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"What the Invictus Games mean to me"

Today the UK team of 90 wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women fly out to Toronto for the Invictus Games. In this guest blog, former Gunner Michael Mellon explains how sport helped turn his life around when an accident left him with life-changing injuries.

I was just 17 when I joined the RAF in 1997 following my father, sister and brother into military service.

In 2001, while playing in a RAF rugby match, I fractured my tibia and fibula bones which resulted in compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is a painful and potentially serious condition caused by bleeding or swelling within an enclosed bundle of muscles.

I was subsequently downgraded in my role as a RAF Regiment Gunner which meant I was unable to deploy overseas.

Former Gunner Michael Mellon

In the Regiment you become extremely close to your co-workers, you are a family and so I really struggled watching them all leave for Afghan while I was left behind. I kept thinking to myself, 'I wish I was going with them.'

In 2005 I was medically discharged from the RAF and decided to relocate to my wife's hometown of Fife, to start a family. Facing the daunting prospect of transitioning to civilian life, I became depressed and was unable to leave the house.

At my worst I was 20 stone and pretty much housebound. I was out of a job, my wife was now the breadwinner and it started to affect our marriage.

On top of everything, I was really struggling with the pain from my leg injury and I lost all of my confidence.

In December 2013, due to my on-going health issues I took the difficult decision to have my leg amputated.

I was facing a long recovery, but things began to improve when I was reintroduced to sport. Before my injury I was a keen sportsman, but now I was facing life as an amputee and a wheelchair user.

That's when the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund stepped in and supported me with funding towards a specialised wheelchair, enabling me to compete in various wheelchair sports.

The wheelchair made such a difference and helped me massively during my rehabilitation, I am very thankful to the Fund for their support.

When I first had the operation, I regretted it, the pain was still unbearable. But as time went on the pain subsided and now it's minimal.

Having the operation has enabled me to get back into sport. Being a Gunner, I was really into my fitness and so when that was taken away, it was difficult.

I joined a local athletics club Pitreavie AAC and later applied for the Invictus Games. When I found out I had made the team I was chuffed! I feel a lot more positive about things now.

Meeting people who have similar stories to mine is great. Before I was selected for Invictus, the only other amputee I'd spoken to was my granddad, who lost his leg due to ill health. Now suddenly I'm speaking to other people in their 20s and 30s who have similar injuries.

It feels like I'm back in the RAF again. My confidence has grown so much and I feel like I'm starting to enjoy life again. I'll be taking part in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot-put which I'm really looking forward to. I'm already thinking about the 2018 Games!

Joining Michael in Toronto will be his three kids, Ryan, 12, Eve, 10 and Sarah six, along with his wife and parents.

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