A former principal officer at Gartree Prison – who survived a horrific four-day incident in which a prisoner destroyed cells and wrote on the walls in his own blood – is organising a mental health awareness walk for others who may be carrying memories they find difficult to cope with.
Mark Le Sage was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the incident in 2005, which culminated in three staff being retired, two put on light duties and one officer committing suicide.
Mr Le Sage, who lives in Spalding, said: “We saved the prisoner’s life, but afterwards it was found we were poorly supported.
“It was assumed that as we were a good unit we could get on and deal with it, but it should have been dealt with as a major incident.
“Eleven out of 12 cells were destroyed. The prisoner banged his head on cell walls and wrote on them in his own blood. When it was over we were covered in his blood, urine and excrement.”
Mr Le Sage, who was medically retired in 2008, said recovering from the incident has been a slow process.
But he said he was pleased to have been able to help change government policy to prevent similar incidents by working with MP John Hayes and the Minister of Prisons.
He went on to work with the Princess Trust until 2009, then trained to be a nurse and is now a paediatric and ENT theatre nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
He said: “There are many people such as firefighters, police and paramedics who are exposed to incidents they find are hard to cope with. Fitness is a good stress reliever and something I have used to recover from what happened to me. In 2008 I did a round Britain cycle and raised £30,000 for charity. It’s good to get in the gym.
“The health walk is not too far but a way of letting people know, who are struggling with coping or may be recovering from an operation, that there are people they can talk to.”
Held in conjunction with the NHS Walking for Health group, the walk is at Ayscoughfee Gardens in Spalding on Friday, July 3, at 11am. Participants can turn up on the day.