Stuart McLelland

Fourth week of training

Intensive training weekend
I joined the 17/21st Lancers driving Challenger tanks when I was 17. All I’d known was the military – my Dad was in the RAF and I was looking for a job that would be exciting and take me places. I served seven years in total, volunteered to fight with the Desert Rats in the first Gulf War in 1990/91, cycled with a group of seven of us from Munster to Istanbul over the course of a week and competed in the biathlon for my regiment. It was a blast, and although I left physically uninjured, I mentally struggled with my fair share of PTSD.

Then, just when I thought life was going well – I had my own business as a sparky and a gorgeous wife and kid – I got hit head on by a biker who was overtaking a bus on a blind bend. My beaut of a Ducati got trashed and I lost my right leg above the knee and most of the use of my right arm. Game over.

Blesma have been a life saver since the accident. Two weeks after I joined them they chucked me out a plane on a tandem skydive. I’ve skied, gone horseback riding in Arizona and met some of the bravest blokes and lasses whose injuries make mine look like a paper cut and they can still joke and laugh about life. There’s nothing like military grit to get you through tough times, and every one of the veterans I’ve met has gone out their way to help and encourage each other.

When Blesma invited me to take part in a theatre production with Graeae I thought ‘Why not?’ and here I am, definitely sounds like it could be a great experience. When I first got to the training intensive last weekend, I was dubious about what I could achieve. I’d had a tough session the week before at Sheffield and was struggling to know how much I could do. Learning to get on and off a trapeze and hoop with just the one arm and leg was incredibly difficult, even just getting from a seated to standing position. All the instructors have been so patient with me and to be fair, I’d only had two training sessions so far! So this weekend, being around so many amazing veterans with the instructors all working together has made all the difference and suddenly it has all started to come together. Over the course of the two days I’ve learnt to get on and off different apparatus and I’ve achieved more than I expected. I got the hang of five different poses on the hoop and I’ve got some awesome bruises to show for it. I’m raring to get back to Sheffield with some inspiration so I can work with Jess, Debs and Emily to really start making some progress. I don’t want to let them down when they’re all putting so much had work into training us.

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