Junior doctor recalls ‘mayhem’ of Westminster Bridge atrocity
Colleen Anderson helped attend Pc Kristofer Aves, who was left paralysed by the attack.
A medic who rushed to the aid of victims mowed down on Westminster Bridge has told of her memories of the “mayhem” she encountered.
Junior doctor Colleen Anderson was working at St Thomas’ Hospital, on the bank of the Thames opposite Parliament and next to the bridge, when a colleague saw the attack.
Thursday marks one year since the atrocity which left five dead, and it is a day Dr Anderson remembers “vividly”.
The doctor, who was only eight months into her training, said much of the two hours she spent attending to the wounded on the bridge was with Pc Kristofer Aves, who has been left paralysed by the injuries he suffered.
Pc Aves had been celebrating a day of professional success when the attack unfolded, having just been presented with a commendation for his work as a police liaison officer.
The 27-year-old doctor said: “I spent the majority of my time with him, I was holding him in a C-spine position to keep his neck dead still.
“He won’t remember any of the day. I was speaking to him, keeping him awake.
“I was asking him about his day, about his family – he was talking about the award he got.
“I was just trying to calm him down as well.”
Asked how she came to get involved, Dr Anderson, from south London, said: “I did not see it, one of my colleagues saw it and told me what happened.
“I looked out of the window and saw a lot of people in a lot of need.”
As she and her colleague rushed to the scene, Dr Anderson said she was “immediately recognised” by a police officer and began triaging patients.
“There were a lot of injured along the length of the bridge,” she said.
“It was not long before plenty of ambulances arrived.
“My main concern was for someone who had not got the attention they need – and that was Kris Aves.
“My colleague who went out with me, unfortunately he was with one of the ones who did not make it.
“There was a lot of mayhem on the bridge. Cars stopped, buses, people trying to get off the bridge.
“I was on the bridge about two hours.
“I was there with the first casualty and Kris was the last casualty – myself and a pedestrian who had been helping me, I don’t know his name, he stuck by and he was very helpful, and he and I were the last ones off apart from the police.”
When Dr Anderson left the bridge to return to the hospital, she was surrounded by reporters and cameras.
She gave the first account of the casualties, saying one woman had died and others had “catastrophic” injuries.
But looking back, she now believes she should have avoided the media.
“I was in shock,” Dr Anderson said.
“What I should have done was run through the press – it’s not something I will ever experience again, it’s very unique.
“I was a very junior doctor.”
Looking back one year later, Dr Anderson said: “I remember it vividly and perhaps I would not remember so much if there were not these constant reminders.
“There was a show on looking back at 2017 and all the attacks and unfortunately I was on call when London Bridge happened.
“Good things have come from it – it brought people much closer together and it did not do anything to deter people.”
Even before the attack, she would gaze out of the window of the hospital where she was born and fear that “someone evil” would see the bustling bridge as an opportunity.
“I’m just devastated it happened,” she said.
“This is London, London will just carry on and there may be more, I’m sure there will be.
“But that does not mean we need to be scared.
“It’s mindless, these people are just targeting anybody.
“It’s senseless, any of the attacks and incidents that have happened have just strengthened the community even more.
“One thing it serves to prove is, absolutely, it will not break down people’s sense of community.
“I think as a person it’s just made me a bit more reflective and appreciative how fortunate I am to have had a lot of support from friends and family.
“I felt actually warmed by how much the community, colleagues and everybody really just pulled together.
“Nobody let this defeat them and yes, perhaps I’m a better doctor for it.
“I approached that day like: ‘I can do something to help these people’. Anyone can do something to help.
“If I had to stop and to think about what was going on I would not have been able to help.”
Dr Anderson has not seen Pc Aves since that day but she was cheered to see his recovery take an upward turn on the hit BBC show DIY SOS, which recruited an army of volunteers to make his Barnet home wheelchair accessible ready for him to return from hospital.
On the show Pc Aves said his last memory before he was hit by the vehicle was realising he had left his umbrella at the police headquarters after the awards ceremony.
“The next memory I have is about eight days later, waking up in King’s College (hospital),” he said.
Dr Anderson said of the show: “It was lovely to see that and to see all the volunteers.
“He’s been in hospital for seven months, he has a family, he probably just wants to carry on his life but, yes, of course I would love to meet him and see him,” she said.