I was a trooper in the Royal Scots’ Dragoon Guards but deployed as a sniper with the Rifles and nine days before my 21st birthday, on 19 August 2011, whilst on patrol in I stepped on an IED. I lost both my legs one above and one below the knee, suffered damage to my hand and had blast injuries to other parts of my body. My life was saved by the professionalism of the battlefield medics.
Richard came down to see me at Headley Court and offered to help me by taking me scuba diving, I thought he was mad, here was me just lost my legs and he wanted me to scuba dive, but a week in Florida sounded too good to miss.
Depression and what I now know was PTSD took a grip on me and I started to drink heavily but Richard was always there for me. It is difficult sometimes to go home and show your pain and emotions in front of your parents and relatives, you feel bad, because you feel bad. Deptherapy offers a support framework where you can talk with the team and express your feelings without being judged. I am quite happy to say I spent many hours round Richard and Christine’s house curled up on the sofa with my head on Richard’s lap either crying for hours or just saying nothing, just having my thoughts to myself.
Florida changed my life, from the moment I first rolled into the sea from the dive boat I knew I had found a new world, a world where my injuries did not define me, a world where I could be at peace. I knew I wanted to do more and with fellow bi-lateral amputee Richard Ward I asked Richard Cullen if there was any way we could become PADI Divers, there is no way I want to be certified by a disabled diver training agency, I wanted to be a PADI diver.
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Richard and the team went into over drive, we did our PADI theory and confined water dives in the UK and then went to Richard and Christine’s place near Hurghada in Egypt to do our Open Water dives and our Advanced Open Water Course. Wardy and I had been blown up fighting a war in a Muslim country and we didn’t know how we would feel in Egypt. The people, the reception, the warmth of feeling towards us and the help we received from everyone at the dive centre, at the resort and in bars and restaurants was just amazing. I dive a lot in Egypt now and that same warmth of feeling is always there.
I love diving so much I qualified as a Rescue Diver and then signed up for my Dive Master programme – it is hard work with all your limbs but without two legs it is exceptionally difficult but I did it. My skill circuit was assessed by Andy Alfred, a PADI Master Instructor who said he had never scored a Dive Master so highly, I am very proud of that. I now am moving on to be a PADI Instructor so I can give back to Deptherapy what it has given to me.
In terms of my physical injuries I have needed additional surgery and I developed heterotopic ossification, this is where the bone, in young people doesn’t realise that the rest of your inured limb has gone and the bone in your stump keeps growing trying to knit with the bone it still thinks is there. This required major surgery.
I still have bad times mentally and in mid-2016 I was back in that dark place again and could see my life going in reverse. Some tipped Richard off and I got the message “Do we need to talk? We chatted for 30 minutes or so and all my problems were solved. This is the support that Deptherapy offers apart from the diving.
Those of us who were seriously injured in Afghanistan or Iraq on the anniversary of our injury have a ‘happy blown up day’ or ‘happy alive day’, my happy alive day in 2016 started to bring me down. I knew Richard and Craig Wood a triple amputee who is on the programme were in Sheffield at the Miss Scuba UK finals. I needed to talk so at midnight I phoned Richard and for the next hour there was this amazing video phone chat. My day was saved and I was back on top of the world.
Deptherapy and Richard saved my life, I know of two others on the programme who had the same experience. This isn’t just diving it is a great team of men and women who will support you through thick and thin and there are always your Brothers and Sisters in Arms on the programmes who also provide amazing support, love and comradeship.