In March 2011, five-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran was dancing in the aisle of her uncle’s shop when two men ran in, fleeing gang rivals. Three men outside fired shots into the shop, missing their targets, but hitting Thusha in the chest, shattering her spine.
Sherridan Best, 53, and James Lafferty, 24 were the first paramedics on the scene. They made their way through the shop and found the young victim in a tiny back room.
“I’ll never forget that scene,” Sherridan said. “She was bleeding heavily and yelling, ‘Daddy save me, please help me, I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die.’” James, who had only qualified three months earlier, adds: “It was unbelievable. We had never heard of a five-year-old being shot. It was just a case of ‘we’ve got to keep this child alive’.”
Carefully lifting her onto a stretcher, the paramedics moved Thusha onto the street and kept her breathing until Dr Magnusson arrived with trauma paramedic Caroline Appleby. When they first saw her she was suffocating, bleeding heavily and they had to perform delicate emergency surgery on the street outside the shop in Stockwell, south London.
Dr Magnusson said: “All I was thinking was that I couldn’t let her die. She was five and had taken a bullet to the chest. That was unbelievable to me.” Caroline, who assisted Dr Magnusson with the surgical procedure, recalled:
“I'd never assisted in a procedure on a child that young before. I remember putting my hand on Vidar's shoulder because I don't think either of us could believe that there was someone so young so badly injured from a shooting.”
While they operated on Thusha, paramedic Sherridan tried to keep the little girl calm. “I looked after her and comforted her and spoke to her all the time,” she said.
Due to Dr Magnusson’s roadside surgery, Thusha was able to keep breathing until she reached hospital. Talking of the doctor’s life-saving skills, Caroline said: “He reacted so quickly under such immense pressure. We had this tiny child basically dying in front of us and to be able to perform the surgery that he did and for her then to survive it's amazing.”
Thusha was left paralysed from the chest down and doctors said she would never walk again. But, Thusha has amazed medics by being able to move her legs and take a few steps. She says she wants to become a “doctor and a dancer.”
James said: “The team effort that night was unbelievable. But at the end of the day that's my job. She’s the real hero out of all of it.” Mr Magnusson added: “I feel like she's a little part of me. She's one of the patients that I will think about always.”