An injured RAF veteran made an emotional return to the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester, Essex, the place he called home for almost a year while he prepared for his new life after being medically discharged, and this time around he brought his 6 month old son too.
Darren Kamara, 37, served seven years in the RAF. It was during a tour to Afghanistan in 2007 that the former Lance Corporal became injured. Darren had been Top Cover in the Weapons Mounted Installation Kit vehicle (WMIK) when it drove into a hole dug out for an IED. Luckily the explosion had not been planted but Darren was crushed between the machine gun and the WMIK. He suffered prolapsed discs in C4 & 5 and developed T4 syndrome, a spinal injury that causes symptoms such as diffuse arm pain, pins and needles and numbness in the upper arm.
At first it was thought he had whiplash and so Darren carried on - a typical response by service personnel. Five years later, however, while he was about to be promoted to Corporal, Darren suffered a relapse; his neck locked and he could not move. A scan finally revealed the full extent of the damage and Darren’s career in the Armed Forces was over.
He came to the Colchester Recovery Centre, Chavasse VC House in 2013 and went through a series of core recovery events run by the Defence Recovery Capability which supports injured service men and women as they transition to civilian life.
It was an uncertain time for Darren, who lives in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, as he waited to hear if he was going to be medically discharged from the job he loved doing. Recalling how he felt when he heard the news, Darren said: “At first I was upset but that very quickly changed to a real fear with the realisation of what it meant to lose my career, despite knowing it was coming after all the meetings with doctors and physios.”
“I was scared what it meant for the future, not being able to work regularly or sometimes even at all, I even contemplated the worst at one point while staying at the recovery centre, I hit my lowest point and was in a very bad place for a little while. It was only my fiancée and the help of the team at the centre that got me to move past it, I could have been in a much worse place now without the Recovery Centre ”
Darren lived at the Recovery Centre for a year and took part in a number of recovery activities such as photography workshops. He also competed at the inaugural Invictus Games last year as part of the British Armed Forces Archery Team. Although a qualified photographer, it was through taking part in the workshops that encouraged Darren to go further.
So much so, Darren is now a successful freelance photographer and has taken images for GQ and Porsche 911 magazines as well coming back to the Centre he called home to capture the opening of the award winning Chelsea Flower Show Garden, Hope on the Horizon, last year.
Darren has had much more to celebrate recently, as his fiancée, former Olympic swimmer Lisa Chapman, gave birth to a baby boy, Oryn, in March. Little Oryn, visited the team in Colchester last week and took everything in his stride.
Darren said: “I will always be grateful to the team at Chavasse VC House as they were good enough to let me stay at the Centre even after being discharged for 4 months while housing was found for me or I would have been homeless as well as unemployed. With their support I have rebuilt my life.”
It was a time of his life that Darren wishes had never happened, however, he is thankful for Help for Heroes being there at a time he needed support the most.
You can see some of Darren’s stunning images by visiting www.darrenkamaraphotography.com
If you have been wounded, injured or sick then our Recovery Centres can support you through a range of welfare and recovery programmes. Find out more here.