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Partially paralysed RAF veteran from Downham Market wants to help others in the same position

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A former Aircraft Engineer in the RAF is one of a team of six wounded veterans that use cycling to help overcome a variety of mental and physical health challenges ranging from PTSD and to chronic illness in veterans.

David Rose 51, from Downham, has signed up to take part in Help for Heroes’ new cycling fundraiser the Heroes Ride 200.

The fundraiser asks participants to ride 200 miles, individually or cumulatively as a team, anywhere, and on any bike, between June 1 and June 30.

David Rose, 51 of Downham is an injured veteran hoping to make a difference (47329801)
David Rose, 51 of Downham is an injured veteran hoping to make a difference (47329801)

Along with five other veterans, he has created a veterans’ team called the ‘Heroes Team’, who have signed up together for mutual support and motivation.

They also aim to highlight the positive impact of cycling on physical and mental wellbeing, while promoting the inclusivity of Heroes Ride 200 as a cycling event. He will be cycling 200 miles on a recumbent trike.

During his 31 years of service in the RAF, Mr Rose experienced a number of injuries which have left him with his right arm and hand partially paralysed due to nerve damage in his shoulder. It has left him with a very limited range of movement.

David before his injury in 1995 (47329841)
David before his injury in 1995 (47329841)

To help with his injuries he has had a Spinal Cord Stimulator fitted and wears an orthosis (brace) 24 hours a day for support and a sling during active sports. In addition he requires strong medication to deal with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Injury slowly took away his ability to do the adventurous and sporting activities he loved and this, along with seeing his career slip away, left him in a dark place. However, through events put on by Help for Heroes and other military charities he was able to discover what sports he could do with adaptation, become part of a team again and regain belief in himself. He has gone on to compete in triathlons, take part in the 2018 Warrior Games and many extreme challenges, such as 50 mile hike across the Lake District Hills in under 24 hours.

David Rose, 51 of Downham is an injured veteran hoping to make a difference (47329836)
David Rose, 51 of Downham is an injured veteran hoping to make a difference (47329836)

He first started riding a recumbent trike when he was given the opportunity to try one out as part of a recovery course he went on when he was struggling to come to terms with his injuries. His physiotherapist agreed that cycling would be a good activity for him to take on and he managed to get funding for the trike he rides today. He has found cycling on his trike massively beneficial for his mental health and has even helped Help for Heroes design a special Recumbent Cycling Jersey.

200 miles can be a huge individual challenge for many veterans who have been injured or become ill as a result of their time in the Armed Forces. This is why Heroes Ride 200 is encouraging teams as well as individuals to sign up so that, even if someone only feels able to cycle five miles, they are still contributing and making a difference to the team total.

Mr Rose says, “When I got on a trike it was one of the first things I found I could do without too much pain. It gave me the same buzz as upright cycling and re-introduced an amount of risk that I could control. Once I got my own trike it didn’t take long to get the hang of it and now you can’t stop me. For anyone who thinks that cycling 200 miles in Heroes Ride is too much for them, I would say just give it a go. Because you can sign up as either an individual or as part of a team of mates means you can decide how much of a challenge you want to make it. The joy of being part of the Heroes Team is that there will undoubtedly be some friendly competition that will spur me on, but I know everyone is there for me if I need them.”

Hannah Lawton, Sports Recovery Manager at Help for Heroes, adds, “Cycling is a great sport for anyone. The Heroes Team embody the amazing spirit of our cycling veterans and, as their assortment of hand bikes, recumbent trikes and upright bikes show, there is a bike to suit pretty much any impairment, making cycling one of the most adaptive sports there is. This is what has made cycling a core activity in the recovery of many of our veterans.

“With Heroes Ride 200 we hope to encourage many others to join us, whatever their skill or fitness level, and experience all the mental and physical health benefits of being on two wheels. All whilst raising vital funds for wounded and sick veterans.”

97 per cent of Help for Heroes’ income comes from the great British public, but it experienced a 65 per cent loss to its income from events in 2020 due to the pandemic. At the same time, demand for the charity’s services is going up. During the first lockdown, there was a 33per cent increase in those coming forward for mental health support.

To sign up to Heroes Ride 200 visit https://heroesride.helpforheroes.org.uk/.

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