Ciara & Ben Zissman
Ciara Zissman’s husband Ben was a member of the Territorial Army when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. When the vehicle Ben was travelling in was hit by a roadside blast, he was left paralysed from the waist down.
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"Ben went out to Afghanistan in March 2010 and he came home on R&R in the July," recalls Ciara. "When he went back he only had another six to eight weeks left. The day he was injured I was still on my summer break from university and I was at his cousin’s wedding with all of his family. His mum suddenly noticed she had all these missed calls on her phone.
"None of us even clicked that it could be about Ben because he was coming home in three weeks and we’d only just seen him. At least we were all together when we found out.”
Ben had sustained serious internal injuries, fractures and a spinal cord injury that left him paralysed from the waist down.
He was in an induced coma for six weeks at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It was at least a month before they found out the severity of the spinal cord injury or could rule out a brain injury. When Ben did come round he had memory loss.
Ben was initially transferred to a specialist spinal unit and later to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court where he spent several months. Ciara was able to stay at SSAFA’s nearby Norton House while he was there.
"Ben was able to come and stay in Norton House with us, which was great because he could use all the facilities and get used to being in a house again," explains Ciara. "It gave us a glimpse of how he would cope in the future. It was a real insight into all the little things around the house that you don’t realise you will need.”
Ben and Ciara, who met at school and got married in 2014, are now settled in Derbyshire - where they have also been supported by SSAFA volunteers.
“SSAFA has been fantastic in helping Ben, not just with financial contributions towards medical and sporting equipment but also emotional support over the phone and visits to our home," says Ciara. "Everyone I have met from SSAFA has gone out of their way to ensure they have done everything they can to make myself and Ben's life a little bit easier - for which we are very grateful.”
In April 2017 Ciara ran the London Marathon to raise funds for SSAFA.
“If anything is going to make me finish a marathon it will be running for a charity that has genuinely helped us!" laughs Ciara. "It was one of the hardest things I have ever done but such a good experience and the atmosphere on the day was amazing.”