This Father’s Day, Dave Watson, a veteran and father of two who underwent life-changing injuries in Afghanistan, is urging support for Fisher House, a ‘home away from home’ for military families, which has supported him and his family through recovery from a triple amputation.
Dave joined the British Army shortly after leaving school, after spending three years working as a bricklayer, and was a Guardsman in 1st Battalion Scots Guards from North Yorkshire at the time of his injury. He said of his experience of army life: “It was amazing. I loved travelling the world and meeting people that eventually became like a second family. The support and teaching you receive from the army is amazing.”
Dave was injured during a routine mission while on deployment in Afghanistan, where he and 52 of his fellow soldiers had to walk through a stream, passing an improvised explosive device (IED). Recalling the incident, Dave said: “One of my friends fell behind and I went to help him; while doing so, I stepped on the IED and fell into the water, unable to bring my head above the surface, with lights flashing before my eyes.
“I lost both legs and my right arm in the blast, and was taken back to the UK for treatment.”
Dave was flown to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which is home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and is the receiving hospital for all of the UK’s military personnel when they are injured or become ill anywhere in the world.
Dave, who lived in Yorkshire at the time, was far from home whilst undergoing treatment at the QE. He said: “While I was in hospital, I didn’t believe that I would do anything again; I thought I would be stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”
During his time in hospital, his family were able to stay at Fisher House, QEHB Charity’s ‘home away from home’ for military patients and their families. The 'home away from home' receives £50,000 each year from Help for Heroes and SSAFA to support the running costs. The 18-bedroom house is on the grounds of the QE, a five minute walk from the hospital, meaning Dave could see his loved ones every day while he was going through operations, treatment and rehabilitation. After moving back home, Dave still needed to return to hospital for regular operations and treatments made necessary by his significant injuries. Thanks to Fisher House, his family were able to accompany him and be by his bedside throughout his recovery.
Dave said: “When I arrived at the QE for treatment, my family stayed at Fisher House. I believe that Fisher House is instrumental to both patient and family recovery. Because all military personnel that are injured or fall ill are treated in Birmingham, they are coming from across the country; Fisher House takes away the extra panic of finding somewhere to stay, and it is comforting to know that, if your condition was to take a turn for the worse, your family would be at your bedside in little over five minutes.
“The House is a place of support, as the different families staying can empathise, speak to one another, and help each other get through the situations they face; it helps with the feeling of isolation that many families feel when they first receive the news of their loved one’s injury.”
After his accident, Dave was left not knowing if he would ever be able to become a father. Then, in 2014, his now-wife Becky gave him news that would change his life again. “I was at home one morning when I received a call from Becky to let me know that she was pregnant!”
Dave is now a father of two; his daughter, Erin, was born on 1 January 2015, joining Dave’s stepson Josh. He said: “Fatherhood has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have both Erin and Josh, and I love them both equally. I will do anything to help them; they are my world.”
Thanks to Fisher House, Dave hasn’t had to miss out on any of the moments that make parenthood so special; his family can travel and stay with him when he needs to return to the hospital for procedures and check-ups, allowing him to experience Erin’s first smile, first crawl, first tooth.
“It’s hard to believe all of this is funded by donations alone, but it really is,” Dave explains. “For a family to stay for one night in Fisher House costs £25. This Father’s Day, I would ask people to please consider making a donation so that military families can continue to receive this vital support.”
Since it opened its doors less than three years ago, Fisher House has provided over 11,000 nights’ of accommodation to people ranging in age from one month to 96 years. It is free to use for any military family whose relative is receiving treatment at the hospital, as well as for military outpatients who return to the hospital for physiotherapy, counselling or check-ups but who don’t need to stay on the wards overnight.