Rugby player who waited hours for ambulance treated like 'difficult patient' before painful death

Maddy Lawrence, Credit: UWE Rugby
Maddy died in hospital a little more than two weeks after the incident after developing a bacterial infection. Credit: UWE Women's Rugby

A 20-year-old rugby player who dislocated her hip during a friendly match died in hospital after having to have her leg amputated due to an infection, an inquest has been told.

Maddy Lawrence was playing for the University of the West of England's women's second team in a friendly against the University of Bristol when she was hurt during a tackle.

An inquest has heard ambulance delays meant Maddy spent several hours lying on the pitch in pain as she waited for an ambulance.

She was eventually taken to Southmead Hospital where she underwent surgery.

However, she remained in severe pain. Her father told the inquest his daughter felt she was being treated like a "difficult patient" and nurses were not taking her seriously.

She was later found to have developed a bacterial infection and had to have her leg amputated.

Despite this, Maddy did not recover and died in hospital less than three weeks after the accident.

Maddy played as a winger on the team Credit: UWE Women's Rugby

An eight-day inquest into her death began at Avon Coroners' Court on Tuesday 29 August.

In a statement read out to the court, Maddy's father Simon Lawrence described his daughter as "loving" and "warm" and a "girl looking forward to life with huge enthusiasm". 

She was also described as energetic, competitive and sporty.

Witnesses told the court that Maddy was tackled within the first few minutes of the friendly match, which kicked off at 3pm.

But she had to wait for an ambulance lying on the pitch "screaming" and "in massive pain" for several hours.

One witness said the ambulance did not arrive until around 8.30pm.

She was supported by physio Paul Tompkins and was covered in blankets to keep her warm on the pitch.

Four 999 calls between Paul Tompkins and South Western Ambulance Service were played out in court.

During the recording, the call handler can be heard saying there were severe delays due to how busy the service was. 

Maddy's father told the court he had spoken to his daughter on the day of the injury and the day after.

He said she "seemed in good spirits" and he travelled to the hospital to be with her.

But over the following days, Maddy complained of increased pain and he became more concerned about her condition.

He told the court that Maddy felt she was being treated like a "difficult patient" and the nurses were not taking her pain seriously.

Mr Lawrence told the court that by 14 March - five days after the accident - his daughter was in a "huge amount of discomfort" and that staff were now taking the deterioration seriously.

Maddy was moved into the intensive care unit where her father said she was shouting and hallucinating. The decision was made to operate. 

The following day her leg had to be amputated and Mr Lawrence said the family had "hoped she would recover". 

But early on 25 March, the family were told the final treatment had failed and her life support was switched off. 

Maddy's family and friends paid tribute to her shortly after her death and set up a charity in her name. UWE Women's Rugby retired Maddy's shirt number in her honour.

The inquest continues.

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