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Doctors At First Doubted Skripals Would Survive Nerve-Agent Poisoning

Yulia Skripal said in a video last week that her recovery had been "slow and extremely painful."
Yulia Skripal said in a video last week that her recovery had been "slow and extremely painful."

A hospital consultant who treated former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, for exposure to a military-grade nerve agent did not at first think the two would survive, he said in an interview with BBC's Newsnight.

"When we first were aware this was a nerve agent, we were expecting them not to survive. We would try all our therapies. We would ensure the best clinical care. But all the evidence was there that they would not survive," said Stephen Jukes, an intensive-care consultant, in an interview scheduled to be broadcast on May 29.

The Skripals were brought in for emergency care at the hospital in Salisbury, England, after being found unconscious on a bench in the town on March 4.

Upon admission, the medical team suspected the two were experiencing an opioid overdose, doctors told the BBC, but that diagnosis quickly changed to nerve-agent poisoning.

Once doctors determined that the Skripals had been poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, they said their main goal was just to keep the Skripals alive.

The two were heavily sedated and given heavy doses of drugs designed to protect them from the effects of the poison and to help restart their bodies' natural production of a key enzyme needed to overcome the poisoning.

Doctors described their fear and shock to the BBC when police officer Nick Bailey, one of the first on the scene to rescue the Skripals, was admitted shortly after they were with similar symptoms. Hospital staff said they wondered at that point if they too might fall victim to the nerve agent.

"When the PC was admitted with symptoms, there was real concern as to how big this could get," said Lorna Wilkinson, the director of nursing at the hospital.

Wilkinson told the BBC she feared the incident "could become all-consuming and involve many casualties.... We really didn't know at that point.”

Both of the Skripals and Bailey survived and have been discharged from the hospital.

While they are still alive, Christine Blanshard, the hospital's medical director, told the BBC that doctors "don't know" what the long-term prognosis is for such people who have been exposed to Novichok.

Staff said the hospital received advice and help processing tests from international experts, including those from the nearby Porton Down defense-research laboratory, renowned for its chemical-weapons expertise.

Yulia Skripal was discharged in April but it was several more weeks before her father was well enough to be released.

Yulia Skripal said in a video last week that her recovery had been "slow and extremely painful" and that she was lucky to have survived.

Britain blamed Russia for poisoning the two and, along with its Western allies, expelled dozens of diplomats in response.

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement.

With reporting by BBC 2, Reuters, and The Guardian
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