Personal Column: The stabbing

Knife crime is increasing dramatically, new figures reveal. Andrew Douglas, 26, recalls how he became one of its many victims
Click to follow

Some people walk the streets with a knife as if it's nothing, almost as though it's just an extension of their body. For them life is cheap and as long as they've got a knife they can do whatever they want, which is a very sad state of affairs.

I was on my way back from my freshers' ball about six years ago and was staying at the house of my friend, Paulo, in Manor House, north London. It was about 3.30am and as we pulled up to the house in the black cab his front door was wide open. We realised straight away that something wasn't right.

As we walked up to the door, we saw someone: we had obviously disturbed a burglary. My initial feeling was disbelief: Paulo's parents were asleep upstairs and this guy had the bare-faced cheek to walk into someone else's house. How dare he? When he saw us, he threw the bike that was standing in the hall and started running up the road, so Paulo and I chased him.

Our first instinct was to catch this man, to contain him and call the police. We grabbed him and after a scuffle were able to pin him to the floor, my knee over his chest and my hands holding him down by his lapels.

While I held him down, Paulo dialled 999 and all the time the guy was saying: "Please, please don't phone the police, I swear, don't phone the police." Initially he seemed to be really panicking and then he switched and became very aggressive. He said: "I warn you if you phone the police you're in trouble. I'll hurt you."

Then, without warning, he rolled his eyes back as if he'd fainted and went completely limp. I shook him to ensure that he was OK, but he appeared to have lost consciousness. I actually felt relieved because if he wasn't going to put up a fight we could just wait for the police to come and they could sort everything out. As he relaxed I let go of him, but suddenly it felt as though I'd been punched twice: once through my ribs and once was through the front of my neck.

I didn't feel the pain of the blade going in but I vividly remember looking down seeing the blood squirting out of my neck. My hands were so sticky, just covered in red. It was strange because you think that if something like that happens you'd be hysterical and screaming, but I just remember saying to Paulo: "Oh, oh God. Shit mate - I think he's stabbed me."

Paulo then went running after him and I sat down on the curb and noticed that my T-shirt was sodden and sticking to my body. It was as if I'd been caught in a downpour, but it was my blood. I knew I was hurt and I knew that I was struggling but I couldn't comprehend that it was happening. I've felt fear before but that wasn't the feeling that I was experiencing: it was more like numbness.

The next sensation was just complete fatigue. The tiredness took hold of me and I felt powerless. The knife had severed my artery so I was losing a lot of blood, but it had also punctured my lung so my breathing was bad as well. I was trying desperately to fight it but my head just kept bobbing, but eventually I felt resigned to it. I saw my friend chasing after him and thought - please just get hold of him, please just catch this guy and get him stopped. And that's the last thing I remember.

Paulo ran back to his house to get help and came straight back out to stay with me. I'd lost consciousness at this stage and he held me in his arms. His overwhelming feeling was that I was dying in his arms. He tried to revive me but he felt completely helpless.

I was lucky because the rapid response unit came very quickly. They got us both straight to hospital and the next thing I remember is going through the hospital door on a trolley and the doctors were asking me if I knew my blood type and if I had any allergies. It was then that the pain hit me; it was the worst pain I have ever felt - unbearable, absolute agony - and that's my last memory. I was in surgery for about eight hours: they had to shave the right side of my collarbone to try and stop the bleeding from my artery, as well as keeping me alive by massaging my heart.

By pure chance the surgeon on duty that night was ambidextrous and was able to do both things at once. It's bizarre to think that he had two hands inside me, keeping me alive. Ordinarily they would have given up after about four hours, but the surgeon said he could see that I was still fighting. My natural adrenalin was through the roof and he couldn't stop because he would have felt he was cheating me.

I was told later that I flat-lined four times and went through around 70 pints of blood, but it obviously wasn't my time to go. When I woke up about five days later I thought I was having a nightmare. I could see all these people in green looking at me, walking past and talking to each other and I was like, what the hell is going on? I tried to think back logically to the last thing I did, where I'd been and then it started coming back to me. I've been stabbed, I'm in the hospital and they're trying to look after me.

One thing that stands out is when my brother came to visit me. I couldn't talk because I'd had so many transfusions and my face was so swollen, so I tried to I write him a message, but all I could write was, "If..." I was trying to say: "If I go to sleep now, will I wake up?" When he worked out what I was trying to say he just burst into tears and said, " Yes, you can sleep. You're fine now."

I had complete faith that the police would find the guy and put him behind bars, but to this day they've never found out who did it. If I'm going to be honest I just wish that he'd had his comeuppance: it feels so unfair that someone can do something like that and just get away with it. It has definitely changed me as a person. I don't trust people as easily and I can't help but wonder whether I might see him walk past me, or on the Tube, but you have to carry on living.

Very early on I was determined not to let this one event rule my life: it's made me more positive and I embrace life as much as I can. It makes me sound like an 80-year-old man, but how ever much you plan you never know what could be around the corner.

Andrew Douglas was speaking to Sarah Harris