AN ARMY medic, whose career was cut short after he was struck down with a debilitating back condition, has praised Help for Heroes for giving him hope for the future.
Paul Nichol, who lives in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome, a rare disorder putting pressure on the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord. He also suffers from depression.
During a training course in 2010 he collapsed suddenly, paralysed from the waist down.
He had an emergency operation and was told his chances of walking were "slim to none".
"At first it was very disheartening," he said. "But I was surrounded by guys who had lost limbs and I thought I can do it, and being around people of a similar disposition was a great help."
After several operations, Mr Nichol can now walk, often using a stick. He was medically discharged in April, 2013, and has been supported by Help for Heroes and its recovery centre Phoenix House in Catterick Garrison.
Mr Nichol, 36, said: "Instead of just sitting in the house, coming to Phoenix House gives me a chance to get out – it's so uplifting."
Mr Nichol, from Ashington, Northumberland, joined the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 1995 when he was 18.
In 2000, he transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps and became a medic.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2001 with 3CS Medical Regiment and spent six years with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment.
Help for Heroes has bought Mr Nichol a recumbent bike and his ambition is to take part in the charity's Tartan Express Hero Ride from Edinburgh to London in 2015.
Mr Nichol is also hoping to find a job and has taken part in a number of courses to boost his CV.
Mo Usman, Phoenix House centre manager, said: "The charity can help in all sorts of ways from offering emotional and social support to more practical needs, such as paying for driving lessons, CV advice and helping find employment.
"Sport plays a huge role in the rehabilitation of our veterans and serving personnel. It not only aids physical recovery but helps enormously with mental health problems."
A campaign launched by The Northern Echo’s and entitled £100,000 For Our Heroes – a First World War Centenary aims to assist Help for Heroes and Phoenix House create a performing arts facility to enhance the wide variety of support already on offer to wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, veterans and their families.
Money raised through the campaign will be used for the provision of a stage, curtains, lighting and sound equipment, as well as other items that will enable Help for Heroes to offer support through creative arts.
To support the appeal visit www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/campaigns/helpforheroes/donate.
Anyone who served in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force who needs the support of Phoenix House can self-refer by calling 01748-834148.