MEDICS who treated poisoned a Russian ex-spy and his daughter have revealed they didn’t expect the pair to survive – and “don’t know” if they’ll ever fully recover.
Staff at Salisbury District Hospital have recalled how they battled to save Sergei and Yulia Skripal after the attempted assassination using a nerve agent in March.
One doctor told BBC Newsnight it was like nothing he could have imagined in his “wildest imagination” while another feared there could be mass casualties after a police officer also fell ill.
The Skripals were rushed into their care after being found unconscious from the effects of the military nerve agent Novichok on a bench in the area on March 4.
Initially doctors thought the pair were suffering from an overdose, but it soon became clear they were dealing with something they had never seen before.
Dr Stephen Jukes, intensive care consultant, said: “When we first were aware this was a nerve agent we were expecting them not to survive. We would try all our therapies.
“We would ensure the best clinical care. But all the evidence was there that they would not survive.”
Dr Duncan Murray, head of the intensive care department, said: “I spoke to the nurse in charge, who had been on that night, and it was this conversation I really could never have imagined in my wildest imagination having with anyone.
“Essentially the story of a known Russian spy had been admitted to hospital. Clearly a very real situation but feeling very unreal.”
Sarah Clark, senior sister in charge on the night, said: “I did have concerns because when they first came in there was no indication of the fact it was a nerve agent.
“Therefore we take our normal protection when any patient comes in but would not have – at that point – taken any extra precautions in term of protecting ourselves.”
Lorna Wilkinson, director of nursing at the hospital, said she was left wondering how big the situation would get when policeman Nick Bailey became the third person admitted in connection with the poisoning.
She said she began thinking: “Have we just gone from having two index patients having something that actually could become all-consuming and involve many casualties? Because we really didn’t know at that point.”
The hospital’s medical director Dr Christine Blanshard, told Newsnight the long-term prognosis for the trio was unknown.
She said: “We have a total world experience of treating three patients from Novichok posioning. It’s save to say we’re still learning.”
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Professor Steve Powis, medical director of NHS England, said: “I would like to thank the nurses, doctors, and all the other staff whose skills, compassion and dedication have saved the lives of Yulia and Sergei Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.
“As we prepare to mark the NHS’s 70th anniversary, their remarkable recovery is a timely reminder that world-class treatment and care is available at local hospitals right across the country.”
Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack.
- Newsnight is on BBC Two on Tuesday May 29 at 10.30pm
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