Tuesday, December 29, 2009

British disabled vet returns to military

From The Guardian in the UK:

The army has given a fillip to badly maimed Afghan veterans by confirming a new job for one of the most severely injured of them all.

Three years after a roadside bomb left him with brain injuries, both legs amputated and unable to speak, paratrooper Ben Parkinson (pictured) is preparing to walk, talk and start a computer job back with his regiment in the new year.

His mother, Diane Dernie, 50, described the Christmas offer as fantastic. She said that officers of the 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, had promised a resumed army career to the 25-year-old "for as long as he wants it".

She said: "They told us they wanted him back at work but it had to be something meaningful. Now he can't wait. All he says is, I'm getting back to the boys."

Parkinson and his family in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, have been symbols of determination, both in medical recovery and the campaign to get "fair" compensation for badly wounded troops.

The lance bombardier was the archetypal Para when the explosion in Helmand province in September 2006 blew off both legs above the knees, broke his back and caused 35 other injuries. As well as a ruptured spleen, broken pelvis and rib cage, he lost so much blood that his brain closed down temporarily, leaving him speechless on recovery and with no memories of the three years leading up to the blast. But doctors at the specialist Hedley Court military hospital in Surrey were astonished at his slow but obstinate powers of recovery.

Nine months ago, he defied their predictions again, refusing to accept a prognosis that his condition was as good as it could get, with no chance of walking or speaking. He was fitted last month at the Northern General hospital in Sheffield with artificial legs and is making rapid progress with an electronic voicebox.

Parkinson showed the results during Christmas week when he opened a new health centre in Doncaster shortly before a fundraising rugby match in his honour was played in the town. His uniform has been kept immaculate and regularly worn at awards ceremonies, including his choice as 2009 Yorkshireman of the Year at a ceremony last month.

Dernie says that she and Parkinson's brother Danny now understand most of what he says, and their target is at least 80% of normal speech in due course.

Parkinson's compensation claim saw an initial offer of £152,000 from the MoD rise to £285,000 after a lively and imaginative campaign. Compensation rates for the most seriously injured victims were then doubled, and his final award of £540,000 has paid for a specially adapted bungalow in Doncaster, where he lives with his mother and stepfather.