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I live very close to the Manchester Arena - within walking distance of it - and on Monday evening I had decided to get an early night as I normally work a long day on a Tuesday. It was a warm evening so I’d left the patio door open as I got into bed and very soon afterwards, as I was dropping off to sleep, I began to hear siren after siren outside.
At that time I didn’t know what had happened but as the sirens continued I looked at my phone and saw on social media that there were reports of an ‘explosion’ in Manchester. Even then I didn’t realise it was something that might have targeted children, young people and families.
Very soon after that I received a call from my consultant colleague who was on-call at work and he said that a major incident had been declared and he expected there would be a large number of victims who were children. He asked if I was around in Manchester. I simply said, ‘I’m coming. I’ll be 20 minutes’, and as fast as I safely could I got into my car and drove to the emergency department.
Colleagues who started to realise what was happening began to come in from home to volunteer their help and my consultant colleague and I ensured that as much space could be cleared as quickly and safely as possible with the expectation of receiving a large number of injured people.
We have regular major incident training at work - and a superb emergency preparedness, resilience and response department - so we very quickly had our silver and bronze controls set up but I have no doubt that all of my colleagues were waiting for patients to arrive with significant trepidation, not knowing what injuries we were about to manage.
I think the most difficult part of the night was realising that there could have been a significant number of critically injured children and families still at the incident site whilst at the same time having to stay focused on ensuring our department, hospital and colleagues were as ready as we could be to receive the patients who were about to be brought to us, or were about to come to us or who were already with us.
I’m a trained consultant in paediatric emergency medicine yet although I have managed a number of patients who have suffered from serious trauma, before Monday I had no clinical experience of being involved in the care of multiple victims who had been involved in a terrorist explosion.
In fact, it didn’t really matter. My colleagues all worked together in an amazingly collaborative way to manage whoever came through or was brought through the front door. What was heartening to me was seeing porters, catering staff, hospital managers, receptionists, support workers, paramedics, police officers, nurses and doctors of all grades supporting each other, working together and delivering the best possible care that they could.
For those of us who work in emergency medicine our job is to care for sick and injured patients - but an incident such as this is something no-one hopes to deal with. Everyone has worked so incredibly hard and as an NHS family worked really well together and supported each other through a difficult time, with input from local partner agencies including social care services and the voluntary sector.
The sheer amount of support our colleagues, our patients and their families have had from the local community has been outstanding. Local businesses and individuals have been bringing in food, clothes and other donations for both families who are spending time with their relatives, and for the professionals who have been working long hours.
My utmost respect goes to the members of the public and professionals who voluntarily worked together, who offered assistance whenever they could, and who worked tirelessly throughout the night and the coming days in support of other human beings. The bravery shown by those people who I know ran into the incident to do what they could to support other people, is remarkable.
This was a shocking incident - an atrocity targeting children, young people, young adults and their families. It resulted in a community that has selflessly pulled together with efficiency and genuine compassion for victims and families, in the light of the terrible events of Monday evening.
I have witnessed, and heard about, countless acts of kindness and altruism for the public benefit... most especially the support I saw children giving to adults and other children, and the support adults gave to children - both from their own families and from the wider group of people who were at a concert they hoped to enjoy and were excited about being at. Collectively these, and many other examples, are heart-warming responses from the wider public to an awful incident which have, in my view, shown a very great level of humanity towards other members of our society.
My sincere and heartfelt thoughts and condolences go to the victims, their families and their friends who have been involved in or affected by this awful incident. I feel a deep sense of sadness that so many families have been destroyed by this attack on our society but at the same time I feel humbled by how incredibly strong and dignified patients, their families and other members of the public have been during this terrible time.
Andrew Rowland is a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, and an honorary professor in paediatrics at Salford University.
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