Bomb blast soldier earns job at Catterick rehab centre that turned his life around

Darlington and Stockton Times: NEW ROLE: Dean Middleton at Phoenix House NEW ROLE: Dean Middleton at Phoenix House

A FORMER paratrooper whose life changed forever when he suffered devastating head injuries in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan has earned a job at the centre that helped him recover.

Dean Middleton's parents were told to expect the worst when they were told of his injuries three years ago, but he marked the anniversary (December 21) by celebrating his new job as fitness instructor at Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison.

Mr Middleton, from Seaham, spent four months in a coma and had to have an extensive operation to remove part of his skull that was causing his brain to swell, before another to inset titanium plates to his skull.

Now the former Paratrooper physical training instructor has been hired as a strength and conditioning assistant at Phoenix House, helping men and women suffering from a wide variety of injuries and illness.

He said: "I had met all the staff at Phoenix House and they knew my goals to become a fitness instructor. I took my civilian personal training diploma and I forwarded my CV. I've never been happier.

"I have got everything from Phoenix House. During the transition from a soldier to civilian, you feel lost and isolated. The military is a way of life and like a big family and, back at home, you feel alone and your civilian friends do not understand.

"But coming here, you have guys who are going through the same process and they understand."

While the former corporal in 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, never dreamed of leaving the Army and hoped to try out for the SAS, he said he gets tremendous job satisfaction from his new career, and is happy with his new girlfriend.

"It was not a job for money but for pride and having that taken away when you do not want to leave was terrible. But now I am doing something worthwhile and giving something back," he said.

Mr Middleton is unable to remember the explosion or the three months prior to it, having been diagnosed with post-traumatic amnesia, but he will remember his friend and colleague Corporal Steve Dunn, who was killed instantly.

"I was lucky," he said. "He was just sat behind me. It's hard to think about.

"My life has changed forever but now I like to think it's changed for the better."

Mo Usman, Phoenix House Recovery Centre manager, said: "Dean is passionate about his work. He knows exactly what some of the men and women have gone through and can really relate to their experiences.

"We are delighted to welcome him as a member of staff."


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