Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A man worth listening to.

MEDICAL science can do wonderful things.

If you've been blown to pieces in Afghanistan it can put you back together. If you've been run over by a car it can rebuild your bones. If you've been shot it can remove the bullet, repair the torn flesh, and put the blood back in your body.

I have spoken to and known many people who without the benefits of modern lifesaving techniques would never have survived to sit down and tell me about it. They are people who, had it happened 100, 50 or even 20 years ago, would have died on the spot and who are fully aware that every minute of life they have after that point is a rare bit of luck.

All of them, regardless of their different stories, said pretty much the same thing. Firstly that they think it might have been bad luck they survived, secondly that the physical injuries were comparatively easy to deal with, and thirdly that the most difficult problem they had to overcome was in their own minds.

When your body is hurt other people flock to help; when the psyche has yet to heal you are pretty much on your own.

It doesn't matter whether you're a soldier, a civilian, a victim of crime or anyone else, because a broken leg can be seen, and fixed, while a broken mind can easily go unnoticed. And even if we spot it, it's too complicated or difficult for us to make much effort to repair.

When Raoul Moat shot him twice in the face almost two years ago, for no particular reason other than that he was upset with his girlfriend, Pc David Rathband was left with 200 shotgun pellets in his head. He lost an eye and the other was seriously damaged, and endured repeated surgery to remove as many of the pellets as possible.


He lived. But he lost his job and his sight, his home life came under intense pressure and his marriage broke down. One or two of those things he may have been able to cope with, but together they seem to have combined to the point where he found life unbearable. He was found dead at his home in Northumberland this morning, in what his former colleagues are now investigating as a suicide.

There are plenty of people who'll inflict their opinions on us about who or what is to blame. But it strikes me that the best person to say what caused such a sad event - beyond the steroid-addled gunman whose actions are still having tragic effects long after he in turn shot himself - is Pc Rathband himself.

Last year he told the BBC: "I'm struggling to deal with being blind. I can deal with being shot, it has happened, I can't change that... I have spoken to quite a few people over the last few months and everybody tells me that I have got 10 years before you realise you can deal with being blind. At the moment I can't even see the next 12 months. But I am taking each day as it comes. I am trying my best and it is tough."

He was a man worth listening to, because he not only realised the major hurdle he faced was the psychological legacy of his injury but sought to help others and point out that, once the doctors are gone, the pain remains.

He set up a charity called The Blue Lamp Foundation to give financial support to those in the police, fire and ambulance services criminally injured in the line of duty, because most often they find themselves losing their jobs as well as some of their abilities. He wanted to raise £1million in its first three years, to help the people who cannot help us any more.

It strikes me that's a far better legacy for the experience of Pc David Rathband than the struggle which eventually overwhelmed him.

You can donate here.