It was a wonderful day for rugby today, Saturday (Apr 14). A beautiful spring day brought out a reasonably large crowd at Pontyates RFC’s ground in the centre of the village.
Speaking before the game the home team’s captain Jamie Cooper said he was looking forward to a great game. The club is struggling as most clubs are in attracting players. Financially it is difficult too as the club chairman pointed out. “We have to give the boys £10 for petrol for away games because it is cheaper than hiring a bus.”
This is a far cry from the pro game where money does not appear to be any object yet the irony is that teams like Pontyates and others stretching all along the Gwendraeth Valley down to Llanelli are the breeding and hunting grounds for the big clubs.
The visitors to Pontyates were Cefneithin, a very well drilled strong team who themselves are struggling to complete their season’s fixtures because other teams simply cannot find the players to field to play them.
This was scheduled to be a local derby and as the Cefneithin coach said to his players before the game, ‘It is a cup final for us every day’. These men are as hard as steel. They spare no punches when they get onto the field. Injuries are inevitable in today’s game.
Standing on the sidelines you could hear the crunches as player went against player and then in the first stages of the second half there was an almighty crack as the Pontyates Captain Jamie Cooper went into a tackle and broke his leg.
The game was halted and the coaching staff worked wonders in making Jamie comfortable and doing everything they could to ensure he was cared for. The referee spoke to the coaches and it was agreed to abandon the game.
An ambulance had been called but the caller claims they were told that ‘no ambulance was available’ and that Jamie’s injuries were ‘non life threatening’. The wait for any ambulance they were told could be as long as ‘three hours’.
One does not really have to elaborate on how much pain Jamie must have been in as he lay on a damp muddy rugby field. It is claimed the caller was told to ‘put Jamie in a car and take him to hospital’.
What happened next may or may not shock those people who believe we have a fantastic NHS service and undoubtedly there will be those who will say we do compared to many countries. We have all heard about the crisis in the NHS, the lack of GP’s the threats to hospitals, the ambulances lining up outside hospitals and people laying on trolleys in corridors.
Jamie was fortunate to have such overwhelming care and support from his team mates and officials at the club. They made do with what medical skills they possessed and what equipment they had available.
Using a splint, some bandages and a stretcher they had purchased recently, they carried Jamie the length of two rugby pitches to a waiting van belonging to one of the coaching staff. Luckily he said, the van had been in the throes of conversion to a camper and so was bare. Team mates helped lift Jamie into the van and he was transported to Glangwili Hospital.
A number of observers expressed their shock and sadness that even when someone has broken a leg, the chances of getting an ambulance are slim. ‘Why are we paying our taxes?’ one person asked. ‘What has the NHS come to?’ asked another.
Sports men and women across Wales should be mindful that they are now at the mercy of a service, which appears to be in meltdown. Doctor’s surgeries, the ambulance service, A & E departments. No one at Pontyates was blaming the staff, the doctors or the nurses. They like the rest of us were just left scratching their heads and asking WHY?