The Ripple Pond Story Bank

‘The Story Bank is a collection of stories, diary entries, messages or experiences written by our Ripple Pond Members. These are journeys that give an insight into what a day, month or year can be like while caring for loved one who is suffering from a physical and/or emotional combat injury. These journeys are often unrecognised and in the background. It is important to understand that everyone’s experiences are different and no two recovery paths are the same. These are the stories you do not hear…..

NOTICING THE CHANGE…

“I knew he was ill before he did…”

HOW SOMEDAYS WE GET KNOCKED DOWN….

“Why do the waves come crashing so hard? I don’t know how long I can keep pretending I’m okay when I’m not and keeping myself busy with stuff and it’s all just a cover up. I’ve been doing things that usually I enjoy but it’s all a show really as underneath I just want to crawl into a hole and that’s the level of worth I feel at the moment” – anonymous Ripple Pond member

Better Together….

“Had an amazing day …. was lovely meeting some members and getting useful information as well as support. So thank you, 
I can’t stress enough of how good it makes you and everyone else feel by meeting memebers at group meetings. You don’t have to talk, just being there shows and gives support to you and others” – Group Administrator and Ripple Pond Member

BALANCING THE HELP WITH THE HOPE….

“So, I am angry. I am tired of the endless platitudes of …. “my door is always open if only you’d walk though it”. I live every day in my PTSD world, my real life and my dark and twisty place assuming that no one will ever reach out and remembering that no one ever died from feeling too loved. Yes, the onus is on an individual to do the work, to be ready to change and feel better but there has to be some inherent motivation. There has to be hope. They have to feel loved” – anonymous Ripple Pond member 

A MOTHER’S STORY – from ‘the knock’ to the shock and the journey to help more change more lives. 

As my son prepared for deployment to Afghanistan, he asked me to be his next of kin. By Friday 21st May 2010 he had been on tour for two months.

I had just returned from walking the dogs when the doorbell rang. I retraced my footsteps through the back gate to save removing my muddy boots and as I approached the front of the house, I caught sight of two men looking at our front door, waiting for it to be opened.    They introduced themselves. One was a Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel, acting as the Casualty Notification Officer, the other was a Padre – both wearing suits.   They told me that our son was very seriously injured.   Shock overcame me as they escorted me indoors. They continued to relay what information they had. On the front line, the Royal Marines were searching for a wire leading to an Improvised Explosive Device when it exploded.  Our son’s injuries were extensive. He was having life-saving surgery at Camp Bastion but I should prepare for the worst.  His survival was unlikely.  The troop’s corporal had been killed in the same blast.

Clusters of words circled in my mind that I remembered my son saying before deployment. “I’m well trained; I’m battle ready; it’s what I’ve trained to do; I’ll be fine Mum.”  I bowed my head focussing on my feet.  It was an attempt at blocking out reality. Icy cold fear crept from my head to my toes. 

The Casualty Notification Officer explained that there was a 24 hour curfew preventing the media from reporting this incident. I had to reach family and friends within this period.  I prepared to phone my husband, not in the City, not nearby but thousands of miles away as captain of a merchant ship. The first attempt failed – I was cut off. The satellite was probably in the wrong position. The second time worked.  I heard his voice.  My heart melted.  I tried to tell him the news gently. I wanted to hug him, comfort him, to tell him that we would get through this together.  If our son should die, the Casualty Notification Officer explained he would return in full military uniform to tell me.  That long night I barely breathed as I listened for his footsteps on the drive.  I began to plan our son’s funeral – preparing for the worst was my coping strategy. The underlying meaning of ‘next of kin’ began to dawn on me.

All I could do was wait back here.  My life had been taken over by those who organised the wounded survivors and their families.  Saturday 22nd May I was whisked up to Birmingham to wait his arrival from Camp Bastion via Kandahar on one of those immense airplanes – A & E in the air.  Like many other seriously injured service personnel he would have had his team of doctors and nurses around him throughout the flight.  Resuscitated several times, he survived the flight home heavily sedated. I learned a few months later that after his surgery, a nurse had sat by his bed in Camp Bastion.  Knowing this made a massive difference.   It was a place I felt I should have been, by my son’s side, but that was impossible.

Once back in the UK, after a short stay in Selly Oak Hospital’s intensive care and several weeks on the military ward in the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, he made a phenomenal recovery.  In one month he was ready to leave hospital to begin his four year rehabilitation at Headley Court initially then at Hasler, Plymouth.  He is now working full-time, something that at the outset we never believed would be possible.

To nearly lose our son naturally impacted me hugely.  I lacked support and understanding of what I was going through, resulting in suicidal feelings. I wasn’t sure what to do nor did I want to live feeling like I did, but lacked the courage to say.  I felt I was being dragged along the seabed, with an overwhelming sense of drowning.  I withdrew from life.

Over the last seven years life has dragged me back to reality. I have discovered various ways of recovering. Walking the dogs, writing and eventually talking have been some of the most effective ways forward, together with attending Ripple Pond support meetings.  These meetings validated my journey; gingerly verbalising my thoughts and to have them paraphrased by others who truly understood my situation made the world of difference.  I felt safe, I felt heard. I slowly began to take control of my life and began to live again.