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Nine days after being injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Derek awoke from a coma to see his wife Ana by his bedside. She had some tough news to tell him.  

Too distraught, Ana simply couldn’t find the words. 

So, she took a picture and showed Derek that both his legs had been amputated. 

After his initial shock, Derek astonishingly managed to put his life-changing injuries into perspective. Perhaps in some way helped by what he’d seen on his tour of duty in the Helmand Province with the Army. 

“I said to Ana ‘let us be thankful that I am alive today. A lot of my colleagues wanted to make it back, but they couldn’t. I made it back. So, let’s start again.’” 

Derek in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in his military uniform
Derek in Helmand Province, Afghanistan before his injury - Help for Heroes


Derek’s will power and mindset were incredible, but it was the toughest time the couple had ever faced. 

“Adjusting to life without my legs was difficult and very traumatic for both of us. I was told I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, that I’d never walk again. 

“When I stood on my bare stumps for the first time, a month later, it was a huge moment for me. To get to that point was all thanks to the medics and the physios, and I knew then that I would walk again.” 

Derek’s determination meant he was able to push himself further and harder than most people could imagine. And he found inspiration. 

“I was watching the highlights of the Beijing Paralympic Games, and that’s where I saw amputees running, and I said ‘I can do this, I’m qualified. I’ve got no legs.’” 

Derek competing in sport throwing a javelin
Derek used sport as a big part of his rehabilitation - Help for Heroes

The power of sport 

That’s when Derek reached out to us. As well as helping Derek and Ana to recover physically and mentally, we helped get him into sport as a means to improve his rehabilitation. 

“I am filled with gratitude for the support, care and love that Help for Heroes showed to my wife and I.  

“They got me involved in sport as part of my rehabilitation, and they even funded the prosthetic legs that took me to the 2012 Paralympics. Competing at the Games was one of the proudest moments of my life. I was actually pronounced dead on an operating table in Afghanistan in July 2007 before a medic found the faintest of pulses. To go from that to represent my country at the paralympic games five years later – all I can say is, I am thankful.” 

‘A special place in our hearts’ 

“I’ve had so many opportunities through Help for Heroes. Ana and I have met some wonderful people, other injured veterans and their families. We share experiences and learn from one another. 

“Even after 16 years, I still suffer with phantom limb pain. My prosthetic leg sockets can cause blisters on my stumps, and I suffer with lower back pain, as having artificial limbs affects my posture. I still suffer with mental trauma too – I have post-traumatic stress disorder and I still experience flashbacks. And sometimes my injury stops me from doing the simplest of things like visiting family and friends – something we loved to do before. Now though, I just can’t sit for long periods of time. 

Amputee and his wife Ana stand together
Derek and his wife Ana are grateful for the support he has had from us - Help for Heroes

“Life has changed so much, but all the support we’ve had has had such a positive impact and we will be forever thankful for that. It hasn’t just helped me physically, it’s helped both of us mentally too, to adapt and to overcome any challenges that come our way. Help for Heroes and its amazing supporters, alongside all the wonderful support we’ve had from family and friends, have made that happen. They have such a special place in our hearts.” 

Derek featured on our recent BBC Lifeline appeal, where he shared more about his inspiring story.

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