Lee's love of archery aids recovery

Monday 18 June 2018

Recently diagnosed with ME and Fibromyalgia, Lee Patmore was initially medically discharged from the Navy following a back injury. Forced to leave a career he loved and experiencing daily pain, in an instant, Lee’s life changed forever

Lee loved his career in the Navy, and when the opportunity to join his younger brother on HMS Edinburgh came up, he jumped at the chance. Then in 1999, Lee seriously injured his lower back. Trying to carry on, the pain made it impossible, and Lee was medically discharged.

The timing could not have been worse. Lee had just got married, was living in married quarters and expecting his first son. He found the transition from military life to civilian life incredibly hard and was in constant pain – to the point he was prescribed morphine.

Forced to give up his favourite sports as his chronic illness grew, he became frustrated, angry and verbally aggressive. Retreating to his home for three years, he played computer games to distract himself. However, this was not the life that he wanted, and he knew he had to make a change:

“I had always loved archery as a child, so I decided I would join a local archery club and try it. Picking up the bow relaxed me, and I felt at peace again for the first time in a very long time. I never experienced anything like it.”

Sadly, just as Lee had found something to focus on he discovered a problem. Walking to pick up the arrows led to unbearable pain, and despite walking with crutches he began to fear he’d have to give up: “I realised at that moment I had a choice; either accept I needed a wheelchair, continue archery and being active in life or go back to sitting in my bedroom. I chose the wheelchair. Archery had to come first before my personal fears.”

Receiving grant funding from Help for Heroes, Lee received a wheelchair to aid his mobility, and after discovering he was a natural at the sport was inspired to train as a disability gym instructor, which Help for Heroes also supported: “I applied for a personal training course but had mixed feelings, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but I thought at least I’d try. The course was really good. You’re surrounded by your military family again and have a great time.”

Since passing the course, Lee is now an Inclusive Co-ordinator at Brentwood Leisure Centre in Essex and offers gym inductions for others with disabilities.

 “My journey has been unbelievable. It has been a bad road; but archery gave me my life back.

“Sport is a key to recovery. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling or what has recently happened, it’s all gone when I pick up my bow and reach for my next arrow to load onto the bowstring.”

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