Tracy Worsnop’s Army career came to premature end when she suffered a sudden ruptured aorta followed by a stroke which left her paralysed down her left side. The Royal Logistics Corps driver had joined the Army at the age of 20 and served 18 years – before the sudden decline in her health meant she could no longer do the job she loved.
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Since then, Tracey, originally from Leeds, has fought her way back to physical fitness. She has been supported through her transition to civilian life by SSAFA volunteer mentor Lesley.
Tracy was initially taken ill in November 2015 when she was based in Germany. She said: “I hadn’t been feeling ill but I then got all these really bad pains. I couldn’t do anything, so I was advised to call an ambulance.”
Doctors found that Tracy, now 38, had a ruptured aorta and she was rushed to a specialist hospital where she underwent major heart surgery. Although the surgery went well, two weeks later Tracy also had two seizures and a stroke.
She said: “When I had the stroke I was completely paralysed down my left side and I couldn’t walk so I was in a wheelchair initially. Because I had been in the Army for so long I was pretty independent, so I struggled with my parents seeing me like that.”
During her resettlement package that Tracy heard about the SSAFA mentoring scheme for service leavers. She asked her Personnel Recovery Officer to contact SSAFA and ask if she could have a mentor to support her through transition.
Tracy has been meeting SSAFA mentor Lesley once a week since January 2018. Tracy explained: “We have got a really good relationship, but we have built that. It’s important to have that trust between mentor and mentee. She has been helpful in so many ways. When we first started meeting I just didn’t have a positive mental attitude. I was feeling a bit lost and isolated. Lesley has helped me to find courses and when I’m feeling down.”
Tracy is now doing circuits three times a week and running regularly. Earlier this year she completed a course in supported learning and school sports which will enable her to work with young people in the future. She is also completing a fitness training course online and has recently started helping out at Dorset Rugby Football Club.
“Lesley’s support has meant now I get up and make myself do something every day even if it’s just something small. It helps to put me in the right frame of mind and motivates me. Now I feel a lot more confident in myself whereas before I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t believe I could do this or that."
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Do you need help or support with mental health issues or the transition to civilian life? Contact Forcesline, SSAFA's free and confidential helpline.