Captain Harry Parker, 26, was serving with B Company, 4th Battalion The Rifles. He has been in Helmand province for around six weeks. While on patrol from the Forward Operating Base where his company was based, he stepped on an IED. He lost his left leg in the explosion, and his right leg was subsequently amputated due to a fungal infection. Today he faces a completely different future than the one he expected to be facing, but with the same determination, good humour and courage.
I soldiered under the ‘it’s never going to happen to me’ banner. Others do not. They walk out of the gates always feeling it is their turn. But battle is indiscriminate and I found myself lying in the dust, face down, feeling my chipped teeth with my tongue. I could see, but the pain was blinding and indescribable. I shut my eyes to it. I could not move as pain overwhelmed my nerves, obliterating my post injury systems check. I have been wounded and killed many times before. I have chatted and joked while being pushed and pulled through the casualty evacuation chain on cold and wet training areas. I could feel it again now. My training gave meaning to the different phases of my journey; Body drag to Mastiff, Mastiff to Blackhawk, Blackhawk to Bastion. But nothing gave meaning to the desperate loneliness and fear. I felt utterly helpless, utterly pathetic.
I do not remember Bastion. I came to in Selly Oak. There was no shock of sudden realisation. I became conscious as I fought through the haze of analgesia and sedation. My body felt dislocated from my mind by trauma and drugs. My sense of self challenged by the intrusion of pipes, drips and catheters all leading to bleeping machines that I could not quite see, but loomed in my periphery.
You have to give yourself over to the medical staff. No matter how independent, you have no choice. I was rocked gently from side to side while my sheets were changed and my body washed by Nurses. Oxygen masks were placed over my mouth countless times as the Anaesthetist obliterated me again-and then slowly coming round-my teeth were gently brushed as my hands lay immobile and swollen, bristling with lines by my sides. Soon the physiotherapist came, painfully manipulating my hands and arms. And more doctors and more nurses changing dressings and doing tests. Soon I was no longer lying flat. I have the strength to sit. Countless pills, at first painfully swallowed one at a time, soon downed in one gulp. Then other wounded soldiers, solidarity, jokes and shared experience. And always my family; trying to make sense of it and feeling our way forward together through everything that was never going to happen to me.