A terrible day, but calm routine for the doctors

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The Independent Online
On Monday evening, staff at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital reacted in a calm, orderly and methodical way when the ambulances brought in the injured from army headquarters. They know the drill, having coped with the human fall-out from the troubles for so many years.

Dr Lawrence Rocke, consultant in accident and emergency medicine, started work at the hospital in 1971, just as the large-scale killing was beginning in earnest. Over the years he has become accustomed to the sound of ambulances arriving carrying the dead, the dying and the grievously injured.

After one bombing, the ambulances delivered to his department five young women, all in their late teens or early twenties and all of whom had lost at least one limb. That was 24 years ago: he says he will never forget it. One who died, was a radiographer whose father was a senior doctor at the hospital. Another, who survived, lost both legs, an arm and an eye.

Yesterday, Dr Rocke described in clinical language the latest human cost of the troubles, the conditions of those most badly hurt by the Lisburn bombs.

"One gentleman has a blast lung injury from being in the vicinity of an explosion," he said. "He has required ventilation overnight.

"One patient had a fracture of the thigh and shrapnel injuries to the abdomen. Another patient has had a shrapnel injury to the head, and the fourth patient has had very severe shrapnel injuries to body and limbs, a head injury and quite severe burns."

The Lisburn bombing will fade from the public memory as the months go by: in a few years, it will be just one more incident among a host of shootings, violent incidents which have killed 3,500 people and left tens of thousands injured.

But for some of those caught up in the blasts, the scars - psychological and physical - will never fully heal, in spite of all the expertise and care of the staff at the Royal Victoria and other hospitals. The Lisburn bombs have thus added a few more victims to the apparently unending litany of those who have suffered ruined bodies and ruined lives.