My name is Freya Lewis and I am 15.
The Manchester Arena Attack on 22 May 2017 affected us all in different ways. Twenty two families lost their loved ones, including my friend, Nell Jones. For me and 511 others, who sustained physical and/or mental injuries, our lives changed forever. I suffered 29 separate injuries, including a broken arm, two broken legs, severe burns, facial and internal injuries. There wasn’t any part of my body that hadn’t suffered the effects of shrapnel. My injuries were like those you would see from a battlefield in a war zone.
I was admitted to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where I remained for over five weeks, three of which were on the Paediatric Critical Care Unit. I remain a regular visitor as an outpatient. I have now been in surgery on 13 occasions and for a total of over 70 hours.
You may be surprised to learn that Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital is the biggest and busiest Children’s Hospital in the UK which treats over 260,000 patients every year. Children come to the hospital from across the North West of England as well as other parts of the country for highly specialised treatments.
I am only alive and here today because of the incredible care that I received at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. They represent our wonderful National Health Service at its very, very best. The care I received, and continue to receive, is quite simply world class. I don’t have words to express how grateful I am to all of the amazing staff who have cared for me and are helping me to get back as close as possible to how I used to be. I love you all.
What happened on the 22 May 2017 showed the very darkest side of humanity. However, so many things that I have experienced since have shown me and my family how amazing people can be. Many of these people have been the staff at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, who spend their working lives helping, and in many cases saving the lives, of others.
My time in hospital has inspired me and my family to raise money for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital charity, and our total to date is over £58,000. It feels so great to give something back and the money is being spent on some fantastic projects which benefit staff, patients and visitors.
The last year has taught me just how important the NHS is to our country. It is unique. We have often talked about how things would have been for me if I had sustained the injuries that I did in almost anywhere else in the world. I know just how lucky I was, and I hope that these 70th Birthday Celebrations make other people realise how important the NHS is to our country.
Here to support me today is nurse Jenny Grant. Jenny looked after me during my time on the Paediatric High Dependency Unit at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and she has become a very special friend to both me and my family. It is people like her that make the NHS so incredible.