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North Walsham shooting victim returns to Tunisia to repay hospital which saved his life following beach massacre

PUBLISHED: 16:50 04 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:54 04 January 2017

Tony Callaghan with beds bought for the Sahloul University State Hospital in Sousse, Tunisia, through fundraising organised by the Callaghans who were treated there after the terrorist attack. Picture: TONY CALLAGHAN

Tony Callaghan with beds bought for the Sahloul University State Hospital in Sousse, Tunisia, through fundraising organised by the Callaghans who were treated there after the terrorist attack. Picture: TONY CALLAGHAN

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A Norfolk couple shot in a terrorist massacre have given thousands of pounds worth of equipment to the Tunisian hospital which cared for them.

Dr Karim Bouattour, the surgeon who operated on Chris Callaghan, with her husband Tony at the Sahloul University State Hospital in Sousse, Tunisia, which the couple have been supporting through fundraising, The translation of the wall plaque says: Dr Karim Bouattour, the surgeon who operated on Chris Callaghan, with her husband Tony at the Sahloul University State Hospital in Sousse, Tunisia, which the couple have been supporting through fundraising, The translation of the wall plaque says: "In recognition of Chris and Tony Callaghan (victims of June 26 2015), and of British fundraising, for their donation to the hospital. Picture: TONY CALLAGHAN

Tony Callaghan, 64, has just returned from Sousse, in Tunisia, where he saw the three hospital beds, medication trolleys and surgical equipment bought with the £9,000 he raised through a Crowdfunding appeal to mark the first anniversary of the June 26 2015 atrocity.

Mr Callaghan, from North Walsham, was greeted as a VIP, with a reception committee which included Tunisia’s assistant minister for health, and he was asked to unveil a plaque naming a hospital ward in honour of his wife, Chris Callaghan, 63.

The Callaghans had been staying at the Rui Imperial Maharba Hotel, north of Sousse, when a lone gunman opened fire on the beach, killing 38 tourists, 30 from the UK.

They were taken to the Sahloul University State Hospital in Sousse.

From left: The head of the orrthopaedic department,Tunisia's assistant health minister Aymen Souissi, hospital director Lofti Boubaker, Tony Callaghan, and surgeon Dr Karim Bouattour at the Sahloul University State Hopsital in Sousse, Tunisia, where Chris and Tony Callaghan were treated after the terrorist attack of June 26 2015. Picture: TONY CALLAGHANFrom left: The head of the orrthopaedic department,Tunisia's assistant health minister Aymen Souissi, hospital director Lofti Boubaker, Tony Callaghan, and surgeon Dr Karim Bouattour at the Sahloul University State Hopsital in Sousse, Tunisia, where Chris and Tony Callaghan were treated after the terrorist attack of June 26 2015. Picture: TONY CALLAGHAN

Mr Callaghan had been shot in his left calf. His wife received a bullet through the back of her thigh which exited the front, taking with it over three inches of bone and leaving a wound eight inches in diameter.

The bullet also severed Mrs Callaghan’s sciatic nerve, leaving her with a dropped foot and a disabled leg. She was operated on at the hospital before the couple were flown back for further treatment at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Mr Callaghan said the Tunisian hospital was poor compared to UK standards and lacked many basic facilities, but he added: “However we could not fault the medical care we received and the love and support that was shown to us all.”

While recovering in the N&N he decided he wanted to help the Sousse hospital and raised £3,500 with a Crowdfunding appeal which bought medical equipment for the orthopaedic department, to the delight of hospital chiefs.

The ward named in honour of Chris Callaghan at the Sahloul University State Hopsital in Sousse, Tunisia, where Mrs Callaghan and her husband Tony were treated after the terrorist attack of June 26 2015. Picture: TONY CALLAGHANThe ward named in honour of Chris Callaghan at the Sahloul University State Hopsital in Sousse, Tunisia, where Mrs Callaghan and her husband Tony were treated after the terrorist attack of June 26 2015. Picture: TONY CALLAGHAN

Mr Callaghan established a strong relationship with Dr Karim Bouattour, the surgeon who operated on his wife, and decided to continue fundraising, resulting in the latest sum, donated by other survivors, and people moved by the Callaghan’s story and their determination to do something positive after a black period which changed their lives forever.

Both had to give up their jobs after the attack - Mrs Callaghan had worked for the NHS at Cromer Hospital and her husband was property officer at the North Walsham Police Station.

Mrs Callaghan has had six operations to date with another planned next month.

“We have always remained positive about our future and we feel so fortunate that we were able to return home from Tunisia together,” said Mr Callaghan.

He was deeply moved by the gratitude of the Tunisian health chiefs during his visit earlier this month and would like to form a twinning link between the Tunisian hospital and the N&N.

And he also hopes to find out whether UK hospitals would be willing to donate obsolete medical supplies and equipment which he says could be put to good use in Tunisia.

Mr Callaghan added: “The Tunisians are a very forwarding-thinking nation and within the hospitals they are ingenious in adapting older equipment to make it become useful again so that it benefits the medical staff and patients.”

He said focusing on such projects was helping him recover and address the mental trauma from which he suffered.

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