Do you know a health hero? We’re asking you to nominate special people in healthcare who’ve made a difference to you. Five finalists will receive an all-expenses paid trip to receive their awards from the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street and the winner will also get a £5,000 holiday. Here, LUCY ELKINS tells one nominee’s inspiring story…
Teenager Adam Lawler was seriously injured in the Manchester terrorist bombing in May. At 15, he arrived in A&E with no one he knew to hold his hand or offer words of comfort.
Although conscious, Adam’s mouth had been so badly damaged he couldn’t phone his mum to tell her what had happened. All he managed was a text saying: ‘I have been in a terror attack and I’m bleeding heavily.’ It was another five hours before mum Sally got a call from police to say her son was at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Adam had gone to the Ariana Grande concert with his best friend, Olivia Campbell-Hardy. Although he didn’t know it then, Olivia was one of the 22 people killed by suicide bomber Salman Abedi. The friends had been leaving the venue as Abedi detonated his device.
This week’s health hero nominee is nurse Jess Haskins (pictured left), 33, who helped Manchester bomb victim Adam Lawler (pictured right), 15
When Adam arrived at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital two hours after the blast, both his legs were fractured and shrapnel wounds peppered the entire right side of his body. One piece had pierced his right eye, while flying bolts had pushed out seven of his teeth and split his tongue.
It was a horrific situation and could have been so much worse for both Adam and his family had it not been for the tender care of Jess Haskins, the nurse who remained constantly by his side that night — even after he was joined by his mother Sally. Without her, he and his family doubt they would have coped with what happened.
Jess, 33, a paediatric sister, was not actually on staff at that hospital — she was working as a full-time nursing sister for the Trafford Children’s Community Team at the time — but happened to be working extra shifts that night. Not only did she stay by Adam’s side all night, she was so concerned for the youngster’s well-being that she later visited him on her days off and her work breaks, even though she’s based at a different hospital.
Adam is still traumatised by the bombing, but has chosen to speak out to honour all the staff who helped him on that dreadful night and since — and it’s Jess whom he and his mother Sally have singled out for particular praise.
‘Everybody there was a hero in some way, but Mum and I wanted to nominate Jess because she did something very special,’ he says. His mother Sally, 48, an accountant who lives with Adam and his grandmother, Maureen Todd, in Bury, agrees.
‘The work of nurses is undervalued, but Jess was especially wonderful. She could see Adam was frightened and didn’t leave him. It was a real comfort.’
That fateful spring evening was Adam’s Christmas treat from his family: the chance for him and a friend to go and see his favourite pop star.
Adam’s family doubt they would have coped with what happened if Jess (pictured left) had not been there to support them
Adam and Olivia, also 15, were among the gang of excited youngsters streaming out of the Manchester Arena at around 10.30pm on May 22 after the concert when a bomb blast tore through the foyer. As well as those killed, more than 500 were injured.
As soon as she heard Adam was injured, one of Sally’s greatest fears was that he was having to cope alone.
‘Adam rang me straight after the attack while he was still at the Arena, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying so he texted me to say, “I have been in a terror attack and I’m bleeding heavily,” ’ recalls Sally. Hands shaking, she jumped in the car with Maureen and went to collect Adam’s father Andy, from whom she’s separated, and then onto the Arena ten miles away, but found the way blocked by cordons.
Instead, she spent an anxious five hours in a hotel lobby with other worried relatives waiting for news.
‘It wasn’t until 4.30am that I got a call from the police telling me he was in hospital. We headed straight there,’ Sally recalls. ‘Adam was covered in blood and bandages and had a patch over his eye. I was in shock.’
As Sally grabbed her son’s outstretched hand, Jess was there, gently explaining what was going on and comforting the family as they tried to comprehend what had happened.
Jess regularly visited Adam during his stay in hospital even outside of her shift times
‘I had been so worried that Adam was on his own, but Jess said, “I have been here all the time, looking after Adam, now don’t worry,”’ says Sally.
Adam himself has only vague memories of the night. ‘I was in a lot of pain, but I do remember Jess being there and talking to me all the time. It meant a lot.’
Sally is full of praise, too, for Jess’s calmness despite the chaos as a stream of doctors and specialists — from maxillofacial, orthopedics and ophthalmology — came to Adam’s bedside.
‘Jess held us together the whole time,’ says Sally. ‘She was talking to Adam so calmly as if there was nothing going on. She must have been shaken up, too — everyone in Manchester was that night.’
Even when her 12-hour shift ended, Jess stayed on. Adam underwent more than ten hours of surgery the next day to remove the shrapnel and Jess came back to see him as she had a day off work.
Adam’s family are convinced he wouldn’t be as well as he is now if it wasn’t for Jess
‘It was wonderful to see him. He thanked me for all I had done — I was in tears, he is the loveliest boy,’ says Jess. ‘I felt like we had bonded. It was such an extraordinary situation.’
She returned to see him a number of times during his three weeks in hospital.
‘When Jess came to visit, Adam’s face lit up. You could see the difference in him,’ says Sally, who remains in touch with Jess.
The middle of six children who lives with her boyfriend in Manchester, Jess has been a paediatric nurse for 11 years. She is now a paediatric sister at Wynthenshawe Hospital.
‘I feel lucky to be doing a job I enjoy. It’s often the compassionate part of the role that makes all the difference.’
Adam was special from the minute he was wheeled in, she says.
‘He is tall and was almost falling off the trolley and he had no one with him,’ she says. ‘So I felt I had an extra duty to him. I wanted to keep him calm. He had been so strong and stoic — he was phenomenal.’
Before he was discharged, Adam underwent five operations on his eye, legs and mouth.
Although he now looks much as he did before the attack, inside he is a very different boy and is having counselling, says Sally. ‘He has good days and bad.’
But his family are convinced that without the calming support of Jess he would not be nearly as well as he is.
‘She was the person who helped when we were most traumatised,’ says Sally.