Lessons from a 7/7 survivor

Martine Wright, paralympian and speaker at the RPS Conference 2014

“I didn’t know how I’d carry on. I kept looking down and thinking ‘I’ve got no legs. I’ve got no legs’.”

Silence gripped the auditorium of the RPS conference. Martine Wright, paralympian and captain of the Great British women’s sitting volleyball team, revealed with clear, uncompromising horror the aftermath of an event that changed her life.

The 7/7 terrorist attacks on the London Underground. Attacks that left 52 people dead. Ms Wright lost both her legs, 80% of her blood and was left in a coma for 10 days. The crystal clarity with which she described her recovery left the audience in tears: “It felt like my world had ended”; “One person one day, next you’re someone else”; “the hardest part is the memory of who you were”.

Ms Wright’s was a brutal, honest, humble tale. But then she told the audience how she reached her tipping point, and soared to heights of accomplishment she could never have imagined, culminating at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Today, Ms Wright wears the number 7 jersey for Great Britain – her proof that she has conquered the most traumatic event of her life.

For the pharmacists gathered at the RPS conference, it was clear the true message was that she was not alone on her journey. Ms Wright became noticeably choked as she talked about the support she received from her ‘team me’: family, friends, coaches and, never forgotten, the “healthcare professionals who put me back together”.

As Ms Wright notes, one can easily focus solely on the victim, or her personal journey. But the anecdotes she shared – one of a pharmacist telling her, in those first terrible days in hospital, what her medicines did – are not forgotten. They are powerful reminders that every health intervention could stay with a patient for the rest of their life. That pharmaceutical care is ultimately not about medicines; it is about how medicines can change a person’s life.

“I would not be sitting here if not for people like you,” Ms Wright told her audience. “You help patients rebuild their lives and conquer their dreams.”

It’s a message easily dismissed as trite or overly sentimental. But as the conference delegates gave Ms Wright a well deserved standing ovation, you could see she meant every word.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 20 September 2014, Vol 293, No 7828;293(7828):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066375