Former Royal Marine Andy Grant was critically injured in an IED explosion. When he woke from a coma, the first thing he did was ask about his father. Knowing he was supported by SSAFA helped his recovery.
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Andy’s story doesn’t start when his best mate set off a tripwire that blew them both up. It doesn’t start on the surgeon’s table as medics fought to save his life as his blood pumped through his severed femoral artery, and it doesn’t start with the realisation that his career as a marine was over. It starts with thedecision to amputate his leg.
For the super-fit 27-year-old, it felt like his whole life had been leading up to that choice: a decision between the natural instinct to keep his limb or to choose amputation in the hopeof a better quality of life. But Andy says the decision could not have been made without SSAFA supporting his family during his recovery. “I was in a coma for two weeks and when I woke up I was asking about my dad and my sisters and my dad told me, ‘SSAFA is looking after me, you don’t need to worry.’ So it was immediate – they were looking after him while I was in the coma, from the second I landed.”
It says a lot about Andy that when he woke from a two-week coma, his first thought was to ask after his father, despite having two badly broken legs, a broken elbow and shrapnel wounds that had shredded his body. Andy’s mother had died when he was 12 and his father, a firefighter in Liverpool, had raised him and his two younger sisters. Andy said his father did an incredible job and finds it hard to imagine how he must have felt learning his son had been injured in Afghanistan. But what Andy does know is that while he was in that coma and his body was gradually put back together by surgeons at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, his father was not alone. SSAFA was helping him every day – finding accommodation, explaining what was happening and just being there to answer any questions.
Andy says: “SSAFA took care of his needs, simple as that. I was trying to recover and get my head round it and I didn’t have to worry about my dad. I knew he wasn’t just stuck in a hotel room on his own. He was with other families who were going through similar things, and he didn’t have to worry about costs or things like that.” Today, Andy radiates health and purpose, and his drive is infectious. He wonders how different life could have been without SSAFA there to support his father. “I have a very positive outlook on things and I guess that is down to the positive start to my recovery,” he explains. “Without SSAFA I might have turned out very differently, been angry about being injured, but because of this amazing charity I’ve got a good feeling about life.”
Andy had not always dreamt of becoming a marine but found himself drifting through A-levels and contemplating university when he saw an advert for the marines that read “99.9 per cent need not apply”. His natural competitive instinct took over and he signed up at 17. At 18, Andy had secured the coveted green beret and within the next two years he undertook tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009 he was based at FOB Inkerman, nicknamed FOB Incoming because of the number of rockets and grenades launched at the base. That was when his path in life changed – at 5.30am in the pitch black.
Andy is now on an exciting new path. Two years after the explosion, he had almost completely recovered but his leg was so badly damaged that he could not even feel it, let alone have the active lifestyle he craved.
The decision to amputate his right leg below the knee was not easy. It was further complicated by surgeons disagreeing on the best course but Andy knew he had to take action. The surgery was carried out in November 2010 and he wore his prosthetic limb for the first time at Christmas. He was walking and running by summer 2011.
Andy knows that he made the right decision. He has travelled the world, climbed the highest mountains in South America and Italy, competed in triathlons and has two stepchildren, Payton, 10 and Brooke, eight, and a daughter, Alba, aged 18 months. And in July 2016, he even broke the world record for a below-the-knee amputee completing a 10k, smashing the previously held record by a whopping 36 seconds!
Andy is now much in demand as a motivational speaker for corporations, charities, schools and Premier League football teams. “I’m trying to inspire people to take on new challenges and get outside their comfort zones. I like to say 10 per cent of your life is about the situation you’re in and 90 per cent is about what you do about it. Anything is possible. It’s not about being blown up, it’s about, ‘My name’s Andy and since losing my leg this is what I have achieved with the right mindset.’”