A South Belfast woman is in a coma following multiple heart problems in the city centre at the weekend.
The family of Sandra Bradley, 68, have raised concerns about why there were delays in an ambulance being sent to her after she suffered a series of heart problems while she was in Belfast City Centre with her daughter on Saturday, June 25.
They told Belfast Live that Sandra had gone to the doctors complaining of chest pains in January of this year and a few months later in March at an appointment for arthritis it was discovered that she had an irregular heartbeat, with doctors believing she may have suffered a heart attack.
She was then sent for tests at the Royal Victoria Hospital where she was allegedly told that there was nothing to be concerned about.
In the following months however, Sandra continued to complain about having chest pains but trusted the advice she had been given and did her best to ignore them.
On Saturday, she was in the city centre with her daughter having lunch when she began to have heart problems and after trying to contact an ambulance.
After leaving the cafe they were eating in, Sandra suffered another heart episode and it's claimed she was asked if it would be possible for her to make her own way to hospital and that she was in a queue to receive an ambulance.
Her daughter took her home quickly before going to the hospital and Sandra went into "cardiac arrest" and her daughter rang for another ambulance while she performed CPR on her mum.
Shortly after this the family claim that three ambulances arrived at her home for her and she was taken to hospital.
Her family say that Sandra is now critically ill in an induced coma and it was found that a blocked artery had caused a heart attack. They fear she may not wake from the coma and have been told she is likely to have suffered brain damage.
Rachel Bradley, Sandra's granddaughter, said: "We want to know why my Nanna was not able to get an ambulance after she had suffered a heart attack?
"My mum tried to contact them numerous times and it wasn't until my Nanna became seriously ill that one was eventually sent, and then three of them arrived at the house. If one of those ambulances was sent to her sooner then she would probably not be fighting for her life now.
"It was only a few months ago that she was tested and told there were no problems and now she is in hospital after going into cardiac arrest from a blocked artery.
"We are hoping that our Nanna is going to be able to make it through all of this but we also need answers as to how she has ended up in hospital like this."
A Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service would like to offer a sincere apology to the patient, and her family, who waited longer than would reasonably be expected following a 999 call to NIAS. We would be happy to discuss with the family, directly, any concerns they have in relation to our response to this call.
"At the time of the call NIAS was under extreme pressure due to reduced cover in the area along with a high number of calls waiting to be responded to and a crews delayed at EDs due to pressures across the entire HSC system.
"At times of extreme pressure, NIAS Control staff, when it is clinically appropriate, will ask the caller if it is possible to self-transport. This question is asked routinely in order to ensure that we protect available ambulances to respond to immediately life-threatening calls. The caller is also advised that, if self-transport is not an option, an ambulance will be despatched when available.
"Our Control staff would not instruct patients to make their own way to hospital. It is merely done to find alternatives to lengthy waits for ambulance response and is in line with our advice over the past number of months for callers to consider options other than ambulance attendance during this challenging period.
"NIAS has explained through a number of press statements and media interviews the pressures that we have been facing over the past number of months and will continue to face in the months ahead. These pressures are being experienced across the Health and Social Care system.
"NIAS will continue to prioritise the most clinically ill or injured to ensure they get the quickest response. We will also prioritise other calls to ensure they receive a response most appropriate to their needs. NIAS is aware that current pressures may result in delays in response to all categories of calls and that less urgent calls may face longer than acceptable delays in response.
"We appreciate the understanding of the public in respect of the situation to date and would ask for their continued patience. We would again ask callers to consider other options than dialing 999 to address their needs. However, if the situation is immediately life-threatening, we would advise that patients call 999 without delay."