Video: Cumbria GP hails healing effect of Olympic torch

A GP partner whose wife nominated him to hold the Olympic torch after three of his practice's patients died in the Cumbria shootings said it helped the community move forward.

Dr Tim Sowton during his run with the Olympic torch
Dr Tim Sowton during his run with the Olympic torch

Dr Tim Sowton, 51, described running through the streets of Cockermouth in Cumbria holding the Olympic torch on 21 June as wonderful and powerful.

He said: ‘I was completely surprised by it. It was enough just to be nominated - I was slightly nervous, and it was wonderful. It felt powerful doing it. Some of the patients came to watch so it was very special.’

Dr Sowton was nominated by his wife, palliative care consultant in West Cumbria Dr Eileen Palmer, on the first anniversary of the Cumbria shootings on 2 June 2010, which claimed the lives of 12 people.

He and two other GPs from his practice, the Seascale Health Centre in Seascale, Cumbria helped administer first aid to the victims of taxi driver Derrick Bird.

Dr Sowton said: ‘I was not working that day but I went in to catch up on some paperwork. One of my doctor colleagues was called out to an incident at the time and a message came back saying she needed diamorphine so I thought it must be serious and I went down.’

When Dr Sowton arrived at the scene two GPs from the practice were there and the trio helped administer first aid and IV fluids.

Dr Sowton said carrying the torch helped heal the wounds left by a series of devastating events in his community. He said: ‘We had the floods in Cumbria before which was a big problem and there was a fatal coach crash in which two children died. The community had a number of hard events and carrying the torch was a way for the community to move forward. We feel like we have come through it.’

While doing his GP training, Dr Sowton worked for a year in Afghanistan in 1995 in a rural health centre with the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), in the town Tarin Kowt in the Uruzgan province near Kandahar. He said: ‘The Taliban were in control of the area so we were working in the area with their permission. I would quite like to go out again at some point.’

Dr Sowton, who has run the London Marathon six times, was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer when he was a student and is now in remission. He said: 'Carrying the torch was also a way to remember those who had or who are dealing with cancer.'

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