Posts Tagged ‘Selly Oak’
Ha ha ha.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am writing to you from Selly Oak hospital after a somewhat surreal couple of weeks where some chap with an evil-looking beard killed five of my fellow riflemen and injured another four. I would like to quickly let you into the picture, set the story straight (although I understand my brother has done well in keeping the public in the light).
Around 12 days ago I was caught up in a Taliban bomb whilst conducting a foot patrol in Sangin town with the Afghan National Army (these are generally thoroughly nice soldiers who haven’t yet decided whether they would like to kill you or not). My platoon did magnificently to get me on a helicopter where someone could assess my injuries. I have managed to acquire the following:
1. Amputation of left leg (below the knee).
2. Amputation of three fingers to the left hand.
3. Tissue damage to the left arm (at this point I’d like to state that it has been decided that to speed up recovery, my left arm would be better-placed inside my belly. I can feel something grow inside but it may just be a Haribo sweet my brother dropped down there!).
4. Severe lesions to the neck.
5. Tracheotomy (hole in neck to allow breathing. Very odd, yet ever so slightly intriguing to touch).
6. Hearing impaired slightly.
7. Shattered jaw.
8. Broken right elbow and wrist.
9. Severe tissue and muscle damage to the right leg (looks like a bright-purple, plump-breasted guinea-fowl trussed up at your local butchers).
But due to some fortune I have unwittingly earned, I am able still to compose this rather long message. I also have it from good sources that the gentlemen responsible were themselves subjected to a combination of Apache helicopter and Special Forces playtime. Their IED “factory” was destroyed and they met their maker after a relatively brief hellfire missile battle which they lost.Ladies, gentlemen, all to say I am most gratefully alive and most sporadically, temporarily and morphine-gratifyingly pain-free.
Morale has been boosted by the multitude of you who have found time to do some good old-fashioned granny-visiting here in Birmingham, and for that I am forever thankful. Get-well-soon cards and messages of condolence I have growing out of my ears and it is thoroughly and most deeply and sincerely touching. Life here at Selly Oak is great, but everyone must find the fill for each day, so if you do find yourself near, come and reminisce about the days when people had two legs. Unfortunately, my mobile is not yet with me (doing a full tour in Sangin), but I will send you a number where you can get in touch directly.
To all of you, I sign off by saying a big thank you, and that I have realised that there is a huge amount to life that is unappreciated until limbs are lost. You will be chuckling when I am running faster than Usain Bolt on some ridiculous, metallic, spring contraption.
All the best and keep safe,
The blast tore through Sapper Matthew Weston’s body as he searched the mud compound for mines. The rifle he was carrying sliced off his hand, leaving it dangling by a thread of skin. Both his legs were blown off and he could feel the blood gushing from his two remaining stumps as medics leapt on top of him to stem the bleeding with bandages and tourniquets.
The 20-year-old Royal Engineer struggled to sit up, but his fellow soldiers pushed him back to the ground, afraid he might go into shock if he saw what was left of his legs. “It felt like someone smacking me in the head with a baseball bat. My head was thumping and my ears were ringing,” he told me.
Sapper Weston and his team of mine-clearance experts had been tasked with clearing a dirt track that leads through one of the most dangerous parts of Helmand. Night had fallen when the team from 33 Engineer Regiment began to search for bombs in the compounds that lined the track, known to soldiers as Pharmacy Road.
“I was the man at the front,” he said. “I didn’t have any night-vision equipment. They just didn’t have enough to go round,” he said matter-of-factly, as he sat on his hospital bed. As he turned to his commander to give the all-clear, the bomb that would leave him crippled for life exploded. Seven others were wounded in the blast, some with deep lacerations to their necks.
A quick reaction force was dispatched from the nearest British military base 100 metres down the road to evacuate the casualties.
“I didn’t lose consciousness until they put me on the back of the quad bike. That’s the last thing I remember,” he said.
An American medical-evacuation helicopter flew Sapper Weston to the British field hospital in Camp Bastion, where he was immediately rushed onto the operating table by surgeons who thought he would never survive his wounds.
By the time the doctors had finished operating on him, he had lost seven pints of blood, part of his intestine and his spleen. Shrapnel had shredded parts of his liver. When he got to Bastion he still had his right knee, but the doctors were forced to chop it off, leaving him with two stumps for legs.
The next thing he remembered was seeing his sister by his bedside in Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital. Both Weston’s arms were in casts, attached to a pulley system above his head, which he could barely turn. He asked where his girlfriend was. “I didn’t want her to see me like this. I didn’t realise I’d been unconscious for a week and that they’d been by my bed all along,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Dad, I’m sorry,” were my brother’s first intelligible words, whispered through swollen lips and an oxygen mask. Dad leant in close and told his son how proud he was of him.
For three days we had hovered around Jim’s bedside in Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital — as he lay doped up on a cocktail of opiates, antibiotics and general anaesthetic — since I had arrived with him on an emergency flight from Afghanistan.
“I am having some pretty weird dreams,” Jim murmured as we strained to hear him.
I had always wanted to be a war correspondent. Ironic, then, that the first casualty of war I saw was my younger brother lying limp and lacerated in a field hospital in Helmand.
It was last Sunday that I received the news I had feared but never thought I would actually hear. I was on assignment for The Sunday Times, covering the largest ground operation launched by British troops in Afghanistan.
In four hours I was meant to be on a Chinook helicopter, air assaulting into a Taliban stronghold as part of operation Panther’s Claw with soldiers from the Black Watch, Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Body armour and bags packed, I was waiting in Camp Bastion, the British base, counting down the hours until we were due to fly and worrying about whether I would be able to understand the Jocks’ thick accents.
Jim, recently arrived in Afghanistan as a second lieutenant in the Rifles, was on another operation.
The telephone in the camp’s media tent rang and I was called in. I thought it would be the press team querying an article I had written.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your brother has been badly wounded in an explosion,” said a voice I did not recognise.
The body goes numb and the mind races. How badly wounded? Images of my brother with no legs, no arms — worse — left me nauseous.
That morning, mum had sent me an e-mail from England saying she felt “wobbly”. Around the time she e-mailed, in a deadly and uninhabited Helmand town called Wishtan, her 24-year-old younger son had walked onto an “improvised explosive device”. Read the rest of this entry »