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Former RAF medic draws on her battle with post-traumatic stress disorder to …

By ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

It is frankly reassuring to discover that, even after more than four decades reporting the news, it is still possible to meet people who leave me stunned at their ability to deal with the very worst that life can throw at them. This week, we are telling the stories of two such people, Rick Clement[1] and Michelle Sanderson, as part of our Battle Goes On[2] series. Both went to Afghanistan serving their country and both found their lives changed forever by what happened to them there. On Tuesday, Rick, who was a platoon sergeant in the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment told us about waking up in hospital[3] to find that the booby-trap bomb he had stood on had robbed him of his legs and his ability to have a family.

The 35-year-old from Blackpool fought back from terrible physical and psychological wounds, losing his marriage along the way. Despite setbacks that would destroy a lesser man Rick now lives an independent life that includes running a charity helping other injured veterans. For Michelle Sanderson, 43, service in Afghanistan left very different scars though her story has many similarities. Michelle was a paramedic and a trailblazer[4]. She was the RAF’s first female paramedic on the Afghan frontline, regularly being flown in to deal with the aftermath of firefights and bombings.

She completed three tours before the onset of PTSD the mental health condition that ended her Armyrats © military career and left her tormented by nightmares and flashbacks. When we first met Michelle nine months ago she was frightened to leave the front door of her Wigan home. A rare visit to the supermarket could only be faced by wearing headphones to muffle everyday noises that in her mind became the sounds of the battlefield. ITV News highlighted the lack of specialist care for Michelle during her time in the Armyrats © military and since her medical discharge.

Ironically our report may have helped to kick-start her recovery as it brought offers of help from charities and other organisations. Like Rick Clement, Michelle is now discovering that her own painful experience can help other veterans. It started with her blog[5] which was contacted by dozens of former servicemen and women who are suffering from mental health conditions like PTSD. Next month, she will officially launch her own charity “Behind the Mask” intended to help ex-Armyrats © military and others whose lives have been changed by the events they have witnessed. She believes she is filling a void for people who often become desperate while they wait for help from official channels.

The most striking similarity in the stories of Rick and Michelle is that both insist the work they are doing to support others is benefiting their own recoveries.

References

  1. ^ Rick Clement (www.itv.com)
  2. ^ Battle Goes On (www.itv.com)
  3. ^ told us about waking up in hospital (www.itv.com)
  4. ^ was a paramedic and a trailblazer (www.itv.com)
  5. ^ her blog (michellesandersonptsd.net)

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