The first doctor on scene at London Bridge today spoke of the “loving” response from Londoners and emergency responders as they rushed to help the victims.
Dr Chris Lambert, 46, an emergency doctor with London’s Air Ambulance, told of “extraordinary” scenes as people ran the length of the bridge carrying badly injured casualties to medics.
He said the willingness of members of the public to be good samaritans felt as though the “love not hate” message started after the Manchester bombing was being acted upon, even as the capital was hit by a new atrocity.
“I think I really saw some of that on the night – love being shown to complete strangers by those bystanders and professionals on the scene,” Dr Lambert told the Evening Standard.
“There were a number of casualties brought across the bridge, each one carried by four, five, six people, which is not an easy thing to do. They were using whatever means they could. Some had carry sheets provided by the ambulance service.
“It’s very inspiring to see the courage of people not to run away but to pick up victims and help them to a place of safety.
“It’s an image, a memory, that will stay with me – that courage, and people performing CPR and doing everything they could to help.
“We had various bystanders, some with no medical background at all, being very composed and calm and reassuring to the patients, which made a big difference.
“We had a group of junior doctors, maybe on an evening out. They offered up their skills. They were really helpful on the scene. They were able to alert me if something was changing with the patient they were looking after.
“It was inspiring to see young doctors putting themselves at risk and going the extra mile. I never got the opportunity but I do want to put out my thanks, and to everybody at the scene.”
Dr Lambert was accompanied by Dr Michael Christian, a doctor who recently joined the air ambulance from Canada, and Tracy Porter, an emeritus paramedic from London Ambulance Service. They were one of six London’s Air Ambulance trauma teams deployed on the night.
LAS commanders set up a command point on the north side of the bridge, making it easier to assess casualties. See here for the story of the first LAS paramedic on the scene, Gary Edwards.
“We had some victims with knife wounds, some victims with more blunt injuries which you would get from contact with a van,” Dr Lambert said.
He instructed the first aiders to keep talking to the victims. “I told them: If the patient stops talking or becomes quiet, then please let me know. Then I can step in.
“The decision that was key was to grab people in whatever state they were in and take them to a place of safety. That meant that the patients I had in front of me were in quite a tight huddle. It’s easier to move between them.”
At one point, they had to move to another area amid fears they were in danger. He said the presence of the police and security forces meant he felt “very well protected and very safe”.
He said: “On Saturday night the response was excellent. I was really, really impressed. We work every day with the LAS. I felt there was a stepping up a gear. There was a very professional, very well-run response. All the right procedures were put in place to get patients to safety as quickly as possible. It felt a privilege to be part of.”
London’s Air Ambulance, which operates a helicopter during daylight and fast-response cars at night, needs about £6.4 million a year in charity donations to keep running.Dr Lambert, formerly an emergency physician at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, said: “The main challenge in an incident like this for us is to shift the way we work. We are trained to work in a very detailed way with one patient. It’s that shift of approach to oversee a number of patients to make sure each one gets what they need.
“We make sure the most unwell are stabilised. If we had a patient who was deteriorating, we could quickly do some simple interventions before they go to hospital.”
He added: “One of the things I found moving from relatives of victims is this message of being determined not to hate these people, but respond with love. – this ‘love not hate’ message.
“I felt I experienced that on the night. Just reflecting on it on a personal level, if we as a country can respond by just continuing to show love then, on an ideological level, then whatever is thrown at us, if we continue to respond with love, hopefully the ideology behind these attacks can’t win.”
An edited version of this article appeared in today’s Evening Standard: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/doctors-praise-for-strangers-who-carried-victims-the-length-of-london-bridge-after-terror-attack-a3560006.html