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Two Manchester nurses describe their response to the bombing

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A hospital nurse and a senior nurse involved in commissioning, both with their own children, explain their experiences of the terrorist incident that shook Manchester on Monday night.

Craig Harris, executive nurse and director of safeguarding for Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, has a seven-year-old son and grew up in the city.

“I, like any other person who lives here, want to stand united in the face of such loss”

Craig Harris

Up until recently, he lived five minutes only away from the Manchester Arena, where the attack by a suicide bomber took place on 22 May during a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande.

In an interview on dealing with children’s questions and fears following the attack, he noted that he had told his own son that “something awful had happened in Manchester and that it was a terrible thing, and that people had passed away and been hurt”.

But Mr Harris said he had also highlighted the spirit of the city of Manchester in the wake of the incident, which he described as a “powerful and positive” message to remember.

“I also told him that even though this terrible thing has happened everyone who lives here has pulled together – and that we are strong when we support each other like this,” he said.

“Visually I was able to explain this to him by showing him a picture of Monday’s vigil, where he could see that true Manchester spirit as thousands of people came together,” he said. “That picture was very powerful and positive – and a message I want him to remember.

“We should focus on the love and warmth people displayed after the bomb”

Joe O’Brien

He added that his overall message was that nurses and other health professionals were “there to support anyone who needs help”.

“Professional role aside, I, like any other person who lives here, want to stand united in the face of such loss, as one of the first steps towards a healing process for the city,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Joe O’Brien, a senior sister in the surgical department of Stepping Hill Hospital, has described her experiences of Monday night.

The hospital in Stockport treated six of the 59 injured in the bombing.

Having finished a normal shift at 6pm, Ms O’Brien said she first heard about the attack on the radio after getting into bed.

Manchester Health and Care Commissioning

Two Manchester nurses describe their response to the bombing

Craig Harris

“I immediately thought about Declan, my son, a student who lives in central Manchester,” she said. “We rang Declan and established that he was OK, then I rang work and went in.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Ms O’Brien noted that she arrived back at the hospital at 1.30am by which time the six casualties had been stabilised and brought to the surgical department.

“They all had what we call lower limb injuries with foreign bodies – shrapnel injuries. Metal bolts and nuts, some an inch wide, had gone into them,” she said.

“It just destroys anything it goes through – arteries, bones, nerves, the lot. I’ve been in operating theatres since 1988 and it’s the most upsetting thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Ms O’Brien described one of her patients – a woman who had been in the foyer of the arena when the bomb went off.

“She had extensive, horrendous injuries caused by the shrapnel, including broken bones and tissue damage. She was in theatre from 3am until about 6.30am,” she said.

“I talked to her just before she went to sleep for the operation… She was in a very bad way but was still smiling and saying thank you,” she said. “That showed real humanity; I thought that was amazing.”

She added that at least four of the six patients needed surgery, with operations going on simultaneously in three of the hospital’s 18 theatres and staffed by teams including about 25 other colleagues who had come in to help.

“The atmosphere in the surgical department overnight was very calm and focused but also very emotional,” she said. “I found it emotional partly because of my lovely lady patient, who didn’t deserve what happened to her; I’ll always remember her smiling.”

Ms O’Brien said: “I’m still feeling very raw and emotional. I finally finished at 9.30 on Tuesday morning and I cried when I got home.

“A terrible thing happened, and there’s no explanation for it. But I don’t want to think about who did it. I want to focus on the good I saw and was part of on Monday night,” she said. “We should focus on the love and warmth people displayed after the bomb.”

  • Latest numbers released earlier today by NHS England show that 116 people have received NHS inpatient care in relation to the Manchester incident
  • In addition, 75 people have been admitted across eight hospitals including 23 patients who are currently in critical care
  • Three hospitals have discharged all their patients – Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Tameside General Hospital and Fairfield General Hospital
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