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Leading UK nurse describes being metres from Belgian bomb blast

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A leading UK nurse who was metres away from one of the bomb blasts in Brussels has praised the “amazing” work of emergency services that swung into action in the wake of the explosion.

Monica Fletcher, chief executive of charity Education for Health, told Nursing Times she was in a hotel about 150 metres away from the metro station where a bomb exploded yesterday killing about 20 people.

“It felt like the building moved and we didn’t know quite what was going on”

Monica Fletcher

Ms Fletcher, who is a fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute and was awarded an OBE for services to nursing and nurse education, was facilitating a meeting on occupational respiratory health at the time of the explosion.

About an hour before the bomb went off at Maelbeek metro station, two explosions hit Brussels international airport with 11 people reported dead.

“We had all heard about the airport explosion when we started our meeting and then there was a very odd sensation,” Ms Fletcher told Nursing Times.

Education for Health

Exclusive: UK nurse in Brussels praises emergency response

“It felt like the building moved and we didn’t know quite what was going on. Then within a few minutes there were emergency services, ambulances, people rushing down the road and we realised there had been an explosion about 150 metres from us,” she said.

She described how the hotel she was in was immediately turned into a triage centre for casualties.

“They brought all the emergency services downstairs and the foyer was cleared. It was amazing and spectacular work, both by the hotel and emergency services,” she said. “They were so efficient and worked tirelessly and are a credit to the services.”

She understands about 40 people were treated and cared for in the building before being sent to various hospitals.

“It was amazing and spectacular work, both by the hotel and emergency services”

Monica Fletcher

Ms Fletcher said being so close to the explosion had been a horrifying experience.

“It emphasises the fragility of life and how people’s lives can be turned upside down just so quickly,” she said.

“Then you get the thought – although you mustn’t dwell on it – that it could have been any of us, because we’re so near.”

She explained that she had nearly chosen to fly into Brussels international airport around the time it was attacked.

“I was going to come on Tuesday morning, but decided to come on Monday night at the last minute,” she said.

Ms Fletcher, who is currently confined to the hotel, said the mood was sombre. “There is this awful feeling today – it’s just really strange – grief is now being outpoured and also anger,” she said.

Monica Fletcher

Monica Fletcher

Monica Fletcher

“There are armed guards on the door, press everywhere and now we’re trying to find our way back home,” she said.

“We as a nursing community and as a country need to send our whole-hearted supported to the people here,” Ms Fletcher told Nursing Times.

Ms Fletcher, who often works abroad, also said the attacks had emphasised the need for constant vigilance.

In addition, she added that it was important for healthcare professionals to understand the impact of the threat of terrorism on individuals and communities.

“It’s about what does that do to the stress levels of people day-to-day and their physical health too, because we all know physical health is related to emotional health and being able to be free and feel safe,” she said.

“This raises general stress levels in a community and healthcare professionals have to recognise that when they’re dealing with patients,” she said.

Education for Health

Exclusive: UK nurse in Brussels praises emergency response

Monica Fletcher was in a hotel near Maelbeek metro station

Education for Health

Exclusive: UK nurse in Brussels praises emergency response

Emergency services preparing for cassis ties in the hotel foyer

 

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