I have been a soldier for a long time now – it’s my life – or should I say it was my life, in the blink of an eye my military career is at an end.
A sudden flash and a bang then the pain hits me; so searing it feels like I’m being torn in two - it’s like nothing I have ever known – I try to move from where I’m lying but I can’t – my legs don’t seem to want to co-operate. “Fuck, Fuck shit!” I mumble the words under my breath, my fists clenched to the point where my nails are digging into my palms through my gloves.
Pat isn’t far away – I can hear his voice as I lie there with a cold sweat cascading down my face; then the military medics are by my side – some of them seem to be spending a lot of time at the lower part of my body, they do their job - and soon I can’t feel anything except a burning niggling sensation and the knowledge that something definitely isn’t right.
“We have to get him out of here stat!” I can hear a medic shouting to another.
I don’t know how long it is before I can smell the paraffin like smell of aviation fuel and hear the roar of the chopper as I am airlifted from the roadside trussed up tightly with the oxygen mask strapped on my face and several IV’s stuck in my arms and monitors stuck on my chest.
I drift in and out of consciousness throughout the flight and I don’t realise that we’ve arrived until I feel the slight jolt as we land on the helipad – then I am brought out into the cold breeze of the English weather – such a difference to the heat of where I was a short while ago.
I can hear them talking as I blearily start to ease back into the land of the living – the cocktail of painkillers wearing off slowly; “This is Major Richard Sharpe, multiple wounds due to an IED, possible internal injuries, lower limbs majorly compromised, pelvis stabilised, spine board in place, two sets of bloods and fluids by IV, Ketamine and Morphine administered before airlift evac.”
A little of their terminology has sunk in despite the haze of pain and painkillers – lower limbs majorly compromised – my legs, they mean my legs.
“We have to get him into surgery now, we need to stabilise the limbs and the spine, counter the blood loss and any other damage.”
I can hear them talking as they decide my fate for me – “Major – Major Sharpe – can you hear me?” a voice intervenes on my thoughts.
“Yes.” My voice sounds croaky and so little like my own.
“We are going to put you out now – you have to go down for surgery.”
“What – what’s wrong – with me…” I feel myself drifting away as they knock me out gradually.
“Don’t worry; we’ll do what we can Major.”
My world blacks out as the anaesthetist takes over my breathing for me and I am rushed into theatre.
For eight hours they fight to save my life and to save as much of me as they possibly can – but there is some of me that they just can’t save.
As I come out of the anaesthetic I am not sure where I am at first, then the cloying smell of antiseptic assaults my senses.
I struggle to open my eyes; then despite the morphine - the pain hits me like a freight train – I unconsciously let out a huge scream that has the nurse nearby rushing to my side.
“Lie still Major – you mustn’t move.” She pushes her hands onto my shoulders, I grasp her forearms -
“What happened to me, why can’t I move – WHY!!!” My voice rises to a scream again.
“Major Sharpe, please lie still – I will explain to you what has happened.” I grit my teeth and turn my head slightly to see that it is a doctor who has spoken to me.
I grimace as I release the nurse’s arms that I am still gripping – “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean - to grab you.”
“It’s ok Major – I understand.” She squeezes my hand gently.
“Major Sharpe, I need you to lie quietly whilst I try to explain what has happened to you.”
“Ok.” I take a deep breath to try and calm myself as much as I can.
“How much do you remember?”
I think through my haze of pain and morphine – “not much – just sitting - on the roadside - waiting for a carrier – then a flash – that’s it.”
“Well, it appears that as the carrier approached it hit an IED buried in the road – that would account for the flash you saw Major.”
I wait as he looks at me as if to make sure that what he has told me has sunken in.
“The carrier was alongside you when it exploded, the explosion caught you as you stood up – had you still been seated on the wall you would have probably been killed.”
I swallow as I digest what he has just told me – that must mean – Oh God that means the guys in the carrier must have been killed and those sat by me too. My eyes close as I digest the horror of losing yet more soldiers to this damn war.
“You survived because you were standing; but you must understand that you have some – life changing injuries,” He tells me softly.
“What – injuries?”
“Six of your ribs were broken and your spinal cord was bruised, but your legs were much more damaged I’m afraid.”
“How – how badly –damaged?” I swallow deeply as I wait for his answer.
“I’m sorry; we tried to save them but neither of your legs were saveable – you have lost both legs at the knee – your femurs appear that they are both too badly damaged to enable you to wear prosthetics.”
I lie quietly for a moment as I try to digest what he has told me – my legs – my legs are gone – blown off in a split second flash – I will never walk again - never.
Suddenly it dawns on me fully – “OH MY GOD, MY LEGS - ARE - GONE – MY LEGS ARE GONE – MY FUCKING LEGS!!!!!” My voice has risen to a scream.
The doctor ups the amount of morphine flowing into my body; as my voice starts to slur and the tears run down my face – I think - I will never be the same again- never – my life is over.