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Manchester Bomb victim publishes his thrilling adventure climbing Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair

cover of top of the world with Martin Hibbert giving two thumbs up on Mount Kilimanjaro

Martin Hibbert was left paralysed by the Manchester Arena bombing which killed twenty-two people on 22 May 2017. 

He was the closest person to the bomber to survive.

Martin’s teenage daughter Eve was one of the 29 seriously injured. Determined to make a  difference he took on the ultimate challenge, scaling Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair, becoming the  second paraplegic to do so. 

Reaching the summit on 9th June 2022, Martin said ‘I’ve often wondered  why I was saved. Now I know why. It was for this moment.’ He has since become a leading campaigner both for victims of the atrocity and those with spinal cord injuries.

Author and dad of one Martin Hibbert is from Bolton, Lancashire and lives with his wife Gabby and cocker spaniel Alfie. After two separate courses of radical NeuroPhysics Therapy in Australia, Martin was able to stand in his callipers.  

In his thrilling new book, Top of the World, he relives his incredible adventure conquering one of  the highest mountains in the world.

Exclusively for ABLE2UK Martin has shared an extract from his story:

‘ ‘Sorry, love, you go ahead,’ I’d have said, ushering her ahead of me and falling in behind her. It was a move which saved her life.

I kept my eye on the car park door. We were halfway across the room. A few steps further on and then— BOOM!

For a few seconds, there was nothing but noise. A high-pitched, deafening noise. It roared through my ears and surged inside my brain. I felt my feet leave the ground. I was in the air. I was underwater. 

Just ahead of me, the steps shook, juddered then turned onto their side. It took a few seconds for me to realise that I was lying on the ground, dazed and winded. What the— Instinctively, I tried to move but nothing happened. I shook my head in confusion trying to get my thoughts to settle. The loud initial bang had stopped but inside my head it was reverberating like an echo. Through the jumble of possibilities – runaway truck, car, train, one word flashed inside my head. ‘Bomb’.

That’s all it could be. We all know now, of course, that the man we had hurried past a few seconds earlier was suicide bomber Salman Abedi. His heavy rucksack – causing him to stoop – contained more than three thousand nuts and bolts packed tightly around a homemade explosive device. Individually, these small bits of metal are harmless enough. But blasted through the air at speed they become deadly weapons. They left golf-ball-sized holes in concrete walls and metal doors. So you can only imagine what they did to human flesh.

Eve. EVE!

For a second, I raised my head an inch off the ground before it sank, heavily, back into position. Where is she? I was lying on my right side, my head pillowed against my outstretched arm. The City Room was unrecognisable. The stark whiteness of the ceiling and walls was gone. It was now grey, smoky, acrid. My hearing was muffled, as if I was being held six feet underwater. But it felt eerily silent. As my lips parted, then closed, I grimaced at the metallic tang hitting my taste buds. Blood. I felt it filling my

mouth, gurgling and bubbling in my throat and chest. I tried to cough to clear it. Nothing happened. Can’t breathe…Beneath me, the ground felt cold and hard. 

Rock hard. Suddenly, my nostrils twitched. Neurons fired to and from my brain, trying to make sense of the smell, the stench, now filling my nasal passages. Fire, acrid, shocking smoke, burned clothes, singed hair, charred flesh, hot tar. Nausea stirred the depths of my

stomach as it dawned on me. Death. 

It was the smell of death. I blinked once, twice, three times, trying to control the urge to vomit. My eyes were now taking in scenes of horror unfolding all around me in slow motion, before settling on Eve. She was just a few metres ahead of me. Just out of reach. Lying on her front, on her left cheek. Her eyes were closed. Blood trickled from her gaping mouth as she gasped for breath. The area around her right temple had been ripped open. The gaping hole exposed brain tissue. I tried to call her name but made just a desperate croak.

Dear God. I needed to reach her. Instinctively, I tried to move – but nothing happened. It felt like I’d been encased in quick-setting cement. A growing sense of panic took hold. Stay calm, stay calm, I urged myself. I tried again. ‘Eve?’ I croaked. There was no response, no flicker of recognition. No turning of her head towards the sound of my voice. ‘You’re OK,’ I gasped. ‘I’m here. Daddy’s here.’ She continued to gasp. Like a fish out of water. Help. Please help us.

My desperate gaze landed on an object a few feet away. An arm. On its own. Was it mine? Summoning all my energy, I looked up to my right then down to my left. There were my arms, my fingers, wiggling weakly back at me. Thank God. My upper limbs were still intact. Next, my eyes roamed down my denim-clad legs, towards my feet. My jumper and jeans were covered in holes. But my legs and feet were still there, encased in my brand-new Hugo Boss shoes and stripey, multi-coloured Paul Smith socks. I was intact. That

was something. If this was a Hollywood film, there would have been alarms blaring, cries for help, survivors scrambling to their feet, bystanders running for help, as the dust settled. But here, in real life, it was eerily quiet. Afterwards, I discovered why. Most of those in the blast zone had died instantly. 

Others, like Eve, had sustained such horrific injuries they were unable to make a sound. Behind me, I could hear moans and whimpers from the few who had survived and were still conscious. I sensed movement, as a few began to stagger or crawl to safety. I became aware of a growing sense of clammy wetness seeping through the front of my body – soaking into my clothes. Had I landed in a puddle? A split drink? And then the colour registered. It was my blood, creeping across the cold, tiled, marble-effect floor. The speckled pattern on the tiles were gradually disappearing as it spread like a silent cloak. It was coming out from beneath me and out of my left arm, draped in front of me. This is bad.

I’d been blasted by twenty-two pieces of deadly shrapnel. One had lodged itself in my spine. Another had ruptured a major artery in my neck, causing massive blood loss. A cold, calm thought resonated through the confusion: I’m dying. I had one job to do before I went. That was to get Eve out.

Now, there were footsteps and voices. A flash of a high-vis jacket. A crackle of radio. Shoes appeared in front of me. Someone was crouching down. Then hands reached under my head. Something soft was pressed firmly into my neck. ‘You OK there?’ a male voice asked.'

Top Of The World by Martin Hibbert with Fiona Duffy is on sale now published by Gemini Books Group in paperback priced £9.99

[ To stand a chance to win a copy of Top Of The World follow @able2uk find the relevant post and repost it ]

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