When an aerial collision left parachute instructor Corporal Rob Bugden with life-changing and career-ending injuries, the RAF Benevolent Fund were there at the very beginning and we’re still there now.
In January 2016, Rob, who was aged just 31 at the time, was involved in a parachute accident whilst on exercise in California.
After jumping, Rob remembers looking at his colleagues before he pulled his parachute cord and gave the ‘thumbs up’. The next thing he recalls is waking up in a hospital in California. Rob had broken several vertebrae in his neck and severely damaged his spinal cord. From the outset the Fund were there, initially, we gave his parents an immediate needs grant towards their costs of travel to the West Coast of the USA to visit Rob in hospital.
After Rob returned to the UK, and began his rehabilitation at Headley Court, the Fund helped towards a respite break, to give Rob some time away from hospital. As part of this, we paid for the hire of the specialist medical equipment he needed to be comfortable during his break.
Rob said: “While I was serving I knew the Fund was there and I supported it but I didn’t know the extent of everything it could do until I needed it.
“Trying to put what the Fund does for the RAF into words is really difficult. The Fund is incredible, whenever we need it, it is there and without it thousands of people would not be able to live their lives like they do. Without it, I would not be able to live independently.”
The Fund later stepped in again to help Rob with his housing needs. Rob had bought his own property in 2015 when he was fully able but it became completely unsuitable for his complex care needs as a tetraplegic.
Our Housing Trust began the search for a property in Wales, where Rob has a close network of friends and wanted to live, and found a suitable bungalow for him, which we purchased at a cost of £425,000 to the Fund. An additional £225,000 has been spent to make it his home for life. Rob moved into his new property in summer 2019.
Rob said: “I do not know what I would have done without the Fund. Before my accident I bought a flat, but now it’s not suitable for my needs. I didn’t have a clue where to go or what was going to happen.
“Everything in my new house was tailored to exactly what I wanted. I have ended up with an amazing house that is going to be home for a very very long time.
“Without the Fund, there is no way I would have been able to get everything I needed to live comfortably.