Written by Editorial Team, DonateToday
Published: Monday, 12th March 2018

Military veteran goes from paralysed to participating in the Invictus Games with help from Armed Forces community charity The Royal British Legion

RAF veteran Anna woke up with agonising back pain. An hour later, she was paralysed from the waist down.

Excruciating

Aged 17, Anna joined the RAF with ambitions to see the world. Her seven years of service included a tour of Iraq, before she left to have her eldest child, Sophie.

She and her husband Scott – a soldier in the army – had two more children before, in 2013, Anna woke up with excruciating back pain.

An hour later, she was pronounced paralysed from the waist down – a bleed on her spine had clotted around the nerve. An emergency operation was needed, and Anna was told she’d never walk again.

"My whole life was gone...I was a shadow of my former self."

Anna

I Wasn't Living

‘My whole life was gone,’ Anna recalls. ‘I had gone from being into fitness, three kids on the go, to being a shadow of my former self. 

‘I couldn’t get to grips with not being able to do everything that I could do before,’ she explains. ‘I was letting the pain and my situation get the better of me – I was just existing, I wasn’t living.’

Months passed and, eventually, Anna was able to get back to her feet, but only minimally – she was heavily dependent on a wheelchair and relied on her husband for much more than she used to.

Fire Back in My Belly

Things changed when Anna and her family took their first holiday since Anna’s health issues had flared up – they went on a Legion break (organised by The Royal British Legion charity) and enjoyed some quality time together.

‘I was able to hold my child in my arms for the first again in the swimming pool,’ Anna enthuses. ‘It woke us up as a family to realise there was so much we could still do together.’

Following the holiday, the charity was also able to part-fund a recumbent bike for Anna – something she could never had afforded alone – paid for Anna to undertake a swimming instructor course and arranged for her family to travel to Florida to support her when she took part in 2016’s Invictus Games.

Anna and fellow veteran, Jim, supporting Poppy Appeal 2016

‘The Legion gave me the tools to fight back,’ she glows. ‘The first gift that the Legion gave was the gift of getting out there and getting fit again.

‘It wasn’t just the funding, but the care. The staff were going above and beyond – it put the fire back in my belly.’