Don was a Royal Marines reserve for a number of years in both Glasgow and Liverpool before becoming regular in 2010. He was on his first tour of Afghanistan with 45 Commando Royal Marines in the following year when he stood on an IED. The device partially detonated, shattering his right heel and causing multiple fractures to the bones in his right foot.
He was given basic medical treatment on the ground and was evacuated back to Camp Bastion by helicopter and transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham the following day. He spent about four months in hospital altogether, where fortunately the medical team were able to save his foot with a series of operations, in spite of a number of serious infections. It wasn’t until December 2011 that he arrived at Headley Court, and since then he's been admitted around 10 times. It was here that he started getting mobility back in my leg and foot.
“Even though I will remain ‘injured’ for life, I class myself lucky, as things could have been a lot worse. My outlook on life has changed dramatically thanks to the time I have spent in the incredibly inspiring place that is Headley Court. From here I became involved with Help for Heroes after joining the Band of Brothers and being asked to try out for the 2012 Race Across America (RAAM) through BattleBack, the Help for Heroes funded initiative run by the MoD. I’ve always been a keen cyclist and it was, and still is, a massive part of my recovery – I started static cycling in December 2011, before I could even walk again!”
I love cycling because it’s completely inclusive; no matter what your injury or disability, almost anyone can get on a bike. Rehab can become monotonous but with sport, you end up doing rehab without really realising it. It gives you a focus and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without it.
I completed the RAAM just six months after my injury had left me unable to walk. The lads I raced with were inspirational - proving every single day that there really is life beyond injury. We set ourselves a tough target: to complete the race from west to east coast America, in just eight days and we smashed it, completing the 3000 mile race in seven days and seven hours. Not bad for a group of eight blokes with seven legs between us!”
Help for Heroes funded Don’s place on the Big Battlefield Bike Ride (BBBR) in May that year as part of his training for the RAAM and then he took part in the ride again this year but this time supporting as a bike technician with Cycle-Tec.
“I decided to take my interest in cycling to another level, not only as a sport but now as my future career. Whilst on the BBBR and then the RAAM, I met Dave and Gareth at Cycle-Tec. This has led to me to completing a number of bike technician’s coursesand gaining almost a year’s worth of experience in their workshop and I now work freelance for Cycle-Tec as well as starting my own business Cyclefix.”
Don cycled at the 2014 Invictus Games. He said: “It’s a dream come true for me to have all of these incredible opportunities – and a lot of that is down to Help for Heroes."