The wife of an Afghanistan veteran who lost both legs while serving his country is able to spend Christmas with her husband thanks to grant funding given by Help for Heroes to Fisher House.
Lance Corporal Callum Brown, from Ayr, Scotland, was serving in the British Army when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, at the age of just 22. On 28 January 2011, just before he was due to take two weeks’ leave, Callum’s life changed forever when he was out on foot patrol in Helmand.
Walking down a roadside as part of his patrol, Callum unintentionally trod on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The bomb exploded with devastating force and Callum lost both of his legs as a result, as well as sustaining other injuries including a shattered pelvis in the same blast.
Thanks to the bravery of his fellow soldiers, Callum was able to be flown from Camp Bastion to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine is based. He has returned countless times since the incident to receive treatment, both for the serious injuries he sustained and an infection he later developed as a result.
Supporting Callum over the last six years along with the rest of his family has been his wife, 28-year-old Laura Brown, who married Callum whilst he was still recovering in hospital in April 2011. This Christmas, they’re back for Callum to receive further treatment, and Laura is staying at Fisher House, just a five minute walk from the ward Callum is treated on.
Fisher House was built in 2013 at a cost of £4.2 million, with grant funding from Help for Heroes and American charity Fisher House Foundation. Its mission is to provide free, comfortable accommodation for the families of wounded and severely ill troops and veterans. Help for Heroes provided a grant of £1.5m to support construction costs of the house, in addition to £500k for running costs, which equates to £50k a year for 10 years.
Laura said: “We’ve been in hospital a lot over the last six years – this is the third time this year alone, and we’ve been in nine weeks so far on this occasion. Since Fisher House has been around, I can stay there now while Callum’s in hospital, and both of our parents and other family members are able to come and stay with me when they can as well.
“It feels really homely; it’s a beautiful house but having the staff and other residents there to support you is really important too. After a difficult day, there’s someone to talk to, and when Callum’s having a hard time it helps so much.
“When he’s feeling up to it, Callum comes down from the ward sometimes too and it’s just so nice to spend time together in a home setting rather than in a hospital ward. It gives you a sense of normality in a way.”
This year, the couple will be spending Christmas in Birmingham, as Callum’s treatments can’t be put on hold, and this is the first year they will celebrate the holiday in Fisher House.
Laura continues: “I think it’s so important for military families to be able to stay together while their loved one is recovering from a life-changing illness or injury. Obviously it’s a long way to travel from Scotland to Birmingham and back, and having Fisher House available just means there’s one less thing to worry about.
“Christmas time in particular is family time, and without Fisher House I honestly don’t know if we’d be able to see each other at Christmas – I suppose I’d have to stay in a hotel. When you sit back and think about it, I really don’t know what I’d do without Fisher House.”
Mel Waters, CEO of Help for Heroes, said: “Families have a hugely important part to play during their loved one’s recovery and we recognise how essential it is that they receive practical support. This is more important than ever at Christmas, a time when families should be together and when the support network for those who have suffered life-changing injuries is needed most. Fisher House is helping to overcome the life challenges that Britain’s military families sometimes face and Help for Heroes are proud to be a partner and supporter.”
Mike Hammond, Chief Executive of QEHB Charity, said: “It is so important that military families have a comfortable, relaxing and supportive environment in which they can stay as their loved ones are treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. This is especially important at Christmas. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has supported Fisher House in the past and we hope that as many people as possible find it in their hearts to give a special gift this Christmas, and donate to Fisher House to support a military family.”