A DISABLED war veteran who was injured during an explosion is celebrating getting his freedom back thanks to the help of specially designed car.
Christopher Hornblower, 35, of Sherburn, has been given a car tailored to his needs from Atkins Motors, Swinton, under the War Pension’s Motability Scheme (WPMS) which allows people to loan a brand new car by exchanging their Government funded mobility allowance or war pension.
Christopher, who served in the 1st Battalion of the PRINCESS OF WALES’S ROYAL REGIMENT (PWRR) until he was medically discharged in 2004, was left needing the use of a wheelchair as a result of an explosion whilst he was serving abroad.
Due to the Official Secrets Act he is unable to say where he was serving when the incident happened.
He was left with extensive injuries including twisted knee caps, severed tendons and a dislocated right knee. He was also left with no feeling in most of his right leg as the result of a dead Iliotibial band (ITB) and also has Lumbar Disc Disease, a degenerative spine condition which is constantly sending his back in to spasm. He now takes 168 tablets a week and wears a morphine patch to control the pain.
Following the incident he was due to undergo a routine operation involving keyhole surgery to correct his injuries but a mistake made by the surgeon left his dreams of a future career in the army shattered.
He said: “I am angry about it still, it is very emotional. Had that mistake not happened I would have been serving in Iraq and maybe even Afghanistan alongside my brothers.”
After years of fighting to get help Christopher, who lives with his fiancée Tara Robinson, 23, and his two-year-old stepson Lucas, says that the new car has given him his life back.
"It has given me my freedom back. The car is absolutely out of this world and it has honestly given me my life back," he said.
"I can now take myself to hospital appointments and get my wheelchair in and out with no problems at all and still fit me big weekly shop in."
Under the WPMS, which was set up in 1978, the car is adapted to suit the drivers needs, and is insured, covered for breakdown assistance as well as servicing, maintenance and repairs.
But for Christopher, getting his freedom back has taken over 10 years and he is still battling with his own demons since being medically discharged from the forces.
He said: "The hardest thing is to ask for help because you have to accept that your body is no longer capable. People need to know that this scheme is available because I received virtually no help since leaving the forces.
"I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which a lot of NHS doctors don't believe in. It's a killer because it destroys your soul. I have lost a lot of friends to it and in 2011 I actually tried to commit suicide.
"I get constant nightmares, flashbacks, shakes and I lash out in my sleep. You just feel as though you're in a constant battle zone."
Christopher can remember the exact time his army career ended following his operation; Sunday, September 5 2004 at 23.59.59.
Since then he has been placed in a house deemed unsuitable for his needs, but with the help of Ryedale District Councillor John Raper and MP for Thirsk, Malton and Filey Anne McIntosh, he will soon be moving in to a new home in York which will be adapted for his needs.
He said: "John Raper has been fantastic will all of the help he has offered me. I am so grateful. The City of York Council has gone out of their way to make sure the new house meets my needs. They are a floor lift in and knocking down a wall so that they can make a massive wet room."
Coun Raper, who is ex-forces as well, said that it had been a long battle but he was thrilled that Christopher was finally getting the help he deserves.
He said: "He should never have been places in that house because of his disability so we have been working hard to resolve that. We have been asking people to do what they can to help him and just stirring the pot to make sure that people do what they should have been doing in the first place.
"A lot of people do not know that they are entitled to these schemes. Christopher didn't know that he was entitled to an occupational therapist and now he has one who has been absolutely fantastic."
Christopher advised contacting the national armed forces charity SSAFA as the first point of call. To contact SSAFA phone 0845 241 7141 or 02074038783 or visit www.ssafa.org.uk
For more information about the War Pension’s Motability Scheme visit www.motability.co.uk.