Monday, June 26, 2006

Danny's Story

Danny Biddle, the survivor most seriously injured in the London blasts tells of his agonising battle for life - and the shocking Home Office response when he asked for help to rebuild his future in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.

In a 3 -page interview in yesterday's Mail on Sunday, he damns the Criminal Injuries compensation scheme - he recieved £118, 332 - 'and that's my lot. It's quite a callous way they explain it. You can only claim for three injuries - even if you've got 200. It's like going through an Argos catalogue. picking the most expensive things. But it's not a catalogue, it's my body, and we're talking about parts that 12 months ago were attached to me. The most expensive claimI could make was for losing my legs - that was £110,000. Then you go to the next most expensive injury.CICA says the loss of an eye is worth £27,000 - but then they take 70% off because it's only your second worst injury, so I recieved £8000 for my eye. Next was my spleen for which they gave me £332.'

'There was no letter - just a cheque on the post for £118,0000. I'm still waiting for the money for my spleen, but for some reason that hasn't arrived'.

Danny showed me his injuries when I visited him a few weeks ago. He wanted to come to the meeting about a public inquiry, but he couldn't, he was still in hospital, so I went over to see him instead. We talked til late. As well losing both legs above the knee, and his eye, he has lost his hearing on one side, has enormous scars across his chest from where medics performed open heart massage to save him during one of his cardiac arrests, has burns, internal injuries, damaged lungs and numerous other scars and wounds, including where small change in his pocket was blasted into his thigh bone.

He has to take penicillin every day, and then further drugs to counter the effects of the drugs he has to take. Not having a spleen compromises his immune system, and he has had to deal with multiple infections since the blast. I wanted to take Danny a flowering plant to cheer up his small hospital room, where he has spent many long, boring, painful hours, as he recovers from the massive physical struggle of learning to walk again on new prosthetic legs, but he is not allowed plants, because of the risk of infection. He told me that walking on prosthetics on below the knee amputations takes 200% more physical effort than walking; above the knee, 800% more effort.

He looked tired; he still has difficulty sleeping. His dreams, like so many other survivors from 7th July, are haunted by the screams from the train, and in his case, by the face of Khan, who calmly detonated a bomb 18 inches away from Danny.

Danny's suffering is almost incomprehensible. A former 6'4 body builder and building site projects manager, he played semi-professional football for years and was a healthy, popular member of a group of sporty friends. He cannot bear to watch the football he loved so much now. He has lost several inches in height. He hopes to buy himself a better wheelchair soon. £118,000 is not very much for a 27 year old man to live on for the next sixty years. He told me of his battles with bureaucracy, the £300 vouchers issued late to repaint the bungalow the local authority finally, reluctantly provided. Then they refused to get a workman in to paint the walls, argung that Danny's dad in his sixties was fit enough to do it. They insisted that Danny come to their office from hospital to collect the keys for his new home. When he eventually visited the place, months later, the doors were too narrow to fit his wheelchair through. He showed the local authority representative his bleeding knuckles, scraped as he struggled through in the chair. They didn't want to widen the doors. They pointed out that he had, after all, managed to fit the chair through the door. They gave in, in the end.

It's the brutalising pettiness of the bureacracy, the bloody mindlessness of the official machine, the lack of human compasion and empathy that infuritated me when I visited Danny. His dignity and presence filled the small hospital room. He is a big man, and his strength, his huge powerful body saved him from the blast that should have killed him outright. But he should not have to use his massive strength to fight this battle for compensation and help, help he never wanted to have to ask for. To see this warrior in hospital still, is like seeing a lion in a cage.

Danny is angry at the Government and calls the Intelligence and Securities committee report ''a whitewash''. He is calling for a public inquiry into the attacks.
'They could be found to be at fault, and this could increase demands for higher compensation', he told the Mail on Sunday. But is that any reason not to have one? Is being afraid of criticism, or of having to pay more compensation to Danny and other seriously injured and bereaved families reason enough to refuse a public interrogation of the facts behind 7th July and after?

I wanted to write about Danny when I first met him, but I know that the papers must have their exclusives, and I think he is very brave for telling his story. I hope that when millions of people read his story, they will be angry and want to help. Danny has been treated for his terrible injuries by dozens of dedicated medical staff, and they deserve the highest praise for keeping him amongst us still, as do the passenger and tube driver who saved his life by stemming his blood loss at the scene. But now he must look to the future, his impending marriage. It's a different future to the one he anticipated a year ago. And so I ask everyone who reads this, please think about the story of Danny; think about how it could be you, someone you love, who simply took a train to work on a summer's morning, and whose life was blown apart by a man with a bomb, Mohammed Sidique Khan who said '' This is a war and I am a soldier''. What sort of 'war', what sort of 'soldiering' is this? All over the world, lives are shattered by bombs, by war. In whose name, in what cause are these bombs detonated? I see no God in this suffering, I see nothing justified or righteous.

I see no politician has even written to Danny to explain, or come to his side. I wonder if they will now as the anniversary approaches, and the story is in the papers.

The campaign for a proper inquiry is here, signed by Danny and other survivors and bereaved families and members of the public.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to Danny was an abomination. What has happened to him since that day is also an abomination. Politicians use the victims of atrocities like this to further their own agendas;to cover up their scandalous failure to prevent such dreadful events. One would hope that Danny and the other victims of that dreadful day would be able to rely on the state for a proper level of support; not so it seems, I find that fact genuinely shocking.

June 27, 2006 2:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and they hand money out like there is no tomorrow to asylum seekers. An utter disgrace.

June 29, 2006 3:11 pm  
Anonymous This Space for Rent said...

All you can do is rage that someone can be fucked so badly by so many people.

This is not the main problem by any means, and god, I wish it hadn't been that way, but its wrong that the media tells its tales of hardship and then its done. There;s maybe two, three stories of lives which are incredibly damaged and then that;s it for stories. The stories exist as symbols but everything that;s real behind it becomes dismissed. And as soon as a newspaper tellis it "bad pain" bomb story, everythingt else is immaterial.

June 30, 2006 12:46 am  
Anonymous Jon said...

I was in the carriage of the Edgeware Road train under which Danny was trapped. His courage and strength on that day were remarkable. I felt helpless in that carriage, so near yet so far from Danny's side. It was painful leaving the site not helping ... not knowing. I kept asking the police how Danny was doing after the attack and the news was not positive. That Danny has made it out alive is testament to his will to live. It is so unjust that he should make it so far only to be denied proper support from the state.

On a separate note, on that day a South African (I think) rose to the occasion and took charge. He kept Danny in touch when all seemed to be slipping away. His behaviour and state of mind were commendable and he deserves recognition as one of the many heroes of 7/7.

July 08, 2006 8:41 am  
Blogger Henry North London said...

There was a program on Channel 4 recently about Danny

Hopefully they gave him some money for it

September 06, 2007 3:28 pm  

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