An ex-Army amputee who spent last week exploring South Wales on a mountain bike with Help for Heroes has offered a heartfelt thanks to the charity for helping him to ‘feel normal again’.
Simon Taylor, 33, a sergeant with the Light Dragoons, served in Bosnia and Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan. While on a routine patrol in 2009, his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. He suffered a multitude of broken bones, a traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung, spinal fractures and a shattered ankle. As a result of the injuries, in 2011 Simon’s right leg was amputated below the knee. He has had a cage fitted around his spine, his shoulder pinned and arm plated. Psychologically he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from feelings of guilt for his comrade who died in the incident.
In a letter to the Sports Recovery team from Help for Heroes’ Plymouth Recovery Centre who led the trip in the Brecon Beacons, Simon gives thanks for helping him to feel relaxed and at peace in a world he feels he no longer fits into. He refers to the fellow participants, all wounded ex-servicemen, as being ‘uniquely the same’, allowing him to ‘forget all the trouble of the world and just be yourself’.
Simon’s first encounter with cycling post-injury was in 2012, shortly before being medically discharged from the Army, after Help for Heroes funded a mountain bike through its grants scheme.
Simon, who is originally from Middlesbrough but now living with his family in Norwich, commented: “In the Army I was always really active. Running was my escape. After my injury somebody suggested mountain biking; luckily Help for Heroes were able to provide funding. My first time on the bike after receiving it, I went further in that 15 minute ride than I’d been in the last two years. I became addicted. It’s my way of helping with the psychological side of things, getting out and about in nature. It gives me the space to get my head together. I only have one leg for power but when it comes to the downhill stints I’m not limited; I have a sense of freedom.”
Since that first bike ride, as well as taking part in the recent trip to Wales, Simon has biked around Vietnam raising money for Help for Heroes and is now part of the charity’s mountain biking team competing against able-bodied people in endurance races.
After taking part in a Pathfinder course, part of the charity’s career recovery pathway, at Colchester-based Recovery Centre Chavasse VC House, Simon spent a year with the Prince’s Trust who work in partnership with Help for Heroes, before being offered a job with the Jon Egging Trust where he now runs youth development courses for teenagers in leadership and teamwork.
“If Help for Heroes didn’t exist people like me would be lost. Some people think that now Afghanistan is over you don’t need the support, but these injuries will go on for the rest of our lives.”Simon added: “Help for Heroes is all about having somebody or something there, not just for me but for my family. My wife and kids were worried about me; they needed support too.