A man who was shot and paralysed during Northern Ireland’s Troubles has tracked down the “angel” nurse who saved his life to express his thanks and gratitude.
A recent episode of BBC’s Saved by a Stranger followed the story of Peter Heathwood, who, as a young father of three, was shot in his Belfast home in 1979, amid Northern Ireland’s Troubles.
The attack, intended for Mr Heathwood’s lodger who was a suspected IRA member, left Mr Heathwood fighting for his life and unable to walk again. He spent almost a year recovering at hospital, strapped in a painful rotating bed.
A rehabilitation nurse helped him through this unimaginable time and Mr Heathwood had been attempting to track her down in order to thank her.
However, the only information Mr Heathwood had to track her down was her nickname, Betsy.
Recalling the loneliness and discomfort he felt in the hospital, Mr Heathwood described Betsy as “an angel from heaven”.
“It always stood out to me, her kindness…and I never got to say thank you to her,” he told the show.
The BBC team helped Mr Heathwood find Betsy in a search that took months to carry out.
The team discovered her full name was Elizabeth Gilbert and that she went on to become a mental health nurse in Downpatrick, just six miles from Mr Heathwood.
“Back here in Northern Ireland, in the 70s and 80s, our doctors and nurses saved hundreds of lives and I don’t think they ever got the credit for it that they deserved,” said Mr Heathwood.
“It’s important to thank them. In those dark days, it meant something and still does.
During the show Mr Heathwood met with Betsy and finally got to thank her for her kindness and help.
“In times of murder and mayhem, when you meet people like that, you realise that not everybody is a psycho, not everybody is bad. There are still always good people in this world and Betsy is one of them,” he said.
This episode is available now on the BBC iPlayer.
Picture: Peter Heathwood. (BBC/Blink Films/Chris Tyndall).