Annie Devine was just 24 when a debilitating condition left her paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. The former SAC Tech had always wanted to join the RAF – her mother was a Caterer in the RAF, her father a camera fitter and her grandfather, grandmother and uncle also served.
But her ambition to serve her country was cut short when in 2011 she was diagnosed with the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a connective-tissue disorder which has left Annie with no strength in her legs and weakened arms.
But with a little support from the RAF Benevolent Fund this gutsy young woman is retraining to be a lawyer and is looking forward to a whole new career.
"I never knew I had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – I just thought I was really bendy – that's one of the symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – you can bend your limbs every which way," says Annie, who was based at RAF Marham.
"I'd always wanted to be in the RAF and really wanted to go to Iraq and serve my country."
Annie's condition worsened and in 2012 she was medically discharged. Living on her own in Norfolk, more than 270 miles from her parents in Bridgend, she struggled to cope and eventually moved into a rented flat closer to them.
"It was a tough time for her," says mum, Chris. "She was struggling living alone – she'd often burn herself while cooking or fall over. It was difficult to sit back and see her struggle but she's always been incredibly independent."
The RAF Benevolent Fund has supported the family by turning Chris's garage into a bedroom and a wetroom for Annie. In the summer of 2014, Annie moved into an RAF Benevolent Fund housing trust property and now has a home where she is truly comfortable.
"The room at my parents' made such a difference to my life," says Annie. "For the first time in years I could stay over for Christmas and birthdays – because they don't have an accessible toilet or shower it was always difficult before.
"I was flabbergasted when my mum told me what the RAF Benevolent Fund was doing and I couldn't wait to move into my own home. I'm starting my life over again and really looking forward to the future."
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