THE BLOG

Why Adding More Obstacles Has Changed Lives of Injured Soldiers

03/10/2014 16:09 BST | Updated 03/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Everything changed when I was injured in Afghanistan. It may sound strange, but in many ways, it changed for the better.

I was just two weeks away from the end of my tour in 2009 when my platoon and I were engaged by enemy forces. During an intense fire fight, I was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

I lost my left arm at the elbow, my left lung collapsed, I suffered shrapnel wounds to my left side, punctured internal organs, blast wounds to upper thigh, a broken tibia and a fractured knee. It took eleven operations to save my life.

Coming back home from a tour of duty with only one arm is tough and one of the biggest challenges I had was to stay positive and make peace with what happened.

Everyday tasks I took for granted when able-bodied were my first goals.

Little by little, I raised the bar higher and higher until, in 2011, I took part in an unsupported trek with Price Harry to the Geographical North Pole and raised £1.5million for the Walking with the Wounded. Later that year, I climbed the 8th highest mountain in the world Mt Manaslu (8164m) in the Himalayas, becoming the first South African to do so.

From there, I wanted to push myself harder, and that's where events such as Tough Mudder came in. Designed in collaboration with former Special Forces soldiers, the event is a way for the everyday person to really test themselves, but for me, it was something more. It was my ultimate challenge.

And just like many other former soldiers injured in the line of duty, these obstacle courses became an integral part of my rehabilitation. It's about working together to overcome challenges you didn't think you could complete. It's about dragging each other through and beating the odds. And most importantly, it's about having fun.

It also allowed me to show my support for my former colleagues by doing what they do, day in, day out. Pushing the limits of the human body.

It pleases me that I am not alone in my thinking. By climbing through mud, fire, ice and other obstacles, "Mudders" across the UK have raised £1million for Help for Heroes, and given injured servicemen a chance to improve their active lifestyles and rebuild the comradery many of us feared we wouldn't experience again outside the military.

Funds raised by these Mudders have provided climbing walls at each of the H4H recovery centres, including a Tough Mudder "Tough Trail" at the flagship Tedworth House Recovery Centre - both of which have offered athletes like me the chance to rebuild basic mobility and strength, further typical rehabilitations, and even train for elite competitions.

All of these are opportunities that may not have been as accessible even just a few years ago, and it's encouraging that the UK is really starting to take notice. It's easy to think of these things as "just events", but in reality they're so much more than that.

The landscape for injured servicemen is changing for the better, and ironically, it's by introducing more obstacles.