and a half hours of reconstructive surgery and was told by her surgeon she should buy a lottery ticket because she was so lucky to survive the injury.

Kathy has now been reunited with paramedics Joshua Edwards and Charlotte Fry, who saved her life following the freak accident back in August last year.

The retired shop worker was making her way to bed when her daughter’s pet dog, who she and husband Paul were looking after, ran up behind her causing her to lose her balance.

She fell down the stairs and suffered two long, deep lacerations to her neck when the glass of the fish tank shattered.

Kathy said: “I had been shielding during the first Covid-19 lockdown and as things eased we had decided to go out to our local social club that night.

“We returned home and saw to the dogs and I decided to retire for the evening and headed upstairs.

“I don’t recall much about the accident itself at all really. It’s all a blur.

“I just know that thanks to Joshua and Charlotte I wake up every morning and am thankful I’m still here.

“I have a lot of scarring and the one on my face has healed well. Since the incident I have been doing some restorative exercises on my face muscles and can feel my ear again.”

Paul and Kathy Catt Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service

Speaking of the Welsh Ambulance Service paramedics who saved her, Kathy continued: “It seems everything was on our side that night.

“Joshua and Charlotte were simply amazing, as were all the staff and doctors at the hospital. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me.”

Husband Paul, 62, recalled the moment his wife fell down the stairs.

He said: "I heard a crashing noise and saw Kathy on the floor. She was only about eight feet away from me.

"I’m not normally one to panic but I knew this was bad.

“She looked at me and said ‘help me, please help me’. I ran over, picked her up and put her on the couch and took a look at her.

“It was then I realised how bad it was. I managed to quickly grab some clean towels and put pressure on her neck”

'His shirt had been soaked in blood'

Paul then made a call to 999 for an ambulance, and soon on the scene were newly-qualified paramedics Joshua Edwards and Charlotte Fry, who were working out of Bargoed station, when the top priority ‘Red’ call came in.

Joshua, 30, of Aberdare, said: “I remember it well as it was such a busy weekend with Red call after Red call.

“We arrived at the address with a report of a patient having fallen and cut their neck.

“The patient’s husband was flashing the porch light on and off to get our attention as it was pitch black and in the early hours.

“As I approached I thought he was wearing a black top, but his blue shirt had been soaked in blood.

Joshua Edwards and Charlotte Fry Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service

“We went in to find the patient sat on the couch clutching a towel to her neck.

“Upon inspection there was a large cut from the front to around behind the ear – it was like a surgeon’s cut.”

With little time to waste, the crew assessed Kathy, dressed the wounds with a special bandage to help clot the blood, got her safely in a wheelchair and into the ambulance whilst all the time keeping vital pressure on the wounds.

Kathy was taken straight to Newport’s Royal Gwent Hospital, where she underwent four and a half hours of emergency surgery from the trauma and major haemorrhage teams.

During the journey, Kathy began to fade due to the blood loss and Joshua continued to treat her administering vital clotting drugs and keeping her as calm as possible.

'The surgeon said to go buy a lottery ticket because that's how lucky she was'

Paul said: “I remember getting to the hospital and seeing a team of around ten people waiting outside to rush her into theatre. I can still see it all in slow motion now.

“Due to restrictions I was waiting outside the hospital when I got a call off one of the nurses in the ward to come in and see her. It was a real shock.

“The surgeon came to see us and said to go straight to the shop to buy a lottery ticket because that’s how lucky she was.”

Hospital staff would later describe the actions of Charlotte and Joshua as “life-saving”.

Charlotte, a 32-year-old mother from Penarth, added: “I was driving that night and it was a difficult response in that we weren’t fully aware of the severity of injury.

“After we dressed Kathy’s wounds, we took the decision to get her straight to the Royal Gwent and made calls to the trauma team there.

“We are glad to see that Kathy has made a good recovery and it’s been a pleasure to meet them again in much nicer circumstances.”

The lucky couple and paramedic crew were reunited at Bargoed Ambulance Station last week.

Since the accident Kathy has gone on to take first aid and fire safety courses thanks to the encouragement of their daughter – all skills she can use and pass on to potentially help others in the future.