Phil Rowlands, a Clearance Diver in the Navy currently serving in Hasler NSRU at HMS Drake, has spoken about how his time with Help for Heroes has changed his view on Christmas.
After diving operations in The Gulf in 2011, Phil contracted a bacterial infection that caused exhaustion and mobility problems. Due to the complex nature of the condition, Phil had difficulty getting a diagnoses, but eventually doctors at DMRC Headley Court confirmed Phil was suffering from Post Viral Chronic Fatigue in late 2012. While relieved at receiving a diagnosis, the disease has no immediate treatment or cure.
It was then that Phil started to get involved with the Help for Heroes Plymouth Recovery Centre:
“My journey through rehabilitation has gone almost explicitly hand in hand with Help for Heroes. As I got involved while I was still serving, there’s never been a strong distinction between them and my recovery, it’s always felt like one of the same.”
Taking part in many activities and trips with Help for Heroes, such as Surf Snowdonia, Scuba Diving, Powerboating and Skiing, Phil explains how although his condition has limited him, it hasn’t stopped him getting involved:
“The best thing about doing all these things with Help for Heroes, is that the vast majority of problems I have are solved by the activities being adapted to my condition. The guys and girls at Help for Heroes have always been understanding and have tailored the events to help me get the most possible out of it all.”
Now living in Exeter, with no immediate family close-by, Christmas had become much more difficult for Phil, as he no longer looked forward to the holiday as much as he previously did. Everyday tasks such as gift buying, decorating and visiting friends and family started to feel more like a chore than a celebratory time of year.
“I’ve never had anything but positive experiences with Help for Heroes, but the skiing has been particularly important to me, as Christmas time isn’t always the most positive time of year.
Not only do I love going back year-after-year to see my skills improving, but the trips in January that immediately follow Christmas time have always given me something to look forward to. It makes the bad times bearable, knowing that in a few weeks I’ll be off with the guys on the slopes having the best time. It’s a big part of what gets me through December, and it’s all thanks to Help for Heroes.”