Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Rob

Male
Age at interview: 24

Brief outline: On tour in Afghanistan, Rob was injured when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was triggered. He lost his sight as a result and sustained numerous other injuries.

Background: Rob is a soldier and, since his injury, has returned to college to study. At the time of the interview, Rob was married and expecting his first child. Ethnic background' White/British.

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Rob had been in the army for about two years when he went on his first tour of Afghanistan. On patrol he was injured in an explosion instantly losing his left eye. His right eye was badly damaged and was later removed. Rob also fractured his skull and had a bleed on the brain. His jaw was broken, his arm and shoulder dislocated, and he sustained some flash burns and shrapnel wounds. He was evacuated to the nearest base, and transferred by helicopter to the main base from where he was flown back to the UK.
 
The fact that he had lost his sight did not hit Rob for a long time. He said that he was “in pain, lethargic” and “couldn’t really express how I was feeling”. He remembers being happy to be with his wife again, “hearing her voice and being close enough to hold her hand”.
 
Many of Rob’s injuries were left to heal themselves. His body should naturally reject the embedded shrapnel over the years and the doctors did not want to risk damaging his brain by operating on it. 
 
Rob was prescribed morphine for the pain, anti-seizure medication and antidepressants, which he later chose to stop taking when he felt he no longer needed them. He experienced quite vivid hallucinations because of the morphine and also because he developed Charles Bonnet Syndrome (when people who become visually impaired see things that aren’t there. It is not usually a permanent condition). Rob explains this can happen after sight loss when your brain uses “all the data it gets from your other senses and tries to make the world there.” He says the hallucinations can be “pretty scary when you’re on your own”. He received counselling to help him deal with this and the depression he sometimes experiences.
 
Rob has received a lot of support in coping with his vision loss from the military and practical “tips and tricks” from St Dunstan’s, a charity that supports blind veterans. Currently, he uses a long cane and has received training from the charity, Guide Dogs for the Blind, in preparation for getting a guide dog. 
 
Rob describes the hardest part of losing his sight is not being able to see the faces of the people he loves. Whilst his friends treat him no differently than before, he finds it difficult when it comes to meeting new people because they are perhaps unsure how to approach him. He says he struggles to engage people because he “can’t see where they are or whether they're busy”. He says' “It’s a dark intimidating world when you’re blind. I always appreciate someone coming up to me and talking to me”.

 

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