West London doctor reveals how his evening unfolded one year on from Grenfell

A London doctor has revealed how he was one of the first to treat survivors and victims of Grenfell Tower, one year on from the tragedy that claimed 72 lives.

Dr Philip Lee, an Elderly Care and Acute Medicine Physician at a West London teaching hospital, was summoned out of bed at 3.39am and called into work — where he immediately set about treating survivors of the blaze.

Lee recounted on Twitter how the night unfolded, before paying tribute both to the firefighters who were battling to bring residents out alive and the Grenfell residents themselves, who showed “quiet dignity” in the face of unimaginable horror.

Trigger warning: (#Grenfell)

“Wake up, your phone keeps buzzing.”

14th of June, 2017. 3:39 AM

I sat up, I was not on call, I looked at my phone. Two missed calls and a text from NHS-NoReply

I dialed the given number and punched in the code, rubbing my eyes.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

He went on to describe the disorientation that faced him both before and after he arrived at the hospital:

“What is it?”

“Major incident, fire in West London apparently.” I replied. Heading out of bed to the shower as my wife headed to the kitchen, turning on the TV on the way.

The tepid water woke me up, it was a hot, humid night.

“How bad is it?” I shouted.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

“Bad. Really bad. Go.”

I grabbed the coffee she handed me and jumped in the car. I caught a glimpse of BBC news on the way out.

Growing up in Hong Kong I’ve seen high rise fires. This was nothing like what I’ve seen before.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

4:20 AM

The streets were empty, the occasional couplet of fire engines and police rush past me.

Inside the hospital, there was no chaos, no shouting, the emergency dept consultants were in, I joined my colleagues at the briefing.

At that point, we had 40 consultants in.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

Seeing and treating injuries and smoke inhalation that day, hearing the stories of escape, the frightened looks, the quiet dignity of the residents, was harrowing. But nothing compared to the horrors they’ve witnessed.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

Lee, who was born in Hong Kong and has worked as a physician for 14 years, went on to describe the bravery of the firefighters and police officers on the scene, and how unprecedented the situation they were facing was:

Injured fire crew were brought in, after treatment, their first question was “Can I head back out?”

One firefighter kept saying, “The whole thing went up, it’s not supposed to do that. It’s not supposed to do that.”

Their bravery was humbling.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

The 15-tweet thread shed light on the vital actions of those that were tasked with treating victims and the survivors — something that may have been forgotten over the past year.

Lee went on to reveal that the tower his patients had escaped from was visible from his hospital ward, and that the full scale of the tragedy was still very unclear in the hours and days afterwards as he attempted to process what he had witnessed.

He ended the thread by explaining how he is still suffering the effects of that night, months afterwards.

A song came on, at the time I didn’t know what it was, and a line went:

“Good-bye today

I’d ask you to be true

Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you”

The stories I heard came flooding back, how they died going back for loved ones, to save others.

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

His closing tweet was a tribute to the victims, and a plea to ensure that an incident of the same nature is never repeated:

I burst into tears, weeping on the side of a street on the other side of London. People passed, looking uncomprehendingly, as I sobbed.

For all the victims
For all the survivors
I’m sorry, we did our best, I promise
Next time, we’ll be even more ready

- Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) June 13, 2018

Twitter users were quick to react to Lee’s recount, offering their thanks and assuring him that he had no reason to feel guilty about the events that he witnessed:

Amazing work. And thank you for sharing

- Ciara Nic Sheáin (@Ciara87C) June 13, 2018

Every single one of you
Every single medical worker.
Every single fire fighter.
Every single police officer.
Every single person who tried to help.
Thank you

- RadioactiveFM Claire (@ClairesOnAir) June 14, 2018

Your tweet moved me to tears. Thank you for responding to the call and to all emergency personnel who did so much that night, and every day.

- Judith H #FBPE (@judithh2478) June 14, 2018

The fire, which broke out on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower in Notting Hill’s Lancaster West Estate, raged for over 24 hours before finally being extinguished just after 1am on Thursday 15 thJune.

It claimed 72 lives. The oldest victim was 84-year-old Sheila, whilst the youngest, Logan Gomes, was stillborn at seven months just hours after the tragedy. His parents Marcio and Andreia and sisters Megan and Luana survived the fire.

An official inquiry was opened on 14 thSeptember 2017. There has been a pause in proceedings today, to mark the one year anniversary of the disaster.

Image credit: By ChiralJon (Grenfell Tower) CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published at https://www.thenationalstudent.com.