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Andy Grant

Seizing the Day – Andy’s Story

At only 12-years-old Andy Grant had to face something no child should ever have to face; the death of his mother. Whilst dealing with his own shattering grief Andy found the strength to help his dad raise his two younger sisters. Andy explains: “When something like that happens to you, nothing else is as hard. It made me strong.

Five years later Andy decided school wasn’t for him and set his sights on earning the coveted Green Beret of the Royal Marines. It was a decision that would alter the course of his life forever.  He joined the Marines at time when the war on terror was at its height. Having already served a six month tour of Iraq in 2008, Andy deployed to the heat and dust of Afghanistan in 2009.

Five months into his tour, Andy and his Commando Unit were on an early morning patrol. It was pitch black, which made detecting danger almost impossible. Out of nowhere he heard two explosions before he felt the force of the two IEDs that had been triggered. He said: “I was screaming but not because of the pain; it was a fear of the unknown.

Andy was bleeding out fast from his femoral artery, which had been cut when his right thigh was damaged during the explosion. The quick and brave actions of his comrades saved his life. He sustained 27 injuries in the blast and the doctors decided he would have to be placed in an induced coma if he was to survive.

Two weeks later Andy woke up in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham. He then faced a gruelling 18 months in and out of the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court, in Surrey where he began to adjust to his new normal: “At Headley Court I was surrounded by so many people who had similar injuries. I think recovering with the guys I fought alongside really helped.”

However, it became apparent that the wounds on his right leg were not healing as well as the doctor’s hoped. It was a massive setback. He faced a life-changing decision; whether to have his leg amputated or live physically limited and in constant pain.

It took a few long and agonising months but Andy, with the help of his doctors and family, made his decision.  On the 25 November 2010, aged only 22, he had his right leg amputated, just below the knee. Explaining his decision, he says: “I chose to have my leg amputated so I could go on and live a more fulfilling life. For me, it’s about living my life with the attitude of a Royal Marine – always pushing the boundaries and limits of what I could now achieve.”

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Andy turned to Help for Heroes to help him start testing his new physical abilities. He explains: “The Charity gave me a lifeline and opened so many doors for me. I put my hand up and was always willing to give something a go, no matter how nervous I was to start with. I’ve learnt to ski, jumped out of aeroplanes, run marathons, learnt to surf and started doing triathlons – it’s definitely made life more exciting.

Staying physically active and adopting a ‘yes’ mentality has had the added benefit of helping Andy when things haven’t been so easy. “One of the toughest things for me was realising that I wasn’t a Marine anymore. It can be a struggle at times, especially when I am having a bad day or if my stump gets an infection and I have to stay off my leg. Mentally I think it can be so easy to find yourself at the top of the slippery slope of depression. I know I need to keep myself motivated and set my own challenges so I can stay healthy – both physically and psychologically.

Going from ‘being a Marine to a 27-year-old pensioner’ was one of the toughest things for Andy to adjust to post injury. However, by taking on challenges and always pushing the boundaries of what was possible Andy slowly discovered his place in the world as a Veteran:  “I owe a huge debt to Help for Heroes because they gave me my self-worth back after my military career ended. They taught me to believe that I can still do things and inspire people.”

One such challenge saw Andy commit to months of hard training with the hope of being selected to represent the Help for Heroes trained and delivered British Armed Forces Team at Prince Harry’s Invictus Games in 2014. His training paid off, and Andy was selected and went on to win two gold medals.

You would be forgiven for thinking that was Andy’s standout moment. However, for him it was seeing his friends achieve the extraordinary. “I remember being at Hedley Court and guys were getting rolled in daily with no legs, one arm or their faces blown off. I saw those guys learn how to walk, learn how to run and grow in confidence. Then all of a sudden it seemed to come full circle at the Invictus Games. The same people who had come into Headley as wrecks were now running and being superstars at it. It was phenomenal to see my friends fight back from nothing to prove anything’s possible.”

It is his friends who have sacrificed their bodies, minds and lives in the line of duty that inspires Andy to always seize the day, remaining firm in his belief that there is always hope for the future. Embracing his second chance with both hands, Andy decided to have the Ode of Remembrancetattooed on his back, he explains: “My tattoo honours my friends who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It’s also a reminder of how lucky I was to survive. I only have one life and I want to live it to the full – for myself and for my friends who gave their lives.”

As for the support he has received from military charities and the public, Andy is full of praise: “When I’m sitting there thinking having one leg isn’t great I only have to think about the constant support of Help for Heroes and the public and I realise that there are hundreds and thousands of people around the UK, the world really, who do care and want to support me.”

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