Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dan Biddle

Dan Biddle, 28, noticed Lisa Flint, 27, way back in 2000 when she started working at his company but he was too shy to ask her for a date. She finally broke the ice by asking him out for a drink. Says Lisa, "As he walked me home, it was cold and he gave me his coat. I'd never met such a gentleman before. When he went home he rang me - and we chatted until 4am." Cupid had a word with Dan as well, "I realised then that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. Two weeks later, I was saying goodbye when I suddenly dropped down on one knee and proposed. I never wanted to be apart from her again." They set their wedding date for April 2006, moved in together, and Lisa began planning The Big Day.

Dan left the couple's home the morning of July 7, 2005 for a meeting in Wembley. Dan recalls:

"I was running late, so I kissed Lisa goodbye and said: 'I'll see you later.'

My bus was delayed, and at Liverpool Street I let the first tube go because it was packed. I started to text a colleague, and realised I had missed my usual station. As we pulled into Edgware Road, I looked around me. There was a middle-aged man wearing glasses with lots of paperwork around him, and a youngish-looking Asian guy sitting on the empty seat next to me. As the train pulled away he looked past me, put his hand in his bag and there was a big white flash. It felt as if someone had filled the carriage with air."
The Asian man was Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, a native Briton of Pakistani descent with a pregnant wife and young child. He was sitting eighteen inches away from Dan. He was also the leader of a Muslim terror cell which detonated four suicide bombs that day, three in the Tube at 8:50 AM and one in a bus an hour later, killing 52 people and four terrorists, wounding 700 people, including Dan Biddle. The dead may have been the lucky ones.

"It blew me out of the doors, and I hit the tunnel wall, with the train doors landing on my legs. I looked back at the carriage, and it was just a twisted lump of metal. For a few moments, I couldn't work out why I was outside the train. Then as the dust and smoke cleared, I could see bodies and body parts all around me, and I knew it had been a bomb.

I reached up to touch my head, and my arm was on fire. My eardrums had burst, but I could hear muffled shouting and screaming. I tried to move the train door off my legs, but when I put my hand underneath, it was like sticking my hands into a bucket of papier mache. I realised that my left leg was gone, and most likely my right leg, too. I thought 'I'm going to die down here' and I started to shout for help. I was absolutely terrified, not of dying but just dying on my own and being just an anonymous body in a body bag. I thought: 'No one will know that I have a fiance at home'."
Adrian Heili, a fellow passenger, put direct pressure on Dan's pulped leg with his hand to stop the severed artery from spurting blood.

"I wanted to get a message to Lisa before I passed out or died. I just wanted her to know that I had been thinking about her at the end. I told him Lisa's name, where she worked and said: 'Tell her I love her and I'm sorry.'"
Dan was carried out of the tunnel ninety minutes after the blast.

"I remember the sunlight and the breeze on my face, and ambulance ride into hospital. A consultant leaned over me and said: 'You are in St Mary's hospital Paddington. Don't worry, we'll look after you.' Then I had a heart attack."

Doctors re-started his heart. At noon, his legs were amputated, his spleen removed. Dan had another heart attack which forced the surgeons to crack open his chest and massage his heart manually. He lost 87 pints of blood.

Lisa answered the doorbell at home to find three policeman who whisked her and her mother to the hospital. Lisa recounts:
"I didn't take in the fact that his legs were gone. I kept waving the doctor to hurry up, because I didn't want to waste another second away from Dan. They took me to him and he was unrecognisable. He was covered in soot, his skin was charred, he had a bloodstained gauze on his forehead and I could see the bare bone on his knuckles. I took his hand and said 'I'm here babe, I'm here' over and over again. The doctors couldn't tell me if he'd survive and I sat watching the bleeping machine for the next five hours. I told Dan how much I loved him, how much I wanted to be his wife. I talked about our wedding, our friends - anything.

As daylight broke, he opened his eyes and they were covered in blood jelly, like in a horror movie. "He said 'I'm hungry. . . I feel sick,' and then passed out - but it gave me a glimmer of hope."

The doctors put Dan in a medically induced coma to help him heal while Lisa and Dan's family camped out in the hospital. Says Lisa:

"We stayed in the same clothes for three days, and we slept on the floor of the hospital room, sitting beside him in shifts. When they bought him out of his coma a few days later, I was terrified. I didn't know how he was going to deal with his injuries, what horrors he had witnessed or what brain damage he might have suffered."

Dan was disoriented when he came to:

"I remember waking up and seeing Lisa and my parents and brother. I thought it was still July 7, and I couldn't understand how mum and dad had got from Spain so fast, or how my brother had flown from New York. "They all had an orange glow - because my retina had burned out - and I thought: 'Oh, they've been on holiday without me.'

I couldn't speak for days, until they raised my head and attached a speaking valve to the tube sticking out of my throat. I could speak like a Dalek and as Lisa walked up to the bed I said: 'Alright, babe.' She collapsed in tears.

When doctors told Dan that his legs were gone, he merely shrugged. "I already knew my legs were lost - I was just relieved to have survived. The emotion of losing my legs only hit me a few weeks later, when I moved from intensive care. I would be talking to Lisa on the phone and I would say my boots were hurting. I'd put my hand down and suddenly realise it was just phantom pain - and I would end up in tears."

There was more bad news. Dan's left eye was damaged. Says Lisa:
"Doctors said they would have to remove it, and I walked into the toilet and burst into tears. I remember shouting: 'It's so unfair - why can't he just have kept his bloody eye?' "
Dan was concerned for other reasons:

"I was so worried that Lisa wouldn't feel the same way about me. I didn't want her to stay with me if she pitied me. I needed to know she was with me for the right reasons." She came into hospital one day and I asked her to sit down. I said: 'If this is too much, and something you can't cope with at such a young age, then get up and walk away now and don't look back. I'll understand and I won't love you any the less.' I was scared that she might actually walk away. Instead, she gave me a playful slap and said: 'If you ever dare to say that to me again, you'll regret it.' I was so relieved."

"I had to constantly reassure Dan that I still loved him and still found him attractive. I still do - we've always been cuddly and tactile, but suddenly it became even more important to show him how I felt."

"Sometimes, I would think 'We'll cope with anything' but other days were swallowed with pain and depression. When it was time to move to a rehabilitation hospital in Roehampton after three months, I was terrified. I relied on nurses to put me on bedpans and to bath me. I was so scared of losing my dignity. But Lisa gave me the kick that I needed. She kept telling me she wanted me home and that I was man enough to get over it.

The unit was wonderful. Walking on my stumps was so painful, but I was determined to walk down the aisle with Lisa. I had been there a while when a visitor arrived for another patient. He bought his young son with him, and I saw them kicking this football about. In a split-second, I suddenly realised I would never know what it was like to kick a ball to my own little boy. I thought: 'That is what that bastard (suicide bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan) did to me - it's going to affect the rest of my life.' I cried like a baby."

A year after the terror attack, Dan came home to a new two-bedroom bungalow in Upminster, Essex. In addition to losing his legs and eye, he has lost his hearing in one ear. His chest has enormous scars from the open heart massage. He is burned, suffered internal injuries including damaged lungs, and bears many scars and wounds. The small change in his pocket was blasted into his thigh bone. Khan's face appears in his dreams, right before he detonated his backpack bomb, along with the screams of the wounded and dying.
"I'm terrified of sleep because the nightmares come every night. I get flashbacks - if Lisa burns her hair with the hairdryer, the stench of burning hair takes me right back. If a camera flash goes off, it reminds me of the blast. But then I remind myself that 52 other people don't have the luxury of waking up, and I push myself to wear a smile and keep going. I've lost my legs, but not my marbles. I've returned to work - using my expertise to help adapt buildings for wheelchair users. I plan to take a law degree and I'm chairman of the local football team that I used to play for - although it is still too painful to actually watch my friends kicking a ball around."
There was also the matter of the engagement ring:

"My original engagement ring had been cut from my finger in casualty. The police actually mended it for me, but when it was returned it had blood and debris ingrained in between the stones - and it felt tainted forever. Instead, we swapped new rings and started to make plans for a new wedding."

I have kept mementoes of the blast in a drawer. I have my travel card dated July 7, and my tan wallet stained dark with blood. I have the engagement ring which was cut from my finger, and my watch still ingrained with blood and debris. One day, when I have kids, I'll show these to them and I will explain why I'm not like everyone else's dad."

Dan and Lisa got married last Saturday. Says Dan:
"Lisa said she would get married sitting on her bottom on a rug, if necessary. But I wanted to stand beside her. I wanted people to look at me as I used to be - and just for one day, I wanted to be the same man who proposed to Lisa all those years ago."

His brother wheeled Dan, in traditional tails and cream carnation, to the altar. The wedding march began to play. Dan stood up on his prosthetic legs as Lisa, crying, walked up the aisle in a designer flowing white gown and veil. The hundred guests shed tears with her. Dan wanted to walk back up the aisle with her, but his prosthetic legs hurt too much.
"At least I managed to just stand by her side. It was my vow to her - and myself.

Our wedding is a celebration and a show of defiance. In the congregation were two men who saved my life in the train tunnel, the paramedic who got me out, two intensive care nurses and the physiotherapists who helped me learn to walk again. It was wonderful to get everyone together and to show them what they have given us back."

And so love triumphed over evil.

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Blogger Mr Bob said...

thanks for sharing that

Wed Apr 25, 05:30:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Tantor said...

Some interesting follow-on links:

Rachel From North London relates the aftermath of Dan's story:

A woman who survived the Tube Bombing tells her story:

An Aussie woman tells her tale of survival:

A New Zealand mother mourns the loss of her daughter Shelley:

and she's not ready to forgive:

And Rachel has thoughts on forgiving the unforgivable:

Wed Sep 05, 09:37:00 PM 2007  
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