A beneficiary, who is a regular visitor to Phoenix House Recovery Centre, has grown so much in confidence from the support Help for Heroes gave her that she has gone from having one hobby - cake baking - to ones as diverse as playing in a brass band, and extreme mountain biking!
Anita Bartram, from North Yorkshire, is dependent on a wheelchair to get around her home. But that didn't stop her signing up to this year's Macavalanche as a member of the Help for Heroes team.
Not only was she the only female team member and, at 54, the oldest too, but her riding position on an adapted off-road trike meant that she cycled down the snow-capped Glencoe mountain headfirst!
“It was brilliant!” said the former Army nurse. “I used a handtrike which I had to kneel on and go head first, at speeds of almost 40mph. I had a good team behind me and just thought the whole thing was amazing.”
The experience was evidence of just how far Anita has progressed along her road to recovery since receiving support from Help for Heroes.
After an operation went wrong to repair neck and arm problems resulting from a car accident, she was medically discharged from the QA Royal Army Nursing Corps after just over 5 years’ Service. Her diaphragm is paralysed, her right leg numb, she feels sick all the time due to stomach problems and is in constant pain.
Two years ago, her only respite was to be found in baking cakes but, since she started visiting the Recovery Centre in Catterick, she has had the opportunity to try a variety of activities and grown in confidence as a result.
So much so that Anita plucked up courage to play her E-flat tenor horn in public for the first time in almost 25 years by joining the Kirkbymoorside Community Band.
“Music has been an enjoyment of mine for a long time – it relaxes me – but recently that has come just from listening to CDs and the radio,” she said.
“Going back to a band has been just great – being part of a team, learning new things and feeling useful gives me a sense of achievement and quite a buzz. I went back feeling very apprehensive and started playing second horn parts. Now, I am playing solo horn parts and thoroughly enjoying it – and playing is helping my chest problem as well.”
“Soon after moving into my rented bungalow, two years ago, I had a mental breakdown – unable to cope with being in a wheelchair in so much pain and no support to deal with what was happening with my health. It was then that I was referred to Phoenix House where I was told I could be supported for life. But I hadn’t lost a limb or been blown up like some of the veterans there, and found it difficult to accept help.
“But then I took part on the Rolling Recovery Programme and, through that, have learned to ride a horse, go swimming regularly and discovered that there are bikes that enable me to go cycling – on and off road.
“I realised that I would rather do too much and be in pain, than do nothing and still be in pain!”
At school, Anita was a keen athlete – playing hockey and netball, and competing at national level in Judo. She is now taking part in more sport than she has done for more than 20 years but being on a bike in the fresh air is what she is enjoying most.
“It’s something I never thought I would do again and, after Macavalanche, I am desperately looking for something else to challenge myself. I am open to suggestions!”