Hospital staff share stories of terrorist attack aftermath

Vascular surgeon Adib Khanafer had tears in his eyes as he spoke to media. Photo: RNZ
Vascular surgeon Adib Khanafer had tears in his eyes as he spoke to media. Photo: RNZ

Canterbury DHB staff who provided care to the injured from the terror attacks on two mosques last week are now sharing their stories.

Tracey Williams, the associate clinical nurse in the Emergency Department at Christchurch Hospital, was in a meeting with senior doctors when she was called to the floor to deal with the patients coming in.

Luckily the ED wasn't overly crowded on that day, she said.

"We had 48 presentations in under an hour. In two-and-a-half hours most of the patients were where they needed to be."

She said it was a traumatic event for the community and the hospital.

Staff were right on handover so there were morning staff still around, she said.

She was also present during the 11 February earthquake and said the logistics were different then in that a lot of people couldn't get to the department.

'People just got on and did their roles'

Nikki Ford, a nurse manager in the Intensive Care Unit said it is a 23-bed unit.

"We got the call at about 1.35pm or 1.40pm. I had no idea what it was about.

"We divided into teams, and some staff knew they would be working over the weekend.

"Our patients have a lot of complex care that's needed while they're leaving the ICU."

She said they had 13 patients come to ICU.

"It was Friday so we had to get pharmacy deliveries. People just got on and did their roles.

"The other people that came in for us were the social workers. They took the load off trying to coordinate the relatives. We also had the police working in the background."

She said of the eight still in ICU, many have had multiple trips to the theatre for their injuries.

'They all arrived at about the same time'

Dr Dominic Fleischer, emergency medicine clinical lead, said Christchurch Hospital was one of the busiest emergency departments in New Zealand.

"Two people came saying they broke in through the window and to expect many more people. I was initially disbelieving, but within minutes other patients arrived.

"They all arrived at about the same time. Everyone was seen on arrival.

"It was then deciding who goes where. That day was quiet, so it was the ideal time, staff were around.

The patients ranged from children to the elderly but "largely adults, largely male"

'One of my patients passed away'

Vascular surgeon Adib Khanafer said he was doing an elective case when he was called.

"It was really sad to see a young girl on the table with three vascular injuries," he said with tears in his eyes.

He said the 4-year-old became unstable that night and was then transferred to Starship Hospital.

"She's critical, but I think she's going to come out of it.

"One of my patients passed away. My wife knows of other wives who've lost their husbands."

He said there was no anger in the community.

"I'm of Lebanese origin, I'm a Muslim, I'm an Arab and all my colleagues ... Kiwis have not stopped texting me or emailing and sending me flowers. The support from my colleagues, Kiwis and not Kiwis has been marvellous. That's what keeps us strong."

'Significant journey' to recovery
Surgical nursing director Nikki Graham - who looks after the surgical wards - said her first move was to identify patients who could be transferred or discharged from the ward.

"There was difficulties with the plan of identifying patients to be discharged home because the hospital was in lockdown for quite a significant period of time on Friday evening.

"As we were unsure of the volume of patients we started to clear out the high dependency areas like our surgical progressive care and our orthopaedic trauma care unit because more details started to come to light about the nature of the injuries.

"There were a lot of patients going to theatre ... to the intensive care area. From the surgical care perspective, it was unknown at what point patients were going to come to the surgical wards."

"We have 20 patients in the surgical ward, many of whom are requiring multiple returns to theatre."

There are prayer rooms and areas for family and visitors set up.

For some people, it was going to be a "significant journey" in terms of the length of time they would be in hospital, she said.

'It's an absolute privilege to support those affected'
Social worker Michael Kempt said the emergency response was initiated at 2pm and it involved the coordination and deployment of several social workers, as well as the task of establishing a relative centre, which was disbanded on Sunday.

"My colleagues recall stories of reconnecting son and fathers, husbands and wives. It took sometimes a shoulder to cry on, tissues a bottle of water ... simple human activities.

"As a social worker, we have considered it an absolute privilege to support those affected by this senseless event.

"Our hope is that as a community we respond with kindness and compassion."

Canterbury DHB chief executive David Meates said 29 people are still in the hospital, while eight remain in a critical condition in the intensive unit.

The young girl in Starship Hospital in Auckland is still in critical condition, and her father remains in a stable condition in Auckland.

 

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