A site foreman with Yorkshire Housing has been hailed a hero after helping to save the life of an elderly tenant.
Now, Sean Hale has been recognised with a hero award, but he’s all very modest about it.
“I was just doing my job,” he said. “It’s always nice to be recognised for something I’ve done. But I hope it’s something that anybody would do in the same situation.”
Back in February, Hale was leading a Homeworks team on a programme of kitchen installations in the Pellon area of Halifax.
The team was also making daily checks to see how residents were coping with the kitchen refurbishments, so they knew the man should be about, but agency worker Chris Doubtfire could not get an answer when he knocked on the door on the morning of 26 February.
Realising something might be amiss, he called Hale, who also could not get an answer at the door.
“We noticed the curtains in the bedroom were still drawn and the milk was still out,” Hale said. “But the living room curtains were pulled back part of the way and you could see that the TV was on. We also spoke with a neighbour, who said the TV had been on loud all night, and so we thought something was wrong.”
Police were called, and when they too were unable to get an answer at the door, they used a battering ram to break it down. They found the man, who had also lost his hearing aid, in bed, barely conscious and very poorly.
An ambulance was called and after being checked over by paramedics, the 72-year-old man was rushed to hospital for treatment for hyponatremia — low levels of sodium in the blood. It’s a condition that can have many underlying causes. Symptoms include dehydration and brain swelling and can lead to headaches, seizures, coma and even death.
The man is believed to have been only a couple of hours from falling into a coma when Hale acted at around 8.20am that morning.
“From what the hospital said, having checked, it’s possible that he might not still be here had we not acted,” said Hale. “If we hadn’t done anything, and I then subsequently found out that the gentleman had died, I’d never have been able to live with myself.”
The story didn’t end there. The damaged door had to be made good, and the man’s next of kin had to be informed, but the tenant — who it was believed had lived at the flat since 1983 — had no known relatives. Talks with neighbours suggested there was a son who either works or worked for a local window company.
Hale reported the situation to Pamela Davies, one of Yorkshire Housing’s neighbourhood housing officers, based in Bradford, who arranged for emergency repairs to the door. She then took up the challenge of finding the son.
She rang around double glazing firms based in the area. Remarkably, she got lucky with only the second company she called and was able to inform the son that his father had fallen ill.
The elderly man is now out of hospital but has moved into residential care in Halifax.
Main image: Sean Hale (left) with Yorkshire Housing Homeworks delivery manager Andy Kelham at an awards presentation