Jamie Hull's story - Special Forces veteran
The horrific third-degree burns that Jamie Hull suffered over 63 per cent of his body in an aircraft fire almost cost him his life. The doctors gave him a five per cent chance of survival and, as he admits, it took an “epic journey and an inordinate amount of grit, determination, and willpower” to pull through.
After his recovery, he almost lost his passion for diving, too. “I first tried it as a backpacker in my early twenties, and I got bitten badly by the bug!” says Jamie, who ended up making a living from the sport in some of the most beautiful reefs and oceans across the world.
“I started with the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open water course, then did more and more. I travelled around Australia, worked for a couple of dive companies in Cairns and became a dive master, guiding and supervising students. I was super-hooked and travelled all over to dive; New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, America...
“Later, when I joined the Thames Valley Police and had a more conventional career, I often thought about diving and dreamed of getting back into the industry. I eventually took a sabbatical, qualified as a PADI instructor,and worked in Egypt and the Philippines.”
But after his injury, British Army veteran Jamie “completely lost the confidence to get into the water. My mojo was gone, but I knew why. It takes a huge amount for fragile skin to recover from third- degree burns like mine.
I can’t emphasise enough how debilitating it is. And I was so, so worried what the corrosive salt water might do to me. So I just decided not to risk it.”
But five years on from the 2007 incident and 60 operations later, after being invited along on a dive by some old scuba buddies, Jamie decided to give it a go. “I was so worried”
“I thought my skin might come off with the wetsuit. Waiting to jump into the water was incredibly nerve-wracking. It took all my courage just to get the suit on and take that giant stride into the ocean. But I did it”
“It was a therapy in itself! The water was my friend again, and it helped my skin redevelop.” He’s now fully immersed – quite literally – back into that watery world and is aiming to qualify in 2019 as a PADI course director.
Armed Forces veteran Jamie is aware of the huge distance he has come since that fateful day back in the plane crash and solo flight.
“I had an ambition to learn to fly, so I went out to Florida to complete a course. I was eventually allowed to fly solo, but one day an engine fire breached the cockpit at an altitude of 1,000ft.
As I made a concerted effort to bring the plane down, I sustained the burns. I had two or three dark years after that and underwent 61 surgeries."
Jamie had 45 seconds to save his life, to fly a burning plane while the flames melted his flesh around him, and then climb onto the wing with the plane rapidly descending and leap to the ground - and to his probable death.
Jamie sustained horrific third-degree burns over 60 per cent of his body and was hospitalised with a 5% chance of survival. He spent six months in intensive care in the United States in an induced coma. As a result of his extreme burns and his life hanging in the balance, he endured renal failure, internal injuries, kidney dialysis, as well as pneumonia and septicaemia. Jamie was hospitalised for a further 18 months in the UK.
”Blesma played a big part in Jamie’s journey back into the water: a trip to the Red Sea with the Association helped reaffirm his love of diving, and he has since helped out on some of the Association’s diving trips.
“It’s nice to give something back. Blesma’s scuba diving programme really does have great scope because it’s an activity that is accessible to people with almost any form of disability. Once you’re underwater, you’re completely weightless, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve got limb loss because you can use the rest of your body to compensate.”
Jamie joined Blesma, not because of the burns to his body, but because of the nerve damage, he has suffered in the lower portion of both legs. Since joining our charity, Jamie has been skydiving and horse riding in Arizona, but the water remains his focus. He also took part in Race Across America.
He has now released a book titled "Life on a thread" and is now a motivational speaker