Veteran Paul Guest said he felt worthless after medical discharge but, after receiving support from Help for Heroes, is now part of the 90-strong UK Invictus team heading to Toronto in September this year.
The 53 year old, originally from Rochford, is a former serviceman who toured Northern Ireland as a mine warfare specialist. With his father in the Royal Artillery and his mother in the Women’s Land Army, joining the Armed Forces was a natural step for Paul. However his navy career came to an end in 1987 when he was injured on activity duty.
He suffered injuries to his neck and spine which have caused partial deafness, a visibility impairment and incontinence. This means Paul needs 24-hour care to dress, bathe and carry out day-to-day tasks. He was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, leaving Paul with bouts of depression where he would often lock himself away. He even attempted to take his own life.
Paul said: “I went from being a pillar of my community by serving my country and being the head of my family by supporting them all to feeling absolutely worthless in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t look after them anymore as they were looking after me."
"When I tried to commit suicide, my wife literally dragged me off to get help. She contacted Help for Heroes, I became a Band of Brother and the rest is history."
The power of Invictus
More hopefuls than ever before trialled for this year’s Invictus Games. Talking about his selection for the Games, Paul added: “The Invictus Games has given me something to aim for. Pulling on the uniform is like pulling on my Navy uniform. I feel part of a team again, like I belong. I’m proud to be representing my country once again. Without Help for Heroes, without the Band of Brothers and without the goal of the Invictus Games I honestly wouldn’t be here today.
“I recently lost a very good friend of mine called Michael. He would often decorate my house, buy the family a takeaway or send money when I was in hospital. He looked after me when I couldn’t look after myself. He sadly took his own life recently and I promised at his graveside that I would never give up. He was an inspiration and I owe it to him to win at the Invictus Games.”
Paul has been supported by Help for Heroes through the Recovery Centre in Colchester. He said: “Walking through to the doors of Help for Heroes in Colchester was extremely daunting as it was a big step to admit I needed help, but what I soon released is that there is no pressure to talk. When you’re ready, they’re ready. They have helped me put together a recovery plan, sorted out my medication and introduced me to sports."
Help from the family
The Invictus Games isn’t just improving Paul’s life - who has lost 4 stone through training - the whole family is getting involved. Paul is supported by his wife, Michelle, and their 5 children: 14-year-old Oliver, 13-year-old twins Jessica and Carmen, 8-year-old Kenneth and 5-year-old Freddie. The couple have a further 4 children from previous marriages and 5 grandchildren.
Paul will compete in wheelchair basketball. As part of his training he does the daily school run in his wheelchair, before pushing on for a further 18 miles. In the afternoon, the training continues with an hour in the gym and an hour swimming. In the evening, Paul trains on his reclining hand bike for a further 20 miles and often goes out with his 19-year-old daughter, Alisha.
“I want to show my children that anything is possible and belief that you can do it is all you need. I’m so thankful for the Invictus Games as it’s bringing the whole family together. My children are making better food choices and my wife often joins me for a walk when I’m out training. Her support is unequivocal. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this for her. I’m doing this for our whole family”.