Bomb blast victim turned Norfolk PE teacher battles back at Invictus Games
PUBLISHED: 10:22 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:19 18 October 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
A bomb blast changed Dan Majid's life for ever. Now he is ready to represent his country again.
Dan began the month teaching PE in Stalham. He will end it competing for his country in Australia in the Invictus Games.
Eight years ago Dan was a soldier on patrol in Afghanistan. A bomb exploded, shattering his arm and changing his life for ever.
His new life is on the Norfolk coast, with partner Jess French (the CBeebies presenter, vet and author) and their 10-month-old daughter, Fenya.
Dan had been working as a PE teacher, and volunteering with the Army Reserve as a physical training instructor when he volunteered for full-time service.
After extra training he was sent to Afghanistan on a six-month tour with the second parachute regiment. Just eight weeks later he was at the front of a foot patrol when a bomb exploded.
As the huge cloud of dust subsided Dan feared his arm had been completely severed. Making himself a tourniquet to stem the bleeding, he radioed for help. He was flown to the field hospital at Camp Bastion, where doctors warned they might have to amputate.
Daniel, now 33, was medically discharged from the Army last year. His arm was saved, but is shortened, with metal plates supporting the shattered bones.
Invictus contestants have all been in the armed forces and battled injury or illness. They are picked for their sporting prowess, commitment to training and how taking part will help their recovery. Daniel, who lives near Winterton-on-Sea, is one of 72 people, including three from Norfolk, chosen to represent the UK.
Dan, will be competing in athletics, rowing and sailing. Before he was injured, school sports events were the closest he had ever been to an athletics meet and a gym rowing machine the closest he had come to rowing. “I’ve just bought my first pair of track spikes and long jumped for the first time since I was at school!” he said.
“I’ve been training where and when I can. The nearest gym is 40 minutes away so I’m doubling thing up, doing squats and lunges holding the baby, running with our off-road pram, and sane dune sprints with the dog. We only live a short walk away from the beach and the Broads so that’s really handy.”
He said he coped with his injury by setting physical challenges for himself, and is now using his Invictus training to enhance his PE lessons. “Our coaches are national and international level trainers. So the sessions they put on for us are inspiring and challenging but specific with great advice on techniques. I just repeat what they say and change the sessions slightly so they are applicable to the level I teach at,” said Dan.
Jess, who met Dan when she was in her final year at university, will be travelling out to Australia with Dan and their baby daughter. Dan said: “I need to continue on my road to recovery now more than ever since I have just started a family. I would also like to set myself a new physical challenge as I feel this is the best way for me to manage my moods and motivation. I hope it will provide inspiration for my little girl as well as the students I teach. If I can look forward to events, challenges and experiences and feel like I’m still growing then I will be able to continue on my road to recovery and be the best dad I can be.”
More East Anglian Invictus stars
Cousins and army veterans Alex and Matthew Tate were both badly injured in Afghanistan in the same year. Six years the cousins, of Bury St Edmunds, will both be competing in the Invictus Games this month.
Alex, now 27, was Britain’s first Invictus gold medallist during the first Games, in London, in 2014. He won the 100m sprint, two years after losing a leg in an explosion in Afghanistan while serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment. He had suffered from depression and post traumatic stress disorder and said competing at the Games was probably the best rehabilitation a soldier could have. He will be competing in athletics again in the 2018 Games and said: “The Invictus Games has given me that drive to thrive; it’s not just been about the physical recovery for me but also the mental”.
His cousin, Matthew was also injured in Afghanistan in 2012 and will be competing in power-lifting after using exercise as a form of therapy. More than anything, he says, he wants to make his family proud and inspire others to overcome injury – and show the world what he can do, rather than what he can’t. Army veteran Matthew was on his second tour of Afghanistan when he was hit by a Taliban grenade launcher. Left with permanent nerve damage and lower body injuries that left him unable to run he said: “It’s more than sport. It gives you a new focus and something to aim for it. There have been some dark times on the long road to recovery, but this shows you that there’s light at the end of that tunnel.”
Naomi Adie, of Holme Hale, near Swaffham, will be competing in athletics - racing in distances from 100m all the way up to 1500m. She served in the RAF for 14 years and said she found coping with her injuries and leaving behind a job she loved difficult. She had been a survival equipment fitter, but a training injury led to her being medically discharged. She has limited use of her legs and has also suffered from anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.
“It has taken a lot of grit and determination to get where I am today,” said 38-year-old Naomi, who is now programme manager for the Endeavour Fund, founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. “I have set myself a goal and thrown myself in; not just for me but for my daughter, so she can see mummy achieve something despite my physical limitations. I want her to see the person, not the disability or injury and this journey is helping with that.”
Andrew Taylor of Norwich will be competing in athletics, sailing and powerlifting. He was in the Army when he was injured. Finding activities and sports that he could participate in was challenging but he said training for the games has helped his mental and physical health and the chance to represent his nation again was ‘the icing on the cake.’
Paul Guest, of Frinton-on-Sea, served in the Royal Navy until 1998 but found life outside the military very difficult.
“After locking myself away for the best part of 10 years in my bedroom the only contact with the outside was my wife and
carer Michelle. My youngest children had never seen me outside that room. This all changed last year with the selection for the 2017 Invictus Games.” This year Paul will be competing in archery, athletics, powerlifting and cycling.
The Invictus Games take place in Sydney, Australia, from October 20-27.