Over the last five years Mudders across the UK have raised more than £2.5 million for Help for Heroes. This is an astounding amount of money that gone on to improve the lives of injured and sick Servicewomen and men. Some of the money collected has gone towards supporting the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Programme which offers grassroot sports to aide recovery.
Introducing Lee Patmore
Lee, a father of three, lives with his partner and three step children, served on HMS Gloucester (a Type 42 Destroyer) as an Operator Maintainer Above Water Warfare (first class) (OMAWW) and enjoyed his life on the waves. When the opportunity to join his younger brother on HMS Edinburgh presented itself, Lee was excited at the chance, and the two brothers were looking forward to serving together. It was while Lee was on his OM 1 course before embarking on HMS Edinburgh that he got injured – his back buckling under the pressure of the intense training.
Along with back pain he had other symptoms which have recently been diagnosed as ME and Fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. Lee tried to carry on but the pain made it impossible, meaning he could no longer serve in the Navy and that he now uses a wheelchair for mobility.
Lee found the transition from military life to civilian life incredibly hard. Not only had he left the job he had set his heart on but he was in constant pain. Lee, who before getting ill was active and sporty, had given up all his hobbies including rock climbing. He became angry and verbally aggressive as his frustrations and the chronic illnesses worsened.
The Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Programme and archery
A Help for Heroes grant funded Lee’s wheelchair but adapting to life as a wheelchair user was another challenge he faced: “I was conscious of the chair and I felt everyone was staring at me so I taught myself how to wheelie. I thought somehow it would make me look cool. It’s a bad habit which I still do but now I don’t mind people looking.”
Lee recalls: “I had always loved archery as a child so I decided I would join a local archery club and try it. Picking up the bow relaxed me and I felt at peace again for the first time in a very long time. I never experienced anything like it.”
Lee discovered he was a natural at archery and began a plan to get fit. After failing to find a trained disability gym instructor in his area Lee applied for further H4H funding to become one himself via the InstructAbility Scheme and completed the Help for Heroes Personal Trainer diploma too. These new qualifications landed him a new job at The Brentwood Centre as an Inclusion Co-ordinator and Lee is proud to be able to support others living with disabilities to get involved in sport.
“My journey has been unbelievable. It has been a bad road; but archery gave me my life back.” Lee added, “Sport is a key to recovery. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling or what has recently happened, it’s all gone when I pick up my bow and reach for my next arrow to load onto the bowstring.” Lee will be the first to admit, that since the start of his recovery, everything is linked to archery in one way or another. Lee also works at Now Strike Archery, where he has learnt the skills to make traditional Longbows and to hand make traditional Medieval style Arrows.
Lee took part in the Help for Heroes Personal Training course last year and said: “I applied for the course but had mixed feelings, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it but I thought at least I’d try. The course was really good. You’re surrounded by your military family again and have a great time.”
Lee is giving back
Since passing the course, Lee is now an Inclusive Co-ordinator at Brentwood Leisure Centre in Essex and also offers gym inductions for others with disabilities.
To give back to Help for Heroes Lee and two fellow Veterans cycled over 1300 miles from John O’ Groats to Land’s End in May 2017. Lee completed the challenge in a recumbent handcycle using only his arms to power the bike for the whole journey.