Don’t give up. I nearly did. If I can come through all that and have a great life, it’s possible for anyone else.
Dave Lewan is a walking advert for Blesma. Quite literally! On his 50th birthday, he got the Association’s logo tattooed on his arm as a show of thanks and support for everything the charity has done for him. “I had it done because Blesma saved my life,” says the former Grenadier Guard from Nottingham. “If it wasn’t for the people at Blesma, I wouldn’t be here today, it’s just as simple as that. I wanted to show how much they mean to me. As far as I am concerned, Blesma is for life. And the other Members seem to quite like the ink, too!”
Dave lost his right leg in an accident in 2003, before developing a highly painful neurological condition.
“I was on holiday in Gran Canaria when I fell off a balcony. The bone shot right out of my leg. It was bad, but what happened next made it so much worse. The hospital botched the operation. I was kept in for 35 days before being repatriated, but they didn’t get the infection out. After five operations back in England to try to save my leg, I was told it would have to be amputated.”
Things would get much worse still for Dave. A couple of years after the amputation, he was diagnosed with the rare neurological condition Dystonia Torticollis that causes the neck muscles to contract involuntarily.
“The trauma of losing my leg had brought it on,” he says. “The pain was incredible. Losing my leg was bad, the Phantom Limb Pain was bad, but this was on another level. My head was tilted over at 90° and I had to move my whole body to turn around. I tried about 30 different kinds of medication; acupuncture, Botox, nerve block... but there was no relief. I was drinking heavily, getting more depressed, and eventually I couldn’t take any more.” Dave made numerous attempts on his life. “I tried to gas myself,” he says, “I jumped in the local canal and was pulled out, I took overdoses, I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act... I think the early attempts were a cry for help, but in 2009 I plunged a six-inch knife into my heart. I really wanted to die.”
It was at this point that a Blesma Support Officer got involved and began to guide Dave away from the brink.
“I met my BSO at the Limb Centre and since then, the Association has been so special – nothing has ever been too much bother. They have been supportive throughout my darkest days and have never given up on me, even after I had given up on myself. My BSO was like a father figure. He came to the doctor with me, he really cared. When others stigmatised me as an alcoholic ex-squaddie, he saw something in me and was at the hospital so quickly after my final suicide attempt.”
With Blesma’s help, Dave turned a corner. The Association pushed for a new form of treatment, Deep Brain Stimulation, and that helped with Dave’s pain almost immediately. He stopped drinking, lost weight, and started work, running his own courier business.
“I also met my partner, Marion, at a Blesma fishing match in Lincolnshire,” he laughs. “She was working in the hotel we were staying in. Life has got better and better, and Blesma has helped with that in so many ways. The charity is a vital support mechanism for so many people. There is always someone you can talk to, and if they can’t help directly, they’ll find someone who can.
“Blesma assists with practical things like prosthetics and benefits, but it also helps with your self-esteem. I’ve taken part in loads of the Association’s activities, for example. I’ve been skiing in Colorado, taken part in Activities Weeks at Blackpool. I can’t thank Blesma enough!
Don’t give up. I nearly did. If I can come through all that and have great life, its possible for anyone else to.”