I served all over the world with the Royal Engineers in a multitude of units ranging from Amphibious, Combat, Bomb Disposal, Armoured, & Field Park. I even invaded Iraq on a Harley Davidson. Not many people can say that!
I finally left the Armed Forces in May 2012 and started a new life in civvie street. All was going well until October 2012 when I was hit with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD). It later broke up my short marriage and at one point I was living in a forest, South of Perth.
In October 2014, I was picked up by armed forces charities and the local council’s homeless department. I moved into a small cottage in Guildtown with the clothes on my back, my motorbike and a sleeping bag. Charities stepped in again, and they got me basics like a cooker, fridge freezer, & a washing machine.
Through combat stress and the local NHS, I started to receive treatment for my PTSD. Very hard going. As I had lived alone with no companion I was told a dog might help with my loneliness. A new charity had just started up adjacent to Erskine Hospital, Glasgow, who’s intent was to provide dogs for injured veterans. I filled in a form and a representative from the charity BRAVEHOUND came to my wee cottage in Guildtown, Perthshire for a kinda, (are you able to cope with a dog) interview. I passed, and was given the very first BRAVEHOUND called Irma. All the BRAVEHOUND dogs are named after dogs who have won the Dickens medal for Bravery. Irma was named after an Alsatian in WW2 who won this award. Irma is a beautiful Springer Spaniel, who saved me from my nightly visit from my Demons of PTSD. They are an amazing charity which is run by an equally amazing lady called Fiona MacDonald. (who has a worse memory than me)
Sadly, I was unaware that PTSD can affect you physically as well as mentally. I ended up in Perth Royal infirmary with three fistulas and was informed that I had Crohn’s disease and ulcerative Colitis. These were removed, and I was transferred to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee 7 months later, still in Ninewells, Irma always by my side, and countless operations later, I had to have my large bowel removed. Unfortunately this never went to plan, and I ended up with Sepsis. My lungs gave up and I ended up in a coma on a life support machine. My children were informed that I had 36 hours to live.
I think the soldier in me didn’t want to give up the fight. I miraculously started getting better, and came out of the coma 10 days later with several large tubes coming out of different areas of my stomach and an Ileostomy this was now November 2016. I was informed that I would be in recovery for at least 2 years. The coma had an adverse effect on my memory as well as my body and I suffer from short-term memory problems. I’ve been told that in time, this will come back to me.
I finally left Ninewells Hospital and to this day still thank all the staff for looking after me and saving my life. I had nurses from throughout the Hospital coming to my room, not to see me but to see Irma, on a daily basis, and in all that time, never managed to pull one nurse!
RESPOND. Respond took over the reins with my Ileostomy equipment and have been instrumental in my recovery. The first three months were quite hard trying to get used to having a bag but through respond and reading the magazine about other people with the same issues as me, this has gotten me through the last 17 months, and now I take it in my stride. The respond team of girls in the Perth office have been magnificent and advised and helped me throughout this troubling time. Just before Christmas last year I thought I would pop in and put names to faces and thank them for the help that they have provided for me, since leaving hospital. Obviously I went in with Irma, same old story they recognised her straight away and were all over her lol.
Irma recently won most caring animal in the UK in September 2017 and we are finalists at the soldiering on awards in London on 20th April 2018 fingers crossed.
I still live in my wee cottage in the country with Irma, a big black cat called Mr Tibbs and a special duck that I hatched out myself called North. Who thinks Irma’s his mum. One day I might pull a real bird………