Ice cold in AquaCity

HOW OUR HEROES OF AFGHANISTAN BECAME FIGHTING FIT AGAIN
INJURED British war heroes say a modern-day ‘miracle’ in the mountains is getting them fighting fit again. Some of them have arrived at AquaCity, a five star hotel at the heart of Europe, with battle field injuries so bad that they faced life on crutches or in a wheelchair. But within a week of arriving at the £200 million spa and pools complex at the foot of the High Tatras mountains their lives have been changed. Rifleman Timothy Hutchinson said yesterday: “I couldn’t stand up straight or hardly walk, it was so bad I couldn’t attend the parade ground. I was about to be kicked out – but after a week of treatment at AquaCity, I couldn’t ‘t believe it I could stand up straight and I could even run.” The story of how Timothy’s got his injuries is as bizarre as it is horrifying – a single friendly-fire bullet tore through him at least three times. “I thought I was going to die,” he said. He was leaving camp in Basra in the back of a newly refurbished ‘bomb-proof’ armoured vehicle when the accident happened. The Bulldog ‘battle bus’ was coming out of the controversial Shaibah Log Base – known as the desert Butlins because it has a Pizza Hut - on an early-morning patrol when a colleague in the front accidently set off a burst of M43 rifle fire. In a split second of terror the ‘friendly fire’ shots battered against the bulletproof sides of the cab. But the vehicle, part of a MoD £235 million safety upgrade, was so heavily armoured that the bullets ricocheted round the ten-man cab.

Timothy, a member of B Company, The First Battalion The Royal Green Jackets, said: “It was worse than being attacked by snipers – the bullets were flying everywhere and totally unpredictable.” His fellow squaddies watched in horror as bullet after bullet ripped into his body and legs. “It was agony, but I didn’t really know what was happening, just so much noise … these bullets weren’t whizzing past my ears, they were hitting me.” He spent months recuperating in Selly Oak, Birmingham, but despite enduring nine major operations he was destined to be kicked out of the army. Then Rfl Hutchinson, a member of B Company, The First Battalion The Royal Green Jackets took a chance on the ancient treatment of cryotherapy at the world’s greenest hotel on the Slovak and Polish border. Timothy, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and his wife, Lisa, aged 26, flew out to AquaCity after getting a call from the newly formed charity Holidays4Heroes. He said: “Out of the blue I got a call from Holidays4Heroes offering me and my wife a chance to get away from it all. We then heard about the treatments and how they have helped other people. “I’m being treated as disabled but these treatments really worked and it means I can stay in the army. I’m not bitter, it was an accident and you’ve just got to get on with it. The army teaches you to be tough and when something like this happens to you.” Another friendly fire victim says his army career has also been saved by ‘suspended animation’. Squaddie Josh Hill suffered disastrous back injuries when a quad bike rolled on him as he battled to save his mates after American troops bombed his unit in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Josh, aged 20, said: “We’d engaged with the Taliban in a mountain pass when a 500lb-er went off right in our faces. We realised it was friendly fire, an American bomb had dropped short.” ` Three of Josh’s friends in One Royal Anglians died in the incident in 2007 and three others were seriously injured. Josh, from Braintree, Essex, was helping the injured when the trailer rolled on him crushing him and he had to be stretchered to safety. “I’ve spent a year in rehab and things have just been getting worse, so much so I couldn’t go on parade or do any work. My career’s been on ice for a year.” Then Josh and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Phillippa Blackburn, were offered the chance of treatment. Josh said: “I can’t believe it. I used the cryochamber every day I was there and I felt a difference immediately. Before, I could hardly walk but now I can stand straight and I’m back to normal. “I’d been undergoing rehab at Pirbright and couldn’t work. The writing was on the wall for me. Then out of the blue the MoD offered me this holiday through Holidays4Heroes. We were amazed.” Cryotherapy is a method of freezing the body to 160 degrees used by leading sports people. Luton businessman Jan Telensky decided five years ago to introduce it to his hotel. Then there was massive battle to get it licensed. “Cryotherapy is used a lot now but it is an ancient remedy for so many things. We needed to find the right man to operate it at AquaCity and to convince the authorities. “I really hope we can help more people like this rebuild their lives. It doesn’t cost them anything to come out here, I think they deserve it as a thank you for laying their lives on the line for us. As long as there is a war on terrorism, then I will keep bringing people out here to recuperate.”

His 200 million pound hotel uses natural energy from a thermal lake two miles underground to heat and power its hotels, waterpark, spa, restaurant, bars, fitness and conference centres and has one of the lowest carbon footprint for a hotel of its size in the world. It has won dozens of green award since it opened in 2005. Major Terry Butterworth, who is organising the holidays, said: “It is incredible the difference the use of the facilities in Slovakia have made to these injured men, particularly the cryochamber. They could barely do two minutes exercise before going in there, but afterwards they were cycling for fifty minutes. “That is part of the criteria for sending servicemen out there, they must be able to benefit from the available treatments.” One of the first recipients of Holidays4Heroes, SAC Kenny Gibson, from Newcastle upon Tyne, said: “After serving for five years I was due to leave the Military on August last year, but I agreed to extend my time by three months to assist 51 Squadron on their tour of Afghanistan. Twenty days later I was driving back to camp when I hit a mine which blew our vehicle apart. “A young soldier in the back and our interpreter were in the back and were both killed. My other passenger had a broken neck and fractured skull. My spine was broken in two places, the blast smashed my pelvis and I broke six ribs, both kneecaps, my left ankle. My lungs only were barely functioning. “You are treated well by the forces when you are injured but you do tend to be forgotten about by the public, so to have your service recognised somebody offering the kind of holiday and health treatments you could never afford on squaddies pay is incredible.” LCpl Christopher O’Malley, also from Newcastle, the second recipient, was the star of television recruitment ads after joining The Green Howards in 2004. In March this year near the end of his tour his team was ambushed by the Taliban in Musa Q’aleh. A rocket propelled grenade hit his vehicle costing him his toes. LCpl O’Malley was flown to Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, where he spent six weeks. He said: “I can’t believe how much better I felt after the treatment. It’s good to know that somebody really cares.”