Couple drawn back to nightmare

Still deeply affected: Clair and David Marsh.
Still deeply affected: Clair and David Marsh.

DR DAVID Marsh is a GP in Richmond and his wife Clair runs the surgery. They're Bali people; they have gone there every year since 1990.

In 2002 they were staying at villas in Seminyak. Some younger people they met there — including bombing victim Jodie Cearns of Brisbane — had persuaded them to go to the Sari Club on that infamous night and the Marsh's were all set to, but Dr Marsh got Bali belly so the couple had an early night.

What happened over the next 48 hours and into the following week still haunts them.

Despite setting up the charitable Marsh Foundation for Indonesian and pan-Asian hospitals in the decade since, and receiving Medals of the Order of Australia, the couple have been deeply affected by post-traumatic stress, nightmares and relationship issues.

After receiving a phone call from Australia soon after the bombings, the Marshes raced to Sanglah hospital in a taxi.

"The driver was crying his eyes out,'This is not me, this is not my people, please, please forgive us'," Mrs Marsh says.

"We turned the corner and saw people trying to peer over the [hospital] wall. Inside there were people everywhere in all sorts of states of shock and blood and there was this bed which has been my recurring nightmare."

It was an old-fashioned hospital bed with a thin mattress . "It was absolutely dripping with blood," she says, "just dripping with blood.

"That bed is always there. I suddenly wake up with a start and see it. There was so much blood, it was incredible how much it was . . . it was drip, drip, dripping."

Dr Marsh drew on lessons learnt in medical school to do triage medicine in the hospital. "The hospital was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what happened. It was a bit like a war zone. I was doing things I hadn't done for many years, like inserting drips and catheters and doing cutdowns to get drips in and also immediate first aid like escharotomies on burnt tissue."

He says there was an undeniable "Aussie spirit" — getting on with it and getting things done. There was also a bedside manner that helped him engage with patients. "There's a person in front of you that you only know as Mr X," he says, "and there's no room for formality so I'd say 'Gidday knackers, how ya goin'?', being a quaint Australian term, and you'd get a smile and they would feel the presence of another Aussie.

"We lost some but by crikey we got a lot more out than we thought we would."

Dr Marsh was named Victorian of the Year in 2003. He also contributed to medical care after the Black Saturday bushfires.

The couple have opened villas in Seminyak named after Jodie Cearns, who he treated in the hospital after their earlier meeting. She died in Melbourne 10 days after the bombing. The villas are called Villa Jodie.

This story Couple drawn back to nightmare first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.