MANCHESTER, England — Doctor Steve Jones didn’t have a lot of information. He didn’t know why there was an explosion. He didn’t know much about singer Ariana Grande. He didn’t know the children who came into his emergency room, bloodied and crying.
But there was one thing he did know: It was time for him to try and save lives. Even if he didn’t know their names.
“The anonymity of it was also hard,” said Jones, a surgeon at Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. “Some of the kids were separated from their families for a time. We were treating children and we just didn’t know who they were.”.
The horror of Monday night’s bombing in Manchester, which left 22 dead and over 100 injured, is particularly difficult for doctors and emergency personnel. Many of Ariana Grande’s fans are young people, and many of the concert-goers were teenagers or even younger, accompanied by their moms, sisters and brothers.
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It made the tragedy even more palpable for Jones and his fellow doctors and nurses, who struggled with some of the most difficult injuries to treat: Blast wounds. In children, no less.
Jones wouldn’t reveal specific details about the injuries, thought to include amputations, damage to major organs and serious head injuries, but he did offer some observations about what it was like to respond to Britain’s worst terrorist-related atrocity in a decade.
“The kid thing is particularly tricky,” he said. “As a doctor, it’s easy to be in the moment, you can do things, but the real difficulty that we’ve all felt with this incident is that it’s not just one child, and the ‘you can go off and have a cup of tea and have a chat with a friend’ — it was the volume and severity of it.”.
Jones was roused from a deep sleep at home just before 11 p.M. On that night. The hospital was asking if he had heard the news.
He hadn’t. He was also not familiar with Grande’s music. His first thought was that the injured would probably be adults. He wasn’t sure how long he would be needed and or if he would need to rest in between. He took along a sleeping bag just in case.
When he arrived at the ER, part of a campus of medical facilities that includes the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, he was surprised to see so many families and kids.
Many of the 116 people who sustained injuries in Monday’s attack at Manchester Arena were treated in the emergency rooms that Jones presides over. Seventy-five people are still receiving care across eight Manchester hospitals. Eight children remain in a critical condition. At least six children were killed in the blast. The youngest, Saffie Rose Roussos, was 8. All the victims of the attack have now been identified.
Jones said the injuries his staff treated that night are fairly typical of blast trauma, or, as he puts it, the “consequences of lots of things flying around.”.
He said that the team of doctors he manages performed so well that he was able to spend most of the night comforting families. “I say ‘thank you’ a lot in this job,” he said, referring to how proud he was of his team’s clinical response to the attack. “On this particular occasion, ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem enough.”.
Investigators believe that the explosive materials used in the bomb detonated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi were the same as those used in terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, and in the 2005 bombings in London. The bomb was packed with nuts and bolts to cause maximum damage.
When Queen Elizabeth visited the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital on Thursday to meet patients and praise the hospital’s staff, she described Monday’s incident as a “wicked” act. “The awful thing was that everyone was so young. The age of them,” she said.
During the visit, Grant Barlow told the queen how when his daughter Amy, 12, suffered injuries to her legs outside the concert hall a man selling T-shirts ripped them up to help stem the bleeding. “He used the T-shirts as bandages,” Barlow told her.
When USA TODAY visited a charity that is connected to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, there were piles of donations stacked up against a wall. Mostly small bags and containers of potato chips, cookies and sweets, but also toiletries, bottles of water and other consumables.
Sarah Naismith, the charity’s director, explained that many people from around Britain have been eager to help. “Firemen, students, companies, they’ve all been calling up saying ‘whatever you need, it’s yours.'”.
“Everyone’s felt that they needed to do something. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster,” she said. But Naismith fought back tears when asked how she was doing.
“I have three children and to think of the horror that people saw, you can’t fathom it.” She said.
Soon after Naismith finished speaking, Manchester resident Simeon Gunning stopped by to donate some cases of soup and other goods.
“I thought it would be helpful,” he said. “Me and a couple of friends put a little money together and just tried to do what we could, to help the families.”.
Gunning said that “as a (regular) person” he felt a little powerless in the face of all the carnage.
“You can’t really do anything to help fix their injuries, so what can you do besides put your hand in your pocket and try to do something that way?” He said. Then he added, “Manchester Strong,” an echo of the “Boston Strong slogan that popped up in reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.
For Dr. Jones, there was recognition that Manchester, its victims and its healers, would be dealing with the consequences of the attack for some time.
“This is not an ‘on’ and ‘off’ thing,” Jones said.
As for the sleeping bag that he brought to the hospital Monday night? By the time he left the next morning at 10 a.M., He hadn’t used it.
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