Like many families with young children, Dave and Lindsay McCafferty will be facing significant financial pressure this Christmas.
When Dave, a former Lance Corporal with the Royal Logistics Corps, was discharged from the Army in 2007 with a degenerative knee condition and lower lumbar disc disease, the role of providing for the family fell to Lindsay.
Dave had served for seven years as a chef, on his feet 12 to 15 hours a day. He completed two tours in Kosovo and one in Afghanistan. Having endured five painful operations he now needs to use a wheelchair.
After marrying in 2003, the couple had their first baby, Jess, in 2004. Dave was in Iraq and returned home for just one week for the birth of his daughter. Joy turned to sadness when only one week later Lindsay’s mother died unexpectedly.
The couple had two more children, Rebecca in 2005, and Daniel two years later, three months after Dave was medically discharged from the Army.
Lindsay was working full-time for a shipping agent at Felixstowe docks and for seven years the family just about managed. It wasn’t until Dave’s mental health began to deteriorate that the family sought help.
Lindsay said: “It became too much. I was working full-time and Dave was the children’s main carer but he wasn’t looking after himself or eating properly, and his mood was getting lower and lower,
“He started shouting out a night and having flash backs. It came as a real shock to us all that after so many years he developed the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
“As a family we couldn’t cope any more, and I thought enough is enough there must be someone out there that can help us.”
After searching the internet Lindsay came across the Help for Heroes website and signed up to join the Help for Heroes’ Band of Sisters and asked Dave to sign up for the Band of Brothers fellowship.
In 2015, the couple took their first steps on the long road to recovery and met with one of the Support Hub key workers at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester.
“We had a two hour meeting and it was so good to have someone to talk to and to have a plan. Having someone tell you what to do, and point out lots of things we didn’t even know were out there was great,
“We didn’t know for example that there was funding available from the Royal British Legion. Dave now has a rise and recline chair. That meeting has opened up so much more to us and really helped,
“Through Help for Heroes we also found out we were entitled to access funding for adaptions to our kitchen, Dave was a chef and would love to one day cook Christmas dinner for us again,
“Many veterans don’t realise what help and funding there is out there. Having someone to talk to at the Recovery Centre either on the phone or if you can come in, the pressure is lifted.”
Around 120 wounded, injured or sick service personnel are currently being supported by the team in Colchester. The support ranges from welfare advice, physical wellbeing and understanding mental health to guidance on careers, training and funding available through other charities and organisations.
Lindsay said: “The staff are what makes this place, we can come in any day any time and you’re met with a smile,
“There’s never any judgement, if you’re not coping with something, no-one is going to judge you they just want to help you,
“There is a lot of stigma about needing help, whether it’s financial or always feeling that you have to put on a brave face, but you don’t have to fake it here, knowing you won’t be judged is a big hurdle,
From those initial meetings the whole family benefits by accessing a wide variety of events throughout the year. These include kids and weekly craft activities and respite weekends for Lindsay that are ‘amazing’ as part of the Band of Sisters fellowship.
From being stuck in the house Dave has flown in a Tiger Moth, taken part in rock climbing and wheelchair rugby, all fully adaptive activities that he never dreamed of being able to do.
Lindsay admits that this Christmas will be especially tough for the family. As a full-time carer for Dave and the children, there is little money left for presents.
“I can’t give them the Christmas that I could while I was working, there is extra pressure this year. But I’ve told them it doesn’t matter what’s under the tree it’s the fact that we’re together. We need to be thankful that we’re all still here because there are plenty that aren’t.”
On Remembrance Day, the couples eldest daughter Jess, now 12, texted ‘I love you Daddy’ after the 2 minutes silence.
“She knows it’s been really hard for her Dad and there were times when he’d just had enough. She understands and has had to grow up fast, she helped care for him when I was working.”
As part of the festive celebrations, the Help for Heroes’ Recovery Centres hold two Christmas parties for the wounded Heroes and their families.
“Dave loves the Christmas party, it’s a chance for all the guys to get together and have a laugh, and for me and the kids it has a knock on effect as it really gets him in the Christmas spirit which hasn’t always been the case,
“Without the support things would have been a lot different, I don’t know where we’d be to be honest, having things to look forward to help us all.”