• Michelle Partington

Time to step up!

I haven’t written for a couple of days because I’ve been absolutely shattered. It was a tough day yesterday and it left me so very physically exhausted!! My day commenced with my first session of counselling. It wasn’t supposed to be so heavy seeing as it was the first assessment. I didn’t expect half of the questions he actually asked me. When I walked out of the session room I thought I’d been smacked in the face with a cricket bat, I felt numb!! I then had to go and sit in an opticians chair having my eyes checked and all the time all I could think about was my session that morning.

I had so much on yesterday and I hadn’t planned on a tricky session. I was completely zoned out on the bus back and I could have done with going home, closing the door and climbing into bed but I still had 2 appointments to go which I had been delaying. That’s the thing with the situation I currently find myself in. I’ll put things off until another day because I’m too tired, then I’ll put things off because I can’t concentrate. I’m continually putting things off until the deadline is looming to the point of no return. I guess everyone has their breaking point and I have so gone past mine.

I walked through the rest of the day in a daze. I attended a meeting to discuss plans for a charity event I am planning for later next year and then I attended a meeting at the hospice. Although the meetings were effective and I gained a sponsor for my event all I could think about was my session. It made me realise that niavely I had no real idea what it would be like out in Afghanistan. Don’t get me wrong I knew there would be injuries but since I joined up my tours have been working in med centres where no real interventions were required. I served in the Falklands and Bahrain but again had no significant clinical exposure and absolutely no exposure to trauma.

I couldn’t get my head around what I had to deal with in Afghanistan. I spent a tour in Khandahar with 63 Squadron RAF Regiment carrying out mobile and foot patrols but again never really saw trauma. It was only on MERT as a frontline paramedic where my world was turned upside down. As my first tour approached I wasn’t really worried about the actual role I would carry out because it was the first time I was carrying out the role. My main concern was my air sickness having been ill on previous training exercises on the Chinook. As my 2nd tour on MERT approached my fears where about air sickness, horrendous trauma and the risk of being shot at either mid air or whilst out on the ground. Or that I would stand on an IED whilst retrieving a casualty on an area unchecked by the ground callsign. I would count down every day, every shift and every 48hr groundhog days.

The one good thing about all my tours was the very good people I met out there. Your team mates are with you through the whole of the tour and share your good and bad days. I would never have gotten through my tours, especially the last one, without buddies like Anouska, Ian and Brian who kept me going. Also during your tour you are deployed with other friends who are working in and around you. It always seemed to be the same familiar faces you would see and I was so very pleased to see Li and Lucy out there with me. I look at my operational photos randomly and despite the difficultues I face we had some really good times and I do hold some good memories to hold on to. Sadly I cannot look at them all the time so won’t be putting any military pictures up in the house just yet. I have all my memorabilia from my 20 years of service hidden away in a box at the moment which is sad but it is the only way I can deal with things just now. My uniform is still in a box at RAF Cranwell and I’m just not ready to deal with it just yet. I am very proud of my career and what I’ve achieved, it’s been the best and worst job.

During the last couple of weeks I have made contact with 3 patients who I treated on MERT. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to do it but I decided to take the first step. I kept a journal of tours in my portfolio and it had a list of all severely injured. I saw their names on Battle Back or Hero Bear Facebook page so I plucked up the courage to just do it. It was great to hear back from them but I was humbled yet embarrassed by their kind words. I have this constant battle with myself about some of the casualtues we treated out there. Some of them where so severely injured, with life changing injuries and I was worried about how they would live through it. I felt guilty about pushing so hard to keep them alive knowing this was only the start of their troubles. Knowing not only would it affect the individual but also the lives of their significant others, children and extended family forever. I know of some soldiers who just wanted to commit suicide because they couldn’t bear to live like that, especially those young lads who sadly lost their genitalia. However, one of those who was so badly injured that I didn’t even think would survive at all is doing great and has a family of his own. Another 2 fine gents who lost limbs are also doing well and one day I hope to meet up with them and have a beer and a chat. One step at a time eh xx


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