Former Lance Corporal Dave Pegram was injured in Afghanistan in 2009 but continued to serve with the Royal Engineers. While on a construction exercise in Kenya in 2015, he suddenly collapsed at the end of a training session: “I tore discs and suffered nerve root damage in my lower back. Just getting around became absolute agony.”
In an instant, Dave went from peak physical fitness to relying on a wheelchair to get around. With a young family to support, he believed a future for them all was impossible: “My world came crashing down after I was injured. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to try and see if there was a future. I wanted to be a soldier, I was still in that mind-frame of ‘I can do this’ when actually I couldn’t. I couldn’t deal with it.
Dave’s spinal injury was complicated by internal issues, which also affected his bladder control. He said “I think when your three year old is changing your shorts because you’ve wet yourself, that’s when you know you’ve got to a low point.”
Convinced he was becoming a burden, Dave started pushing his wife, Nichola, and their children away, not wanting them to experience what he was going through: “I didn’t want Nichola to be my nurse rather than my wife. I couldn’t understand why she and the kids were putting up with all this. Why should they have to go through it all with me? The easiest option was not to let them.”
At rock bottom, Dave spoke to Help for Heroes and was told about the support available for him and his family. The first thing the Charity offered was a place for them to live while their house was being adapted to make it safer for Dave: “Our house was dangerous for me, it wasn’t suitable. Help for Heroes let us stay at Tedworth House Recovery Centre. That kept us together as a family.”
Those months at Tedworth House became the foundation that enabled Dave to go on and turn his life around: “Guaranteed, if Help for Heroes hadn’t stepped in when they did I wouldn’t be here. The Charity explored every avenue to get the support my family and I needed.
“I’m getting physically and mentally better – I’m recovering. In the early stages, Help for Heroes supported me in getting a new wheelchair. Now they’re offering me skills and qualifications I can earn in the event that I may be medically discharged from the military.
“I’m a member of the Charity’s fellowship group the Band of Brothers. It’s great being able to talk to people going through something similar to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Private or a Colonel, you’re just a person going through a rough time talking to other likeminded people.”
Medically discharged in 2017, and reliant on his wheelchair to get around, Dave says the support he and his family have received from Help for Heroes means they finally have a stability in their lives that had been missing after his injury: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I know that Help for Heroes’ network of support is there when we need it. It’s created a whole new life for me and my family.