3 Oct 2022
Warning – this story discusses domestic violence
During the evening of 25 July 2020, while Claire was peacefully asleep on the sofa under the weight of her pet cat, she was attacked.
“I remember waking, feeling a scratch on my neck,” described Claire. “Then I lunged up, trying to pull the knife away from my throat.”
While Claire’s 12 year old daughter and her best friend were having a movie night, Claire’s partner at the time stabbed her eight times with a knife. “I remember the stab I received to my abdomen, as my whole body wrenched up with that one. I was also punched across the room. But other than that, I don’t remember a lot.”
After attacking Claire, the man smashed up the young girls’ phones and warned them not to leave the room.
“He was covered in my blood when he went to the girls. She has since told me she could hear me begging from the lounge.”
With incredible bravery and ingenuity, once the man had fled the scene, Claire’s daughter thought to call 999 via Siri on their broken phones.
“She’s my hero,” said Claire. “As a mother sometimes I wished she had run and made sure she was safe, but she told me she just wasn’t able to leave me.”
Due to the severity of Claire’s injuries, London’s Air Ambulance’s advanced trauma team were instantly dispatched. As it was night time, the crew attended to Claire’s home in Harrow Weald via a rapid response car.
Dr Matt Mak, London’s Air Ambulance Consultant, recollected: “When we arrived outside Claire’s flat she was unconscious, she was pale, and she had lost quite a bit of blood. We gave Claire an emergency anesthetic and a blood transfusion, and we inserted an arterial line to closely monitor her blood pressure.
“The nature of these injuries means that time is critical and we have to provide these interventions at the scene, as we don’t have time to make it to hospital.”
Bringing this hospital-level care to the scene, our trauma team also performed a life-saving rapid sequence intubation – a special process used when a patient is at high risk of pulmonary aspiration – before transporting her to St Mary’s Hospital.
“I remember waking up in hospital – my arms were hoisted up in front of me because of all the injuries to my hands.”
Claire had been stabbed through the face, in the side of her head, in the abdomen and in the chest. Her throat had also been cut. She immediately underwent a variety of surgeries to repair her wounds, one of which was to remove part of her bowel and reattach the undamaged section.
“My radial nerve had been severed on the left side, but I am left handed, so I was left without the use of my hands for a year as the nerve gradually recovered.
“I awoke knowing I could never go back to my home. I could never live in a house where someone had tried to kill me. So I was worried about being homeless. I was so worried about what my daughter had seen. I felt like my whole life was completely ruined.”
Claire remained in hospital for three and half weeks, on a ward opposite a young girl with a life-long condition called Chiari syringomyelia.
“This young girl had to regularly have fluid drained off her brain, but she was so positive. She was always so upbeat, and I just thought to myself, I want to be like you.”
Since then, over the last two years, with “small baby steps to begin with”, Claire has made a miraculous recovery – both physically and mentally. Relentlessly following the physio instructions, Claire has regained the use of both her hands and got full movement back in her shoulder, following a frozen shoulder from being in a splint for so long.
“When I was discharged, I had to move in with my mum. I couldn’t feed myself, or clean myself, I was literally a 35 year old baby. Now, I have a new home and I am grateful to be alive. My daughter is doing well, she recently won an award at school for exceptional young people. This experience has inspired me to do good things with my life.”
Matt said: “It’s great to see Claire making such a remarkable recovery and the outcome of the care that we provided to her at scene. It’s great to see all the great stuff she is doing and putting back into her life.”
Claire is training to be a domestic violence worker, with passion towards helping women in vulnerable situations. “My ex-partner was always very controlling and jealous, but was never physically violent. There were a lot of things I didn’t know; people don’t have to be physically violent towards you to be abusing you.
“I want to put my story out there and help other women. In the future, I would love to start my own charity and go to schools and talk about what healthy relationships look like. I thought jealously was a sign of love, but that is not true. Not all schools have relationship education and I think it’s important to talk to young people and show them what a healthy relationship really is.”
Claire also started volunteering at London’s Air Ambulance Charity’s shop in The Royal London Hospital. “I started volunteering in the ambulance shop earlier this year, to try and give something back to the people who saved me. Until this happened to me, I didn’t realise the air ambulance wasn’t fully funded.
“I’m just so grateful. Without London’s Air Ambulance Charity I wouldn’t have survived, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to recover. Anything I could do to help the charity, I would.”
The attacker was reprimanded by the police the same evening of the attack. He pled guilty to attempted murder and received a life sentence in prison.
If you have been affected by anything similar to this story, and would like advice, please reach out to The Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, available on 0808 2000 247, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The helpline is answered by fully trained female support workers and volunteers who will answer your call in confidence.