Strange title for a blog I know, but I feel the need to tell you about my Gran, Adeline Hope.

My Gran had a massive stroke last Thursday, and has been unconscious since.

I have had feelings of immense guilt as I haven’t been to see her in hospital, but a 600 mile round trip combined with me starting a new job on Tuesday mean that what should be the easiest decision in the world is now the hardest decision.

I last saw Gran on her 90th birthday party, and she was delighted to be surrounded by her family, with 4 generations of us there, she was beaming for the whole day, it was beautiful to see.

My brother and I used to spend time during the school holidays with my Gran and we loved playing in the small park by Grans house, going swimming and spending time in Hawick, before having treats of ice cream and orange juice of an evening!

Admittedly, Grans cooking never much appealed to me. You would have thought that preparing a salad would be difficult to get wrong, but my Gran managed just that! To try and mask the flavour of the wrong salad Gran put some Mayonaise on my plate which I eagerly ate, only to nearly vomit on my plate. It turned out that the jar of mayo had been open in the cupboard for over 4 years!

Gran has been put on something called the Liverpool pathway, basically meaning that the medical team will offer her as much anesthesia and medication to keep her from becoming agitated and distressed. She’s fighting, but this is a battle that sadly cannot be won, I just hope the battle doesn’t hurt too much.

Gran, please don’t be angry I haven’t been to see you, I just want to remember the smiling, laughing, beaming 90 year old surrounded by her family.

Love you x

I’m not sure if you managed to hear me talking on BFBS Radio on Wednesday about the 24hr golfathon, where I was asked possibly the hardest question I have been asked about the golfathon.

The question was “Why have you chosen these charities Niall?”  People are more than aware of Help for Heroes, BLESMA is very close to my heart after working in Birmingham, seeing lads coming back with life changing  injuries.  I mentioned that  The Undentable Trust was found through reading the blog of the sister of L/Cpl McKinlay, who was tragically killed in Afghanistan last year.  But the hardest explanation was Combat Stress.

Not because I am unaware of the work that Combat Stress do, far from it, I am only too aware of the fantastic work that they do.  You see, I have needed the help of organisations such as Combat Stress in the past.

I was based at RAF Valley when, on 13 Feb 1997,  at approx 0750, we heard the announcement through the tannoy from Air Traffic Control that nobody wants to hear. 

“Emergency State 1, Emergency State 1, Emergency State 1″

This means that an aircraft has crashed on the airfield.

Myself, my Sgt, and our Senior Medical Officer were deployed to the airfield to see what, if anything, could be done to save the life of the pilot of the “weather ship”, a Hawk Jet Aircraft.

I am not going into details of what the next few hours were like for us, as even now, 15 years on, I still find it difficult to talk about what we found without becoming emotional.  The memories of that day will stay with me forever.

Two months after this, I thought my world had imploded.  Again, details as to why, are known to a few friends and my family, this is not the place to divulge information such as why. 

Working in the Station Medical Centre, would, you would have thought, be the best place to be working if you start to notice that things are starting to go wrong, and maybe for for others, it is.  But not for me.

I am, generally, a very quiet, private, some might say withdrawn sort of person.  I am also immensely proud.  These traits are not those of someone who finds it easy to ask for help, so, like many others, I buried my slowly unravelling world under the carpet.

I was selected to be posted to RAF Bruggen, Germany in December 1997, and accepted this posting with some trepadation, I would be going from being a small fish in a small pond, to a tiny fish in an ocean.  Immediatley upon landing in Germany, I realised I had made a huge mistake.  All of a sudden, I had no support network, no one I could tell of my fears and worries, all of a sudden, I was alone.

Within a week of arriving in Germany, I was notified that I was to be deployed to Croatia, as part of the the NATO SFOR Operation, and couldn’t believe how at home I felt amongst my colleagues.  Only now I realise, it was because we were all in the same situation, we were all away from home, missing loved ones, and friends.  Sadly, my deployment came to an end, and I had to return to Germany.  I had found it incredibly difficult when I first arrived to forge relationships, and here I was, almost 6 months later, having to do it all over again.

We had a new Sgt posted in to the Medical Centre, and let’s just say, we wern’t hitting it off!  It seemed to me, any opportunity he had to make life difficult for me, he grasped with both hands.

It was the day of the second anniversary of the terrible news I had received in 1997, and I had asked my Sgt for a days annual leave, to allow me some time alone, for quiet contemplation.  I had, at great pain, told him the reason why, only to find that he sent a colleague to ask my brother (who was now working in Station Headquarters on the same base), if what I was telling him was a lie.

I still wish no one had to hear the news I had received (although understand it is a sad fact of life), and to have someone treat me in that respect, let alone a colleague, and even more so a member of the Defence Medical Services, still fills me with utter anger and disgust.

The next 12 months in Germany were the worst of my life.  I spiralled into major depression, it scared me how low I was, how useless I was, how I was letting my colleagues down.  Things didn’t improve, even with the “help” of medication, and I was getting tired of being a burden….

When I woke, I was in a German hospital.  To this day, I am not entirely sure what happened, or how it happened, but I do know WHY it happened.  I didn’t get the help I was needing when I needed it.  I was too proud to say I wasn’t coping, too proud to say a small four letter word, help.

So this is why we are raising funds for Combat Stress.  The guys who need their help, have been through situations similar, and I am sure, far worse than I have, but all the same, thay need help.

I still struggle sometimes, I get flashbacks to that cold February morning, sitting on the airfield at RAF Valley, the images which I still cannot bring myself to talk about, and know (however unlikely) if my wonderful wife cannot help me, there is a dedicated team of wonderful people at Combat Stress who can.

This has been the most difficult thing I have ever written.  It’s bizarre, if someone I know discloses that they are having a tough time with their mental health, I am the first to support them, let them know that if there is anything I can do, be a shoulder to cry on, or someone to rant at, I will be that thing they need.  But the the thought of me disclosing this “weakness” is a weight around my neck, but not anymore, I have told someone about it, You. Thank You for being there for me.

One thing that has been the by product of undertaking the Golfathon, strangely, is guilt.

A strange feeling, when you think about the fuzzy feeling I get everytime I see that someone has made a donation, but the guilt is definatley there, and I think I have finally figured out why.

I spent nearly 13 years in the Royal Air Force as a medic.  My last tour was at RCDM Birmingham, working in the aeromed cell, arranging the repatriation of sick and injured members of HM British Forces, and ensuring they received the best possible treatment when they got to us.

The hours were long (more often than not, we were usually working a minimum of 17-18 hour days, working out at well over 110-120 hours per week), the days were emotionally draining (seeing young guys, there whole lifes ahead of them returning with life changing injuries), and we often forgot what food was!

My feeling of guilt comes not from the standard of work I gave, because I was good at my job (even if my admin was not the greatest!), I loved my job in fact, knowing that I was doing something to help these lads & lasses coming back from the “sharp end”, to return (as much as was possible) to a normal semblance of life.  No, my guilt comes from the fact that I left the RAF. 

I see the pictures from places in Afghanistan, and it’s weird, I want to be there, living the life as a member of the Armed Forces, and the worst possible feeling is knowing that this will not happen now.  I had the opportunity, I was told I had pre-deployment training commencing the first week in October 2005, which would have been great, except for one thing, I was getting married on the 1st October, and going on my honeymoon on the 3rd!  My new wife was not going to take kindly to postponing the wedding just for me to wander about a field in Wiltshire for a couple of weeks!

Due to alot of departmental politics things at work deteriated massively, resulting in me sitting in the Departures lounge at Belfast City Airport (I was doing an Aeromedical Evacuation at the time) filling out my PVR paperwork.

I have been away from military life for very nearly 6 years, and it’s only now I realise how much I miss it!  Missing it to the extent I have started looking at the possibility of re-enlisting as a reserve, be it RAF, or Army.  Further details to follow!!

 

You know, it is really difficult to sit and think of something profound, informative and interesting about the build up to the 24hr golfathon, after the events in Afghanistan yesterday. 

6 men paid the ultimate sacrifice doing the job that they loved, whilst trying to improve the lives of people that they had never met.

I’m incredibly fortunate in that I’ve never lost someone in these kind of circumstances, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who, when hearing of the terrible events on the road from Kandahar to Lashker Gah, felt that they had lost something.  Sure, it will be nothing like what the family and friends of Cpl Jake Hartley, 20, Pte Anthony Frampton, 20, Pte Daniel Wade, 20; Pte Christopher Kershaw, 19; Pte Daniel Wilford, 21; and Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33 will be feeling, but the Country as a whole lost 6 fantastically brave men in a far away land.

After a while of thinking what had happened, I feel even more determined to make a huge success of our 24hr golfathon.  Our charities are doing some really fantastic work not only for the heroes who sometimes suffer life changing injuries, but also the families of those who pay the ultimate sacrifice.

On a different note, we had our radio interview with Corby Radio a few weeks ago, and they still play the interview daily.  Let me tell you, there is nothing stranger than putting the radio on in the car, and hearing your own voice!  It certainly confused my thre yar old, hearing Daddy in the car AND on the radio, only Daddy on the radio didn’t answer her when she asked him a question!

Our website will up and running in the next few days, thanks to the fantastic Liam at www.pop-digital.co.uk who has designed and built the website at no price to us!

We also now have a donation website set up, at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/24hrgolfathon so if you manage to have a spare penny or two, please, every single penny makes a difference.

By the way, there is only 105 days to go!  Scary!!

Well, just had first telephone meeting with Roxanne today, an my head is spinning, but in a good way!

I have been told in no uncertain terms that I am to restrain my excitement,keep my cards close to my chest, and not bombard people with my thoughts and plans.  We are going to have a much more organised approach from now on! 

What I can promise (and disclose), is that this is going to e a MASSIVE event, with us hopefully raising a huge amount of cash for our chosen charities (BLESMA, Combat Stress, The Undentable Trust, & Help for Heroes). 

The publicity of the event is coming along nicely, with an interview with Corby Radio planned for 15 Feb (around 11:20 if you fancy listening!), which wil hopefull be linked through to BFBS.  Roxanne is in the UK for that week, so I’ve managed to rope her in to coming along to talk about the event.

If anyone reading this is able to help in anyway, please contact us at charitygolfathon@yahoo.co.uk

Take care everyone, and I will update soon!

Niall.

That of course should read charitygolfathon@yahoo.co.uk my bad!

Just a little reminder please!

 

If you are interested in taking part in the 24 hour golfathon can you please email your details to charitygolfathon@yahoo.o.uk stating whether you are wanting to play for 24 hours or come along for a round or two!

The donation web page will hopefully be up and running by Monday, allowing us to start collecting donations.

 

The plan is, for those wanting to take part in the challenge, we would like you to pay A MINIMUM DONATION OF £10 that will guarentee your place on the challenge.  This must be paid to the donation page.

Right, things to do, so must dash!