Surbiton alkaline attack victim rushed to Kingston A&E

When Spencer Gymer first arrived at Kingston A&E on January 19 he was left “blind, shaking, and traumatised” as he claims the medical staff struggled to address his urgent needs.

He had been driving through Surbiton when he was approached by a motorcyclist who proceeded to “scream at him” on the driver’s side of his car.

He was waiting at the traffic lights at the junction of Brighton Road and Portsmouth Road at around 4.05pm when the stranger began coercing him to open the car window.

Despite Spencer’s attempts to de-escalate the situation by explaining he was on a hands-free phone call, he claims the attacker persisted before he produced a water bottle with a sports lid and squeezed the alkaline liquid onto his face and body.

The fire brigade arrived within minutes to administer emergency aid, dousing him with water and applying new chemicals designed for acid attacks before he was taken to Kingston A&E.

He told Your Local Guardian: “I was blue-lighted into Kingston A&E, and they didn’t know what to do with me. They had no specialised equipment.

“That hospital is so understaffed and all I can hear laying on my back, having my eyes get washed, is people screaming and shouting – people are angry and there’s people drunk.

“It’s just like, do I really need to be in amongst all this right now? Would it make more sense I was in a trauma unit? You know, with people trying to calm me down and help me.”

He has described the horrific attack as a “game changer to his life” and hopes his story will shed light on the apparent lack of specialised care and systems in place for these kinds of attacks.

Spencer said: “I was shaking so vigorously that they thought I was having a fit but I was just freezing because of all the water put onto me after the attack.

“I’m blind and all I can hear is ‘we don’t know what to do with him’.

“I had two nurses standing over me, squeezing drip bags into my eyes while my head was hanging off the back of a trolley over a mop bucket.

“They didn’t know what to do with me. They didn’t know where to send me.

“They wheeled me into a room and presented two junior nurses and made a makeshift jet washer.”

He said that a shortage of staff further complicated situation, with one nurse being pulled away at what Spencer described as “a crucial stage of an alkaline attack”.

He added: “Due to understaffing, they removed one of the nurses, reducing the efficiency of the treatment.

“Instead of having both eyes treated simultaneously, the process was slowed down as the nurse had to do one at a time.

“I said ‘why don’t you let my girlfriend do one eye, and you do the other?’ And he agreed.”

Spencer’s partner then stepped in to assist with the treatment, taking on a role that he believes should have been handled by a senior nurse.

He was then sent home from A&E and had to wait the next morning to go to St George’s for specialist treatment.

A spokesperson for Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation said that they aim to provide the “best possible care in the emergency department” and that “following their initial assessment and treatment, an immediate referral was made to a specialist unit”.

Spencer added: “Right now, as I speak to you, my left eye is completely stapled closed, and I can’t help but feel traumatised two weeks down the line just by the fact that my left eye is stapled closed.”

He is now waiting for further updates on the permanent condition of his vision.

The emotional toll of the attack has been difficult on Spencer, and he criticised the lack of support and information for mental health services during the aftermath of the attack.

While expressing gratitude for the commendable efforts of police, the fire brigade, and the public who rushed to help – he stressed the urgent need for systemic improvements.

Spencer added: “In the world we live in today, it feels like it’s becoming more and more. What I’m trying to do now share my story and try to help victims of these types of attacks in the future.”

Spencer is a recovered addict and uses his experiences to support others struggling with addiction – but he has also applied this to his recovery in relation to the attack.

He said: “In recovery, we talk about acceptance and the necessity of accepting things. The number one offender for a relapse is resentment.

“We are trying to encourage youngsters to admit ‘I’ve got a problem with drugs. I’ve got a problem with addiction’ and it’s okay to say that. We’re working to lift the stigma of addiction.

“It’s okay to be in recovery. We work one day at a time, only worrying about today. It’s about acceptance, acknowledging that I may face challenges and I’m applying this to my situation too. “ A spokesperson for Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our staff strive to provide the best possible care in our emergency department, and so we are sorry to hear about this experience.

“Following our initial assessment and treatment, an immediate referral was made to a specialist unit, as is routine for such an injury.

“We would be very happy to review this patient’s case with them, to provide reassurance regarding the care provided.”

No arrests have been made since the attack and the police investigation continues.

Anyone with information or dashcam footage is asked to call 101, ref CAD 4727/20jan.

Surrey Comet | Kingston