Members at the recent Society of Orthopaedics and Trauma Nursing (SOTN) conference heard the remarkable story of Alex Bunting who was the victim of an IRA bomb blast in Belfast in 1991.
Alex, then a taxi driver, had his left leg blown off and lost the bottom of his right leg and half his thigh when a timed explosion went off in his cab in a case of mistaken identity. It’s believed the terrorists were trying to target a policeman who lived two doors away from him.
The incident has had a lasting impact on Alex, who spent a year in rehabilitation and has had multiple skin grafts and operations since. He has ongoing health problems but says he owes much of his recovery, both physically and mentally, to nurses.
“I don’t think I would have pulled through if it hadn’t been for nursing staff,” he says. “The doctors fixed me up and saved my life, but it’s the nurses who really looked after me and kept me sane.
“After a year in hospital, you become institutionalised. It took five years for my injuries to heal physically but the mental scars are lasting. Back in those days there was no counselling but it was nurses who were there when things got really bad.”
It was at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast where he was treated by Chair of the SOTN Sonya Clarke all those years ago. Caring for Alex had a profound effect on Sonya, who had just qualified as a nurse, but she lost touch with him until recently when he lectured at the university where she teaches.
“I kept in contact with Alex after that,” says Sonya, “so when we started to plan our conference I invited him to come along. He stayed for the whole event, delivering his speech, then spending time talking to delegates. Members really valued what he had to say. It’s good to hear things from the patient’s perspective. Alex’s story is so powerful and yet he is so grateful for the care he’s received.”
The SOTN conference took place in Chester in November. It was the 30th year the annual RCN event has been organised and looked broadly at the challenges and innovations in orthopaedics and trauma care. To find out more about the work of the SOTN and to join, visit www.rcn.org.uk/forums