On 2 July 2010, Lance Corporal Dean Bousfield was three months into a tour of duty in Afghanistan. On a routine patrol, his regiment came under fire and Dean was shot in the head by a sniper. The bullet went straight through his helmet passing through his brain exiting above his right ear and lodging in his helmet.
Dean’s comrades rushed to evacuate him, at risk from enemy bullets and mortars. “As far as I am aware, my evacuation was very quick although the guys had quite some distance to cover for the helicopter to be able to land,” said Dean. He was taken to Camp Bastion where the British medical staff had to resuscitate him before being flown to an American hospital in Kandahar.
“The American neurosurgeon saved my life. I would love to meet him and say thank you,” said Dean who remembers nothing of the incident.
Waking up at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham four weeks later, Dean was paralysed and doctors told him he would never walk or talk again – but amazingly he proved them wrong, as he can now do both! Dean spent nine months at Headley Court before moving to a specialist civilian brain injury centre in Banstead. “I loved being in Headley, it did so much for me. I love the pathway of support. I used to wheel myself in my wheelchair and read all of the blocks just for inspiration to keep going.”
In 2012, through the Help for Heroes Quick Reaction Fund, Dean was provided with an exercise bike and a recumbent road bike that aided his recovery. But more than that, it is the network of support that Help for Heroes has given Dean that means so much to him. “It means the world to me knowing that I can talk to someone when I’m having a tough time or knowing I have someone to rely on around the clock. The support Help for Heroes gives is priceless.”
Dean is now in a relationship with his lovely girlfriend Hayley, who he got together with two years to the day after he got injured. Dean says, “To me, 2 July is now both the best day and the worst day of my life!”
Since being medically discharged, Dean has become a professional athlete competing in Cerebral Palsy Seated Throwing for Doncaster athletics. He also completed the 2014 Big Battlefield Bike Ride, cycling 335 miles in 5 days. “It was a complete honour to be accepted on the BBBR14, it was by far the biggest challenge I have faced since my injury and it allowed me to see if I could actually push myself mentally and physically like I used to before my injury. It was such an emotional journey for me and I really can't put into words what it meant for me to take part.