Couple to wed and return to city
British pair 'can't run out on Christchurch'
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2011
Two British doctors will return to Christchurch after their overseas wedding, despite a dramatic few weeks working in the earthquake-hit city.
British resident medical officer Richard Clinghan was halfway through assisting a seven-hour abdominal operation at Christchurch Hospital when the February 22 earthquake struck.
"The lights went out and drip stands fell down. We only just stayed on our feet," he said.
Clinghan said surgeons could not just "sew the patient back up and leave it for another day", so the operation went on amid the aftershocks.
"It was very nerve-racking. Everybody was worried about their family and friends, but we had a duty to the patient and had to carry on."
He said staff in the operating theatre felt the quake strongly, but did not know how badly the city had been affected until they were able to check the internet and see photos.
Clinghan, whose fiancee, Dr Wendy McBurnie, works at Burwood Hospital, tried cycling from Christchurch Hospital to Burwood to check on her that night.
"It was dark, there were no street lights, the roads were all bumpy and full of liquefaction and I didn't really know where I was going," he said.
"I was soaked to the skin. I stopped to ask for directions and a good Samaritan gave me a lift to Burwood."
McBurnie worked a 24-hour shift in orthopaedics that night.
The couple had to leave their damaged home, joining other overseas-trained doctors in an undamaged Sumner house after the quake.
"There were 20 of us – mainly UK doctors who live in Sumner and whose homes had been destroyed," Clinghan said.
"People were cooking for each other and boiling water. No-one got much sleep as we were all working crazy hours and doing different shifts."
Clinghan and McBurnie left Christchurch yesterday to get married in Scotland.
Clinghan said the quake had not put them off the city. They had applied for permanent residency and wanted to live here for another five years.
"In the first couple of days, the knee-jerk reaction was to move away from Christchurch, but over the next few days we were speaking to our friends and started to think there's all these fantastic people who we have met and have been so generous and kind," he said.
"We can't really run out on the people of Christchurch because we have grown to love this place and the people who live here."
Clinghan said the quake had been a tough time for medical staff, but the experience would make them better doctors.