LONDON: A doctor who was on duty when Princess Diana was rushed to hospital after her Paris car crash has spoken to the press for the first time about how his team tried “everything possible” to save her life.
Dr. MonSef Dahman was 33 on the night of the infamous crash, serving as a young duty general surgeon at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital.
He had been working a long shift from 8 a.m. the previous day, and was called to the A&E department to treat a “young woman” in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997.
“I was resting in the duty room when I got a call from Bruno Riou, the senior duty anaesthetist, telling me to go to the emergency room,” Dahman, 56, told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
“I wasn’t told it was Lady Diana, but (only) that there’d been a serious accident involving a young woman.
“The organisation of the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital was very hierarchical. So when you got a call from (such) a high-level colleague, that meant the case was particularly serious.”
Dahman said he realized the gravity of what was unfolding when he arrived at A&E moments later. His duty room was just 50 meters away from the emergency section.
Riou was in the room and personally taking care of the woman on the stretcher, which was a “sign of the special importance,” Dahman said.
It was then that he was told that the patient was Diana, Princess of Wales. “It only took that moment for all this unusual activity to become clear to me,” he added.
“For any doctor, any surgeon, it is of very great importance to be faced with such a young woman who is in this condition. But of course even more so if she is a princess.”
He kept a lid on the full details of Diana’s treatment, but said an X-ray showed she had “very serious internal bleeding” and underwent a procedure to help remove excess fluid from her chest cavity and blood transfusions.
Diana, 36, suffered a cardiac arrest at about 2:15 a.m., prompting the medics to give her an external heart massage and emergency surgery while she was lying on the stretcher in A&E.
“I did this (procedure) to enable her to breathe,” Dahman said. “Her heart couldn’t function properly because it was lacking in blood.
Alain Pavie, one of France’s leading heart surgeons, was woken at home to help save Diana, and she was moved to an operating theater.
He suspected that the team had not found the full details of her internal bleeding, so he conducted further exploratory surgery.
His investigation discovered that she had suffered a tear in her upper left pulmonary vein at the point of contact with the heart.
Pavie sutured the cut, but her heart rate had flattened before the surgical exploration and would not restart.
“We tried electric shocks, several times and, as I had done in the emergency room, cardiac massage,” said Dahman. “Prof. Riou had administered adrenaline. But we could not get her heart beating again.”
The team spent an hour attempting to resuscitate the princess. “We fought hard, we tried a lot, really an awful lot. Frankly, when you are working in those conditions, you don’t notice the passage of time,” Dahman said. “The only thing that is important is that we do everything possible for this young woman.”
The doctor said one of the reasons for breaking his silence on the night of the crash was to demonstrate how the Parisian medical staff had given every effort to save her, in contrast to relentless conspiracy theories about Diana’s death.
A medical review some years after the event reaffirmed Dahman’s statements. “No other strategy would have affected the outcome,” the report concluded.