"I received the knock on the door and heard the last thing any military wife wants to hear - that Derek had been severely injured and lost both his legs."
One day in 2007, Ana received the knock on that door all military families dread. Her husband, Derek, had lost both of his legs when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Beside his bed when he awoke from a nine-day coma, Ana had to take picture to show him the extent of his injuries.
In an instant, their lives changed forever, but the pair have faced 14 years together, since the injury, to overcome all odds.
“I met Derek 20 years ago in Fiji. He’d always been inspired by the stories of heroic Fijians who had joined the British Armed Forces, and eventually joined the Royal Gloucestershire Berkshire Worcestershire Regiment in 2000. Leaving our lives in Fiji and adjusting to life in the UK was challenging, but Derek loved his new military career.
“Whenever he was away on tour, I often asked him what was going on and he’d always reply that everything was fine – he didn’t want to worry me. Then, in 2007, whilst Derek was in Afghanistan, I received the knock on the door and heard the last thing any military wife wants to hear - that Derek had been severely injured and lost both his legs.
“Flown back for treatment in the UK, nine days later he awoke from a coma. I told him he was in hospital, then I had to tell him he’d lost his legs. Experiencing phantom leg pain, Derek insisted he could feel them, so I took a picture of him lying there, strapped to the hospital bed. To show him that photo and to say ‘this is you now’ was extremely painful for both of us.
“It was then that reality hit hard - Derek had come to the UK to pursue his dream career. We both knew his injury meant his dream was over.
“His recovery was both physically and mentally challenging - as was the transition to civilian life. Told he’d never walk again, we thought he’d always have to use to a wheelchair - but physio, and will and faith to improve, enabled him to walk on his bare stumps, and then prosthetics.
“At the time, Help for Heroes had recently been set up, and they gave Derek a wonderful opportunity to get involved in their Sports Recovery programme. Having sport as a focus and being able to compete kept us busy and took our minds off the trauma of Derek’s injury.
“By discovering what he could physically achieve through sport, Derek ended up competing in the Paralympics. When he was selected, he was having difficulty with his prosthetic legs, so Help for Heroes funded a new pair and supported his training.
“And through the Charity we’ve met so many other veterans and family members going through similar experiences, and that’s been a huge source of support for us both.
“Life has never been the same since Derek’s injury, and I now spend a lot of my time taking care of him. But we’ve become used to that and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Every day he experiences pain, not just physical, but mental. Before the injury Derek slept like a baby. Now, his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) triggers panic attacks and nightmares. But he’s undergoing therapy and we are so thankful for all the support we’ve had.
“The 14 years of adapting to living with his injury have been quite a journey, with lots of ups and downs. But, with Help for Heroes’ support, along with some incredible support from friends and family, we managed to pick up the pieces together, and I’m so thankful Derek has made it through.”
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