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When Luke Sinnott lost both of his legs in an explosion nine years ago, he knew that dealing with his life-changing injuries would prove an ongoing battle – both physically and mentally. He doesn’t always find asking for help when he needs it easy, but knows that when he does, his support network is always ready to listen.

A life changed by injury

Having a support network of family and other Veterans to talk to during his recovery journey helped Luke Sinnott through the toughest of times.

The former Army Captain’s life was changed beyond recognition when he lost both of his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010.

“Mentally adapting to losing both legs is a lifelong process and I don’t think I will ever be fully accepting of what has happened. The lifelong battle is to not let what’s happened ruin everything, to think about the positives and to keep the brain focussed.”

When he first awoke, two weeks after the explosion and having been in an induced coma, Luke remembers the sense of despair.

“It felt like a horrible nightmare. I remember staring at the clock a lot and wishing I could wind it back. When I was alone in that hospital room with just the beeps going on around me, I had so much time to think about my situation, and that was not a nice place to be.”

Receiving vital support

But the support Luke started receiving from day one of his journey helped to keep his mind positive. Luke had already fundraised for Help for Heroes in the past. Now, he was on the receiving end of the help on offer. As well as receiving practical support, such as help to make life more accessible at home, Luke found that just being around fellow Veterans, who could understand his situation, was vital to his sense of wellbeing.   

“Help for Heroes is like a family. Anyone of us can say ‘I’m having a bad day’ and they’ll have others who can pick them up. As a group of Veterans, we’re good at talking to each other. People have opened up to me and the good thing about that is that it makes me feel good to be able to offer advice and it hopefully helps them too”.

Opening up to others

“Talking to someone else always helps.”

Luke admits that he’s not always one for opening up to others, partly because he considers himself stubborn, and partly down to the fact that he finds it difficult.

Asking for help isn’t easy for anyone. For me, I’ll always be that person who was proud to be serving and giving help and putting my life on the line, so it’s difficult to then be that person asking for help.”

Becoming an athlete

Yet accepting help has opened up new pathways to him and helped him with new goals to work toward. Having always had a keen interest in sport, Luke has channelled his energy into forming a career as a professional para-athlete, achieving some amazing feats on his specially adapted running blades. He has competed as an Invictus Games competitor, at the Para Athletics World Championships and European Championships, and currently has his sights firmly set on a place at the 2020 Tokyo Para-Olympics, where he hopes to win a place on the long jump team.

The road to recovery and long-term support

Life as an amputee will always be hard work and Luke is aware that he’ll face plenty of big decisions in the future. His career as a para-athlete cannot last forever, and he will likely face more surgery.

There is no overnight fix. My legs are gone, they’re not coming back and the rest of my life will be fighting a battle, to stay up and on my prosthetic legs.”

Knowing that he has the long-term support of other Veterans and knowing there will always be a listening ear when he needs one, helps to keep him on the road to recovery. And there are many more like Luke, who need long term support with their physical and mental health as a result of their service.

Serving is a tough job. It expects people to push themselves to the limit on a daily basis and to be able to snap from being calm to being in the middle of a battle. That takes its toll and people get broken. That’s why funding and public support are more important than ever.”

According to a survey commissioned by Help for Heroes, 30%* of Veterans with psychological wounds say they have never reached out for support. For those that have, it takes an average of four years before they ask for help. Help them to come forward sooner and help us to call time on mental health stigma by clicking below: 

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*Statistics based on a survey commissioned by Help for Heroes, December 2018