Prince Harry praises team that saved life of a US Army medic

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Prince Harry has praised the UK hospital team that saved the life of a US Army medic, telling the NHS workers a "huge, huge thank you to all of you".

The 31-year-old presented the Papworth Hospital group with an Invictus Games gold medal entrusted to him by Sergeant Elizabeth Marks who wanted her award to be donated to the medical staff who treated her when she was gravely ill two years ago.

Prince Harry (right) hands over an Invictus Games gold medal won by Elizabeth Marks to consultant intensivist Dr Alain Vuylsteke, originally from Belgium, and the other members of the Papworth Hospital medical team who helped save the servicewoman's life, as they visit Kensington Palace in London.Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Prince Harry (right) hands over an Invictus Games gold medal won by Elizabeth Marks to consultant intensivist Dr Alain Vuylsteke, originally from Belgium, and the other members of the Papworth Hospital medical team who helped save the servicewoman's life, as they visit Kensington Palace in London.Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

The combat medic was due to compete in the 2014 Invictus Games, for injured service personnel and veterans, when she collapsed and was discovered to have a serious problem with her lungs.

She was diagnosed with respiratory distress syndrome and a medical team from Papworth treated her with an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life-support machine - a system which "breathes" for the patient while they are treated with drugs.

Among the group invited to the presentation ceremony at Kensington Palace were lead ECMO clinician Dr Alain Vuylsteke, lead ECMO nurse Jo-anne Fowles, senior staff nurse Laura Bowden and senior clinical perfusion scientist Giordano Paiella.

The Prince was joined at the event by the Duchess of Gloucester, who is Papworth's royal patron. Harry told her Sgt Marks was "over the moon - she's very excited about the handover process".

When the medical team arrived, Harry asked them: "Am I right in saying she was given about a 35% chance of living?"

Dr Vuylsteke replied "That's generous", adding: "We used a machine to support her and keep her alive, while antibiotics and other drugs were helping her to fight it."

The Prince said the 25-year-old soldier broke down in tears as she told him about her treatment, when they met during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, last month.

Harry went on: "Something else that she told me while we were in Florida - I don't know whether you'll agree to it or not - she said that it was a blessing in disguise landing in London and going to Papworth because Papworth is undoubtedly the best place for someone having this condition.

"That's very kind of her," replied Dr Vuylsteke, who said: "We've got the best system in place to support this kind of problem. What's quite amazing is in England we've set up a system a few years ago that offers that (treatment) to anybody. I'm not sure that she would have received the same services anywhere else (in the world).

"So, in her bad luck, she was very lucky."

During the presentation ceremony, Harry played a short video of Sgt Marks competing at the Games in Orlando where she won four gold medals in the pool - and dedicated her 100m freestyle medal to the Papworth team after she received it from the Prince.

Harry said: "From all of us, it's just a huge, huge thank you to all of you."

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