Portrait: Jamie

In 2005, as a serving soldier in the British Army, I was on a training exercise in the jungles of Belize. Whilst cutting our way through a dense part of the jungle, everyone heard an almighty crack and a crashing sound as something extremely heavy fell through the leaves above...

Jamie... in the jungles of Belize 

Before we knew it, a large part of a huge tree landed on my head and neck and knocked me to the ground. Immediately after, I felt fine and continued with the training exercise. But the next day, my body started to shake, and I started to sweat but was freezing cold. I was vomiting even though I'd had nothing to eat, and the medic decided to evacuate me by helicopter to the Belize City Hospital. 

There, I was diagnosed with a traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and massive swelling to the brain. I needed surgery immediately, as my brain was still bleeding. 

Surgery and an island recovery 

The surgeon operating on me was Dr Jorge Hildago MD. He is the most experienced surgeon in Central America and a forerunner in critical care; I was so lucky to have been cared for by such an amazing man. After surgery and a 14-day induced coma, I was very weak and my eyesight was blurred. I had to remain in hospital for another week or two to be monitored while I gained my strength.  

Once I was ready to leave the hospital, my Army Padre picked me up and got me a water taxi to St. George's Caye, about a 30-minute ride into the Caribbean Sea. We stayed there for a month so I could recover. It was a beautiful paradise location, though a bit boring. But, there was a bar at the far corner of the small island where I drank far too much rum whilst recovering from brain surgery.  

Continuing my Army career 

Eventually, someone did a risk assessment for me to be able to withstand the pressure of the flight and I went home to try and continue with my Army career. I was initially placed on light duties and not allowed to hold a rifle. My boxing career in the Army was also finished.  

However, I was determined to remain a soldier, and because of this, I didn't receive the treatment I should have had. I hid the fact that I had bad headaches. I hid the lack of feeling in my hands. I still don't feel anything in my fingertips, and the temperature gauge in my fingers doesn't work. Things feel far too hot and feel like they're burning me. 

Despite this, I remained in the Army. I was commissioned and became a Late Entry Officer, and I am now a Squadron second in command. So, ultimately the risk of not getting the real treatment I required to make a full recovery was worth this risk. However, in a recent medical, my military doctor read my history and was shocked that I'd made a full recovery. It was only when he told me how serious my injury had been that I realised how lucky I was and how stupid I was to hide the after effects from everyone.  

How I’m feeling today 

I remain tired all the time. I am always in need of sleep, but can I get that sleep? The answer is no. I never sleep for more than two hours in one sitting. This is the main side effect I have noticed from my injury.  

I was also bad-tempered for years after the trauma and didn't know why. Now, I truly feel it was from the frustration of having to re-learn how to read, talk, walk, and reach out and touch what I wanted. I am happy to say that my temper is even all the time nearly 18 years later. Thankfully, I remain fit and healthy. 


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