RSL DefenceCare’s client, Andy, spent just under 10 years in Australia’s Defence Force. His story of injury and recovery is compelling. Here is Andy’s story in his own words.
“At the age of 17 I decided I wanted to join the Australian Defence Force as a soldier with the Army.
“At the time many ads were on TV. It looked like a fantastic opportunity to learn and experience things the average Joe wouldn’t get to do in a lifetime!
“So in March 1987 I was shipped to Kapooka for basic training. To say this was an eye opener was an understatement! Yes the training was very hard but it was also very rewarding and these newly learned skills would inevitably set me up for life.
“Once at my first posting later that year (35 Water Transport Sqn – Woolwich, NSW) I quickly got into the groove of military life. “Mid 1988 things went pear shaped. I was involved in a serious accident whist in the line of duty that would change my physical condition for the rest of my life.
“I was a competitive race car driver in my spare time racing Karts, Speedway and Touring Cars. My post military career was being planned by a Bathurst winning team owner.
“After my accident and extremely long rehab I was given the bad news by my medical advisers that I would never be able to race again.
“This was later determined to be the start of my depression. Having no other options I decided to continue with the Army on advice from my Commanding Officer. As expected I was medically downgraded and retrained in a new role of Movements - posted back to Kapooka then Canberra and my final posting was at Victoria Barracks in Sydney.
“Discharged in 1995, I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD and accident related injuries that had severely worsened.
“By 2000 I was wheelchair bound and looking for medical solutions.
“I had a chance meeting with spinal surgeon Dr Andrew Kam. He said he could improve my quality of life. In 2003 he operated on me and within seven days walked out of the hospital.
“Although I was walking my PTSD was spiralling out of control. I wasn’t receiving any treatment and didn’t know where to even look for help.
“My local sub-Branch helped me receive some initial treatment and eventually got in contact with RSL DefenceCare.
“Since then the support has been fantastic. My RSL DefenceCare Counsellor Peter has effectively saved my life. I had two young children in my care but couldn't even look after myself. The tools my Counsellor gave me made me a better parent and a better person.
“In my early years as a soldier I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences gained as a young man. I created some great friendships and got to see the world. Unfortunately many of my mates have fallen victim to the “hidden war” called PTSD and have taken their own lives”