Extraordinary People - Monday September 3

extraordinary people: 7/7
the man who should be dead

Five’s acclaimed documentary strand returns with a new series of absorbing programmes exploring remarkable stories of human experience. The first instalment in the series follows the incredible story of Danny Biddle –the most seriously injured survivor of the 7/7 London bombings.

When Essex-based Danny Biddle travelled to work on the London Underground on 7th July 2005, he was unaware that he was sitting just a few feet away from Mohammad Sidique Khan –the now infamous suicide bomber who was about to change Danny’s life forever. Just seconds after the train left Edgware Road station, it stopped in the tunnel as a huge explosion ripped through the carriages. Of all the flashbacks from which Danny still suffers, the most disturbing takes him back to the place where he landed after being thrown from the train: a small space between the train and the tunnel wall. “I watched people die,” he recalls.

As Danny lay in the tunnel, his screams attracted the attention of Adrian Heili –a passenger with army experience –who assured Danny that help was on its way. Then, with the assistance of Underground worker and ex-soldier Lee Hunt, Adrian proceeded to treat Danny’s horrific injuries. Danny’s left leg was severed above the knee; his right leg was severely lacerated; and he was covered in cuts and burns. “There was a chance that he wouldn’t make it,” remembers Adrian, “but I wasn’t prepared to accept that.”

Because of Adrian and Lee’s actions, Danny survived long enough to be rescued from the tunnel and taken to St Mary’s hospital. “Lee and Adrian were amazing,” says Danny. “I’d never met extraordinary people until that day.” But his life still hung by a thread. On seeing the extent of his patient’s injuries, general surgeon Ragheed Al Mufti was shocked: “I wasn’t expecting it… to be as bad as this,” he says. “It was like a war zone.”

The medics worked fast, but Danny’s condition worsened and he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was rushed into surgery where his spleen was removed while his heart was massaged. Both of his legs were then amputated and he was treated for the shrapnel injuries he had suffered –an amazing £8 in loose change was removed from his body.

During his first few days in intensive care, Danny had further operations on his legs, fought many infections, suffered multiple-organ failure and underwent an operation to remove his damaged left eye. However, against all the odds, he battled through and eventually awoke in late July to find his family around him; he still thought it was the day of the terrorist attack. On learning that he had lost his legs, Danny just shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve never been so proud of my son,” recalls Danny’s father, John.

After being transferred to a high-dependecy unit, Danny gradually grew in confidence and learned to accept his injuries. The staff never let him relax, all the time encouraging him to get up, get dressed and go to physiotherapy. By autumn, he was moved to Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton where physiotherapist Maggie Uden remembers him as a star pupil. “His commitment to rehabilitation was amazing,” she says.

Danny and his fiancée, Lisa, had intended to marry in April 2006, but they were still living apart – Danny in a small hospital room, and Lisa a threehour round trip away. However, the couple’s plan remained intact and, by April 2007, the big day finally arrived. Among the guests at the wedding were the people who had figured in Danny’s rescue and recovery. “As soon as I saw Dan standing up,” says Lisa, “I was just totally overwhelmed.”

Danny continues to cope incredibly well with his disabilities and has started a new career as an accessibility specialist, but dealing with the mental trauma of his ordeal is an ongoing battle. However, he remains remarkably positive: “You just have to make a decision that you won’t let these people win,” he concludes.

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