Naomi had a distinguished 16-year career in the military as a Senior Aircraftwoman, but her experiences in Afghanistan, coupled with a life-threatening car crash, saw her turn to us for help and support as she adjusted to life on civvy street.
Naomi joined the Royal Air Forces 20 years ago in September 1999 and worked as a Senior Aircraft woman in logistics.
“I joined initially as a bit of a stop gap. I didn't know what to do. I knew University wasn't really an option and I didn't really like my town where I lived,” Naomi explained.
“So, I thought I’d join the military, work it out, get a bit of life experience and then go from there. It was only meant to be temporary.
16 years later I was still there.
In 2011 Naomi was deployed to Afghanistan.
“The actual experience of being in Afghanistan was perfectly fine. It was exactly what I expected it to be,” Naomi says.
“To be honest, I loved it out there, but immediately after I returned home, a colleague was shot in the face and killed whilst doing his job, and that affected me deeply.
“He had a nine-week-old baby daughter, and, as a young mother myself, it shook me. I was left feeling guilty about coming home in one piece.”
Following the loss of another close friend and a severe bout of glandular fever, Naomi’s depression worsened, and she was put on sick leave by the RAF for 17 months and never went back to work.
“I was medically discharged in October 2015 but having joined the Air Force at 17, I knew nothing else, because I had been in service for more than half my life,” Naomi says.
“But I knew, for my own sanity, I needed to get away from the Chinooks and the Lynx and the firing range, so I left.”
Naomi had a relatively seamless transition into civilian life and managed to secure a job five days before her formal exit from the military.
During her rehabilitation, Naomi was put in touch with RBL and completed two courses at the our Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall and went on a rafting trip to the USA.
“That for me was the turning point,” Naomi says. “It was phenomenal... it was pivotal to my recovery it really was.”
She was also provided with two of our short-term breaks, in order to take her daughter on holiday for the first time.
All was going well until Naomi was involved in a horrific car accident on her way to work in January 2017, which left her in an induced coma for a fortnight. When she came round, she couldn’t remember who she was.
She suffered a broken arm and leg, fractured two vertebrae and two ribs, and punctured a lung. The seat belt saved her life, but it cut into her neck, severing an artery. She was taken to Liverpool’s Aintree Hospital by the North West Air Ambulance, whose speedy action she credits for saving her life.
After ten weeks in hospital Naomi returned home in a wheelchair, and fought back, learning how to walk and talk again.
“Every mental difficulty I'd had leading up to that point felt like it just dropped out of my head... and I had multiple physical obstacles to overcome which I hadn't had before,” she says.
“And then I was asked directly by the Battle Back Centre if I would consider going on the same rafting trip to the USA.
“I had a great time and mentally I was all good but physically I struggled. It was brilliant that these avenues were open to me, not just as a veteran but the fact that my needs had shifted so dramatically.”
Following her accident Naomi was advised that there were ten things that she could either never do or should not try for at least three years.
“Recently I ticked off my tenth of the ten that I've done already.
They told me I'd never ski again, and I finally went skiing in March this year.
“They said I'd never run again, and I ran a marathon in April,” she explained.
“The furthest I'd ever run before the accident was a 10k.”
Naomi now has her sights set on her next challenge to climb Kilimanjaro almost three years after her accident.
“RBL supported me through mental health issues in the military, during transition to civvy street and then supported me after my accident, to help me through physically challenging periods, they have been incredible.”
“Had the Royal British Legion not helped me out when they did, I generally don't think I’d have had an accident to recover from because I think things would have gone so badly wrong that there was nowhere to go.”
Physical and mental wellbeing
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