What we do / Our Stories / Gareth Hennis

Gareth Hennis

Categories: Invictus Games 2020 Athletes

Before Invictus came along, former RAF man Gareth (Gaz), 38, would either stay at home watching television or go the pub.

Gaz served as an ElecTech at RAF Kinross and then RAF Episkopi in Cyprus, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of a car accident. That left him in hospital for over a year, unable to move or speak. The prognosis was ‘a vegetable for the rest of his life’, but Gaz had different ideas.

Fifteen months on, after many tiny steps of progress, he was transferred to Headley Court and he knew he was back in a military environment. Within two months he was walking with support, eating independently and beginning to talk.

Unable to operate his left side fully, medical discharge followed and there was minimal progress for the next ten years until, connecting with Help for Heroes, Gaz began attending a Recovery Centre. He said it is like “coming home”. 

"The biggest change is being around people – not just ‘people’ but the military family. Everyone is so supportive. They have patience and understanding and encourage me to push myself. When I am with other people it helps my speech to improve and I am beginning to feel that I can cope in new situations, so my social skills are already developing.”

Beginning the Invictus journey Gaz felt he now had a reason to get up in the morning.

“I feel that everyone involved with Invictus has the skills to work with my cognitive and physical difficulties and will support me to make progress without limiting my horizons.”

Gaz started to make changes because of the Invictus process. He gave up smoking and alcohol and started making healthier eating choices.

Training also improved his general fitness, control and coordination. Walking gait was transformed and by Christmas 2019 Gaz ran for the first time in 13 years, completing a 100m run by January 2020.

Then Covid struck. Losing all the social contact of both Help for Heroes and the Invictus family had a dramatic impact. Gaz stopped training for nearly a year until Team UK started a Home Training initiative. Working alongside his Mum with a specially adapted programme, Gaz improved core strength and coordination so that he was able to switch to left handed archery for the first time, with massive improvement.

Retuning to the training camps, Gaz has benefited immensely from the social interaction and has dramatically improved his personal bests in all his sports. He is now looking forward to representing his country in The Hague.