Former Para one of a couragous band of veterans and soldiers to take part in Help for Heroes centre fashion show (From The Northern Echo)
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Former Para one of a couragous band of veterans and soldiers to take part in Help for Heroes centre fashion show
FORMER para Dean Middleton was one of a courageous band of former servicemen and women to take to the catwalk tonight - their way of thanking those who have helped speed their recovery.
Many of those involved in the fundraising fashion show had suffered life-threatening or life-changing injuries, both physically and mentally.
The event was held at the Royal British Legion and MoD-funded Help for Heroes Phoenix House at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, which helps injured or traumatised soldiers piece their lives back together.
As well as 17 professional models, 13 were serving armed forces personnel and veterans who use the unique recovery centre, including the 28-year-old from Seaham, County Durham.
The former corporal in 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment believed he would be a soldier for life and had ambitions of joining the SAS. In the end, he defied the odds simply to survive.
Mr Middleton was posted to Afghanistan in 2010 and had already completed four months of the tour when his life changed forever on December 21, 2010.
He was riding top cover with his head outside the patrol vehicle when it hit a roadside improvised explosive device.
“I was sent flying hundreds of feet into the air and on landing my helmet shattered and my skull was fractured,” he said.
His colleague sitting directly behind him was killed instantly.
"I've been told I have post traumatic amnesia - I do have memories of the three months leading up to the incident but then nothing until I woke up in hospital.”
He was evacuated back to the UK and on Boxing Day underwent surgery to remove parts of his skull that were causing his brain to swell.
He remained in a coma for a further four months and doctors advised his family to prepare for the fact he may not survive, or if he did, that he could be paralysed.
"It was terrible for my parents, especially at Christmas. It was probably worse for them than it was for me because I didn't know anything about it."
Mr Middleton’s mum Marie said she feared his brain injuries would be irreparable but remained by his side throughout his time in hospital.
She said: “We didn’t know what he would be like when he woke up and at first he didn’t know me and just stared straight past me.
“But one day his brother made some remark at him they used to say to each other and he smiled – that’s when we knew he was there.”
Amazingly, he woke up without severe damage and attended Headley Court rehabilitation centre in Surrey for six months.
However, afterwards his wound became infected.
"I went for a scan and doctors found part of my skull that had been replaced in initial surgery was infected - it had to be removed but because I was not deemed to be a priority I had to wait another seven months before a titanium plate could be fitted."
This left him with excruciating headaches because of the pressure on his brain - but a year on from the surgery, Mr Middleton says he feels great.
"I feel tip-top, I have always been fit as I was a physical training instructor in the Paras and now I feel back to full fitness.
"I am gutted not to be in the Army any more because it was something I wanted to do for life but am now looking at a career in personal training or as a retained fire-fighter.
"I'm so grateful to Phoenix House for helping me get through this."
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