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Thursday 24 January 2019

'It was the darkest day of my life - but I am so proud I was a nurse that day'

Sister Joann McCullagh. Picture: PA
Sister Joann McCullagh. Picture: PA

A nurse working at the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh the day of the bomb has recalled it as the "darkest" of her life.

Sister Joann McCullagh was then a staff nurse, and says she is proud to have been on duty, and proud of how the people of Omagh pulled together and supported each other.

She had been relaxing at home on that Saturday afternoon following a week of night shifts when she heard about the bomb and immediately returned to the hospital.

When she arrived at A&E, she was greeted with chaos. "There were multiple people screaming and cars everywhere, buses coming, it was chaos. There was no concept of time, it was just a mass of people coming through the doors, people asking for loved ones."

One of Ms McCullagh's most poignant memories was transporting a seriously ill patient to Belfast.

"The patient had very traumatic leg injuries, I recall taking this lady via helicopter.

"As I was getting into the aircraft, and the noise, every time I see a helicopter I remember that noise.

"I recall landing at Musgrave Park, and the silence, the unbearable silence. We got into an ambulance and were taken to the Royal (Victoria Hospital), and there was just this deafening silence.

"When I got to the Royal, I was taken with the patient, her name was Geraldine, into the resus area. I recall Geraldine holding my hand and squeezing it, I remember praying to her." Geraldine Breslin later died from her injuries. Years later, Ms McCullagh met members of her family and formed a lasting friendship. "It was the darkest day of my life, but the nursing and clinical care given on that day was exceptional. I'm very proud to have been a nurse on that day."

Irish Independent

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