“There’s much uncertainty but I do what I can do to face my challenges. Thanks to the money from fundraisers, I’m still able to be active – which is so important to me.”
Embracing new possibilities
Support from Help for Heroes has helped Spencer Bull to deal with major life changes caused by Multiple Sclerosis. Here he tells us how he’s regained his sense of purpose in life.
In July 2017, Spencer took part in the Warrior Games in Chicago, America. He competed in wheelchair basketball and racing, shooting, hand cycling, and swimming. He won three silvers and a bronze medal for swimming and reached the final in shooting. “Going to the Warrior Games was incredible; I never thought I’d be able to do anything like that again. Help for Heroes was amazing – supporting me while I was there every step of the way. It was an incredible experience and a privilege to take part.
“I look back to 2011 and I’m so much more active now than I was then. I’m lucky enough to live near to Tedworth House so I use the gym there as a much as possible. It is adapted for wheelchairs users, so it’s perfect and has really helped me manage my condition.”
Spencer Bull joined the Army as an Infantry Officer in 1988 and has completed tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kuwait. In 2005, aged just 38, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“I started getting pins and needles in my extremities. I thought I’d trapped a nerve but after five months of tests, I was told I had MS. It made me angry and I refused to believe it. It took me five years to accept the diagnosis and by then I needed a stick to walk.”
By 2011 Spencer was struggling to walk at all and he was advised by a colleague to ask for help. A request was put forward to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, his Regiment and Help for Heroes, to fund an all-terrain Tramper Mobility scooter. “It allowed me to get out with my three children, going on dog walks in the countryside rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. I could join in. My eldest child remembers me being sporty and active, but the two younger ones have never known me like that. Being able to get out on the scooter was life-changing, for all of us.”
As his MS is progressive, Spencer has suffered degeneration in the last few years and was medically discharged from the Army on 1 December 2017. He can stand but is unable to walk; his legs and arms are very weak and he gets fatigued quickly, which is extremely debilitating.
“There’s much uncertainty but I do what I can do to face my challenges. Thanks to Help for Heroes fundraisers, I’m still able to be active – which is so important to me. I know if I need help I can get hold of someone immediately, and my wife is also supported by the Band of Sisters. All of the staff are not just professionals, they’re friends as well.
“I want to thank all supporters, and ask that you please keep raising awareness and funds. While operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may have finished, we still have many who are injured and sick, and as all get older, they will continue to need support. Please be there for the young amputee when he reaches his fifties, struggles on his prosthetics, and needs your help.”
Spencer is in the unusual position of having seen different sides of the recovery process. He commanded a Personal Recovery Unit caring for Wounded, Injured and Sick personnel, and then in Welfare Policy liaising with service charities. Now he needs support from those same charities – but the needs of others are still his focus.
Since leaving the military after 30 years of service, Spencer is spending his time volunteering for various charities, as well as having some much-needed quality time with his family. He is also in the process of having his house adapted to make it wheelchair accessible, providing him independence and the opportunity to work from home in the future.