Injured soldier 'could die at any time'

AT THE age of 22, Royal Anglian Pte Simon Peacock's conflict experience has left him a walking “time bomb” who could drop dead at any moment.

AT THE age of 22, Royal Anglian Pte Simon Peacock's conflict experience has left him a walking “time bomb” who could drop dead at any moment.

The soldier has shrapnel in his heart after being showered with shards from a rocket propelled grenade as he defended his comrades in war-torn Helmand Province in Afghanistan last year.

Pte Peacock's injuries were so severe he “died” whilst being flown back to the UK, but medics managed to bring him back to life.

He now has shrapnel lodged in his knee, hand, heart and lungs, where it remains, after doctors said it was too risky to remove it.

But Pte Peacock was left stunned when his private medical insurance company offered him just £226 compensation for the injuries suffered on May 4 that will plague him for the rest of his life - because the shrapnel in his heart could kill him at any moment should it move.

The soldier from South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, pushed for more and was eventually offered a final payout of £1,400.

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But the experience has left him feeling betrayed and he branded the payout “insulting”, saying had he lost a limb he could have received 100 times as much.

His close friend Pte Matthew Woollard, from Southend, received £104,000 from the same insurance company, after his leg was blown off by a landmine the previous day.

But Pte Peacock, who joined the Army in 2005 at 19, said he was “insulted” at his offer.

His parents Norman, 56, and Rita, 60, also from South Woodham Ferrers, were told their son was fighting for his life after being hit by the grenade during an attempt to take a Taleban-held compound in Kajaki.

Pte Peacock was taken to Camp Bastion and from their flown in a jet to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

During the 12-and-a-half hour flight, doctors carried out an emergency operation to remove shrapnel from his calf in order to save his right foot.

Upon arrival, the wounded soldier was taken into intensive care, where he remained for five days as his worried parents kept a vigil at his bedside.

He had tubes inserted in his heart and lungs to monitor them and was in such pain he had to be strapped to the bed and dosed up with morphone and ketamine.

Pte Peacock was then transferred to the military wing of the hospital - Selly Oak - where he was treated for two-and-a-half weeks.

He said: “The shrapnel had to be left in my heart and lungs. My heart is still beating but I have to go for check ups all the time.

“They said it would be more dangerous to remove them.”

Despite the severity of his injuries, Pte Peacock has made a good recovery, and is able to walk around.

But his injuries mean he will never be able to return to active service and may have to leave the army.

Speaking about his injuries, Pte Peacock said: “I need an operation on my left knee and still need ball bearings removed from my left hand. I have no feeling in my right hand and my vision is blurred in my left eye.

“I trained for years and now I am not able to do my job. When I first got blown up I didn't know what compensation to expect but now I would have expected about £30,000.

“I was a machine gunner and I can't do that job now. This payout makes me feel betrayed and angry. I had faith in the insurance company and they gave me £1,400.

“Apparently my injuries don't fall into the right category for a decent payout, so all I've got is £1,000 for shrapnel wounds and £400 for my time in hospital.

“I even had to fight for that. Originally they offered me £226 and I had to get the commanding officer of the Army rehabilitation centre to sign a note on my behalf to get it increased.

“If I had lost a leg I would have been given more than £100,000 yet I have to live with the fact I could die at any time if the shrapnel ever moves from my heart.

“I am still paying them £28.23 a month because I'm scared if I stop there will be no chance of appealing against the payout.

“My regiment knows all about my case and the army will hopefully try to get me more money but they have so many cases to deal with I don't know when it is going to happen. It is all very disappointing.”

He is still negotiating a separate compensation settlement with the Ministry of Defence.

Paul Leat, spokesman for the MoD, said: “The MoD provides compensation for injuries linked to service through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, which provides lump sum payments and regular payments for life for the more seriously injured.

“Commercial personal accident and Life cover is voluntary and is additional to the benefits provided by the MoD.”

Pte Peacock said the army had treated him quite well and were paying for him to do courses so when he leaves he can get another job.

He said: “I expect to leave the army next year - I can't do the job I wanted to do in the army. I hope to do something with computers.”

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