You can plan for many things in life, but being seriously injured isn’t one of them. Our client Andy was just 19 when he lost his left foot in the 2006 Kajaki Dam Incident in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. His life was changed forever.
After the incident, he had to have his leg amputated above the knee, and then needed a prosthetic leg to be able get around. We asked Andy to reflect on the challenges and changes he’s had to cope with as a result of his injury, and how rehabilitation has helped him.
“I was fortunate to only be in hospital for 12 days, and luckily I was able to stay in the Army after my injury.
At first I didn’t know what to expect, being an amputee – I didn’t really know what an amputee was. A memory that really sticks out for me is walking through the rehabilitation centre at Headley Court, when I saw another amputee click two prosthetics on and go for a shave. That was when I realised life’s going to be okay – if he can do it with both legs missing, I can do it with one.
It’s a hard thing to imagine, when you’ve lived a normal life for 20 years and something as precious as a body part is taken away, but it completely changes your perception of the world. My interests and hobbies before I was injured were football and rugby, but after the incident that was taken away from me. I had to adapt, and find other goals to pursue instead.
Although I stayed in the Army, my career path had to change. I wasn’t fit enough with my disability to continue with a normal career in the military, so I moved to the sporting side, with adventure training being a focal point. I did this both for my own personal rehabilitation, and to help other people with their own journeys. Life after military service isn’t easy, and transitioning to civilian street is hard. I still struggle with it most days, which is why I chose to continue working with veterans and their families after leaving the Army.
I credit sport for getting me back on track. I got involved in para-athletics as a professional para-skier, and competed in the Army Ski Championships in 2012, and the Sochi Winter Paralympics Inspiration Programme in 2014. Being able to compete at a high level against both able-bodied and disabled people was a highlight in my career with the army. My passion now is for the mountains, and being able to take my family away on skiing holidays.
Getting my life back on track wasn’t easy, but I was fortunate to have had lots of support from friends and family. I’ve been able to become a dad which is amazing. Also, the banter and the humour we shared in the army certainly got me through some of the hard times.
I’d say the most important thing to my recovery was seeing a counsellor, as I didn’t realise for a long time that I had a mental health issue. Though I’d experienced a really traumatic situation, it took years for me to get the right help. I was so scared of the PTSD spectrum that when I finally got the right help, I realised it was anger I was dealing with; I’d been absorbing anger and not knowing how to offload it. Seeing a counsellor helped me learn the skills I needed to deal with it, and my life has been much easier since, though I still sometimes have challenges with day-to-day life. Just by seeing and talking to someone about the things we take for granted in life has really aided my recovery in the last five years.
My personal experience is used quite often to help others, especially by the military. I spend quite a lot of time sharing my story with soldiers, sailors and airmen and women from all different backgrounds and ranks. I teach resilience, leadership and awareness workshops to a community that’s there for you, and that if you do experience an injury, there’s still life afterwards - you will be ok. There are mental health charities out there to support people and I find it helps people to hear stories from someone who’s been there and has come out of the other side – with a positive end.
It’s been 15 years since I lost my leg. I’m fortunate to now work with a charity, Blesma, supporting limbless veterans and their families. I mostly work with members of the armed forces who’ve lost legs or are living with limb loss, so it’s nice to be able to share my experience and relate with everyone there, to help them in their recovery.
My advice to anyone that gets injured, or is going through a traumatic situation in their life, is to stay positive. There’s help out there, you aren’t on your own.”
Andy’s looking forward to things getting back to normal
Andy’s outlook on life and his drive to help other people is inspiring to see, and we’re so grateful to him for sharing his journey with us.
Andy’s looking forward to going on a skiing trip with his family, and things to start going back to normal again after a year that has been challenging for everyone.
Andy was supported by Geraldine McCool in our Military Injury team, who summed up her relationship with Andy.
Geraldine said: “15 years after Andy’s injury it’s lovely to still be in contact with him on a regular basis and see the incredible work he’s doing for other ex-military personnel. Andy’s work with Blesma, The Limbless Veterans charity, has been innovative during these challenging times and he’s been there to offer support to members and their families so they can build a successful future.”
Over the next few weeks, we’re sharing our seriously injured clients’ stories as they reflect on a particular part of their journey that’s made a big difference to them. Sign up to our email updates to follow their stories with us.
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