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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Images of 7 July: Mercy dash
Hazel Russell (left) and other hospital workers

Hazel Russell has never run so fast in her life, she says.

The 63-year-old health care assistant - a pub landlady until nine years ago - was less than two hours into her shift at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery when the red alert call came on 7 July.

There were injured people at nearby Russell Square Tube station and blankets and sheets were among the things needed.

A trolley was loaded up and Mrs Russell and a hospital porter dashed down the street.

Hazel Russell, June 2006
The injured man was too shocked to give his name, says Mrs Russell

Later she was photographed and filmed by TV crews as she and other hospital workers ferried an injured passenger on the same trolley from Russell Square to a trauma unit that had been set up at a nearby nurses' home.

"The alert went out at our hospital to say no more operations were to be done because of this incident that had happened. When they said they needed sheets and blankets we just ran round there.

"The adrenalin was going; that's the fastest I've ever run!" said Hazel, who has six children, 16 grandchildren and a great grandchild.

"My daughter said to me later: 'Weren't you frightened, Mum? '- but I thought, why should I have been? I was there to do a job.

"She said another bomb could have gone off, and it was only then that it clicked."

Up to 40 staff from the National attended the scene that day, including some nurses coming off the night shift.

After Mrs Russell helped out at the station for a while, a registrar said the trolley was needed for a patient and she helped wheel him to the unit in nearby Guilford Street.

The atmosphere at Russell Square was...eerie - it was like people were wondering what was going to come out of the station

"The patient was quite lacerated on his legs and his face was blackened, but it was decided he could go to the trauma unit rather than to A&E.

"I think he was more shocked than anything. I tried to get his name out of him but he didn't want to talk."

She returned to Russell Square to offer more help, but before long the ambulance crews asked everyone to move away from the immediate area as they brought out the most badly injured passengers.

"The atmosphere at Russell Square was very very quiet, it was eerie more than anything. It was like people were wondering what was going to come out of the station.

"When they said they wanted everyone to move out of the way we started to wonder: 'How badly injured are these people?'

"One of our consultant anaesthetists had been in the ticket hall of the station. She said she'd seen some things in her life, but nothing like that.

"We went back to the hospital and lots of people were sitting in the coffee room talking about what had happened. By this time they had all seen me on the TV," says Mrs Russell.

"There were so many conflicting stories about that picture in the media - one minute they said I was running from Tavistock Square where the bus had exploded; the next thing they said I was heading for the Royal London.

"When we first left the hospital with the blankets we had to cross Guilford Street and we could see all the camera flashes going. It was all cordoned off there and they were all lined up - you couldn't count the cameramen, there were so many.

Bus fear

"When this picture was shot it had started to rain and I didn't really notice it being taken.

"My husband Alan said the phone didn't stop that afternoon, with people who had seen the pictures everywhere."

For about a month after 7 July Mrs Russell - who has always hated the Tubes and chooses to travel by bus - refused to get on the top deck of a bus.

She would stand downstairs all the way to her home in Dulwich, south east London, because she feared another explosion might happen.

"It was a traumatic day really, but when you're doing a job you don't stop to think. I walked two hours to get home that night and when I got in my feet were burning - I fell asleep at 8pm and woke up the next day.

"It's not an experience I'd like to go through again but of course if it happened I would do the same thing."

Interview: Paula Dear


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