They’re the frontline heroes who go to unimaginable lengths to protect us.
Showing remarkable courage, professionalism and compassion in horrific circumstances, they battled through the night and the days that followed to rescue and treat the victims of Monday’s atrocity.
So today we want to say thank you.
Paramedic Dan Smith was at home in the city centre when Salman Abedi struck. He was the second medic on the scene, running the final 100 yards or so along Deansgate to get to the Arena.
“As I was running along Deansgate people were running in the opposite direction covered in blood. It was then the seriousness of the situation hit me.
“I was faced with a lot of very scared people, a lot of badly injured people.
“The police who were already at the scene were doing a fantastic job of getting people out of the Arena.
“There was a lot of confusion, a lot of distress. At this stage we didn’t know the full extent of what had happened, there was an awful lot of shocked, confused, upset people.
“I was trying to get control of the scene, trying to get people into one location where we could treat them best.
“We were unsure at that point if there was potential for another explosion, we were trying to get to grips with everything.
“But in amongst that there was also an unbelievable amount of people doing what they could to help. Police officers and members of the public carrying the injured down the steps to get them away from the scene.
“I have been a paramedic for 17 years in Manchester and that night I saw people pulling together in a way I have never seen before.
“The overwhelming thing for me is that it was a distressing and chaotic scene, but people – paramedics, police the public – just got on with it.
“I saw police officers sat with injured people comforting them, holding their hand, I saw members of the public doing the same thing.
“The thing I will remember more than any other is the humanity that was on display.
“People were catching each other’s eye, asking if they were OK, touching shoulders, looking out for one other, saying thank you.”
Catherine Jackson, 38, is an A&E consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital. She spent Monday night in charge of the resuscitation area in A&E overseeing the care of some of the most grievously injured victims.
“I was at home when a friend called me because she thought I was at the concert.
“I looked online and realised then it was a major incident so headed into the hospital.
“At that time we didn’t have much information, most of the information we did have was from the M.E.N. website.
“I was assigned the role of head of the resuscitation area. That meant I was in charge of assigning care to the most acute patients.
“At that point we had no idea about what type of injuries we would be treating – but we’d been told to expect nine major trauma patients. To put that in context the hospital normally deals with one a day.
“We were braced for the worst, shocked, but we train for this type of incident and when the first patients started to arrive the professionalism shown by staff was overwhelming.
“It was a serious environment, but the way people worked was amazing.
“There were a few quiet heroes in the department, people who were supplying us with food and drink. There were staff who did 24 hours shifts, but they wouldn’t have been able to do that without support.
“We have a few people who have served with the armed forces, who had experience of dealing with shrapnel injuries and that was invaluable.
“The dedication and compassion from everyone was incredible to see.
“There was just a willingness and a determination to help, because that is what we do. That is what we are dedicated to.
“All of the staff send our condolences to those that have lost loved ones and those that injured or affected by the incident.”
David Jones, 60, is a consultant general surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital. He worked through the night operating on a patient who suffered life-threatening shrapnel injuries.
“My first job was to create some extra beds so I went on to the surgical ward where I knew some of my patients were well enough to go home or be moved to other wards.
“That way we managed to free up 18 beds.
“Then I became involved with a patient with multiple life-threatening injuries who required surgery.
“They also had other injuries which, while not life-threatening, were life-changing.
“Because we were in surgery we were not really aware of what was going on. We operated for several hours and it was only when we came out of the theatre at about 7am that we became aware of the bigger picture.
“The thing that struck me was how calm it was. There was no panic. We have a plan in place, we train for situations like this and the organisation was excellent.
“My colleagues were amazing and the patients were amazing, both those we were treating and the patients I asked to leave so we could free up beds. There was no grumbling, everyone realised the seriousness of the situation.
“I’m a surgeon, but I can’t operate without a team around me and the team was amazing.”
Derek Cartwright, chief executive of the North West Ambulance Service, headed up the control room in Whitefield, Bury, on the night of the attack.
“One of our senior paramedics was in the area and he got there very, very quickly.
“He was on his own with the victims for a few minutes, but the job he did in giving us feedback from the scene was remarkable.
“In the early stages of a major incident like this accurate information is vital because it allows you to formulate the correct response. If you get it wrong in the early stages it’s hard to correct it.
“Very quickly we had sizable resources there, we very quickly had five doctors there and three more consultant paramedics.
“Overall we had 60 ambulances at the scene and 300 people working on the incident, ambulances came from Blackpool, Merseyside, Cheshire – all over the north west.
“We worked to make sure the patients were taken to the most appropriate hospitals for their injuries. We did that very quickly.
“We did our absolute best. Tragically 22 people died, but I’m sure that if it wasn’t for our efforts more people would have died.
“I’m always proud of our staff, but this takes pride to another level. It was very humbling to see how people got on with it in a very quiet, professional way.
“At about 4am we got everybody together at the ambulance station on Plymouth Grove and when I arrived paramedics were getting the ambulances ready for the next calls.
“It was staggering. And the response we’ve had from the public since has been incredible. Some of our crews have been getting spontaneous rounds of applause from the public when they have attended call-outs.
“It’s been really emotional, but really heartening to see.”
Dr Colin Wasson
Dr Colin Wasson, 48, is a consultant anaesthetist and medical director at Stepping Hill Hospital. On Monday he oversaw the hospital’s handling of the incident.
“The atmosphere was very controlled and professional.
“I know we prepare for incidents like this, but they are a rare occurrence and you hope they will never happen.
“One of the sources of great pride for me is that people were so eager to help – and that is something we have seen across the country – because it was such a tragic occurrence.
“We saw resilience, team-work, compassion and dedication to the public we serve.
“It was an extremely taxing on our staff. Some of the injuries people had sustained were very bad and it is impossible not to be moved by that.
“But it was incredible to see staff dealing with that and getting the job done.
“I am sure many of them, afterwards, once they had got home felt emotionally drained and shed a few tears.
“But at the time, when it was required, they pulled it together and did a fantastic job.
“I am extremely proud of all of them. If there is anything positive to come out of this dreadful event it is that eagerness of our staff to help and do the right thing when it was needed most. That is a source of great pride.”
Prof Stephen Hawes
Prof Stephen Hawes, 59, is an A&E consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital and a emergency medicine consultant in the Army Reserves. He served in Afghanistan in 2010/11 and also helped with the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake in 2015. On Monday he was on duty in the hospital’s A&E department.
“We had six resuscitation bays each with six staff dedicated to it and as the patients began to arrive one by one the bays started to fill up.
“At one point I looked down the bays and was immediately taken back several years to my time in Afghanistan because the type injuries we were dealing with were very similar.
“Thankfully shrapnel wounds are not a very common type of injury in UK, but I treated similar injuries regularly in Afghanistan, so I immediately thought ‘right this is what we need to do, this is where these patients need to go’.
“The experience in Afghanistan stood me in good stead.
“But one of the most remarkable things was the type of people who were there. Some of the most senior consultants in the trust, leading people in their fields, were chipping in offering to do whatever was needed.
“Everyone was working together offering to do whatever was needed. The teamwork and the compassion we saw was amazing. The patients got the very best of the NHS.”
Dr Suresh Chandran
Dr Suresh Chandran, 53, is an acute medical consultant and clinical director at the Royal Oldham Hospital. On Monday he helped oversee the hospital’s response to the attack.
“It was one of the things you train for in life but hope never happens.
“I would describe what I saw as controlled chaos. We were told there was a double decker bus full of patients coming to us at any moment.
“Suddenly we had 12 patients with family, friends and police officers in A&E. We were dealing with shrapnel injuries, there were young kids, everyone was scared, but the response was very impressive.
“Everyone pulled together, not just the doctors and nurses, but the security staff, cleaning staff, other patients, everyone wanted to help.
“Everyone pitched into to help – it was amazing to see.”
Chris Moulton, 60, is an A&E consultant at Royal Bolton Hospital and vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. He was also on duty when the 1996 bomb exploded.
Speaking about the Manchester attack, he said: “At first we did not know if it was a bomb, if it was children, if we were going to be dealing with a few, dozens or hundreds of patients.
“The patients started coming in slowly at first. The injuries were almost all shrapnel injuries.
“People had been hit with bits of metals and nuts, a bit like bullets, which had penetrated into muscle, some very deep down to the bone.
“People will be scarred for life mentally and physically by what happened.
“But the staff were absolutely brilliant. I could not have asked for better colleagues. The care and compassion they showed was amazing.
“Monday night showed the best and worst of humanity. The best being the eagerness of people to help other humans. The worst being the desire of someone to maim and kill other human beings.”
Joanne O’Brien is a senior sister in the surgical department of Stepping Hill hospital, where six of the injured were treated.
She told the Guardian: “When I got there at 1.30am there were ambulances outside which had brought in casualties from the arena. They were stabilised in the A&E unit and brought to the surgical department where I work. 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. They had caused real damage and left big holes in people. Shrapnel is like a large bullethole. 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.
“My patient was a lovely, lovely lady 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. I talked to her just before she went to sleep for the operation and she was just holding my hand and saying ‘Thank you, thank you’. She was in a very bad way but was still smiling and saying thank you. That showed real humanity; I thought that was amazing.”
Dr Steve Jones
Dr Steve Jones is a senior consultant in A&E and adult intensive care at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
“It was a really tricky night, unbelievably difficult, and I’ve been asked how I’ve been left feeling as an individual and also as a member of an organisation and like many colleagues across city, the overwhelming feeling is that of pride.
“The stuff that we did both here at the MRI, the adult site, and also at the children’s hospital was incredible.
“The response from the staff attending when they didn’t necessarily need to, and when we called them, they came in and everyone went more than the extra mile.
“Everyone focused on exactly what they needed to do and the teamwork is an example of excellence beyond anything we could have expected.
“This is but a microcosm really and I can say with absolute conviction that here at CMFT, across our group of hospitals but more importantly with our partners in the ambulance service and other hospitals around the city we saved lives by the planning we did for this, and the execution of that plan and we can take pride in that.
“We had patients that signed themselves out when they heard the bomb had occurred because they felt that their bed could be given to someone who needed it more, so the patients, the portering staff, the pharmacy staff, everybody that was involved that doesn’t usually get a name because you get a focus on the doctors and the nurses, but everyone pulled together.”
Dr Peter-Marc Fortune
Dr Peter-Marc Fortune is associate head of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and consultant on the child intensive care team.
“I came in at 6am, I’d wanted to come in sooner but I was held back a few hours to make sure I was fresh and able to take over from colleagues.
“When I got there, it was an intense but calm atmosphere. I can’t stress enough how incredibly proud I was of colleagues that night.
“They were organised, focused and very flexible. Nothing was above or below anybody.
The staff focused on the child they were treating at the time, and immediately behind that was the concern for their family, and also their own colleagues, checking they were okay.
“We were overwhelmed with support from every angle, even people bringing us food and drink donations, medical supply companies calling to check we had enough supplies, it really was incredible.”