Two DE&S staff members, Special Projects project manager Rich Waldrom and A400M Fleet operations manager Lynsey Kelly, have been selected to represent Team UK at this year’s Invictus Games.
Lysney, A Royal Air Force (RAF) veteran who battles with a debilitating illness, was diagnosed with exertional bilateral anterior compartment syndrome, a muscle and nerve condition that causes intense pain, weakness and numbness.
Lynsey was medically discharged from the RAF in 2010 after an operation on both legs was unsuccessful.
She said: “As well as struggling with chronic pain, and all the general worries that come with leaving the military, I felt worthless and as though I’d failed at all I’d ever wanted – I’d lost the kudos, the travel to far flung places, the obscure and interesting jobs and the social life. The effect on my mood would heighten the pain, which in turn would make me feel worse.”
After a very lengthy spell of unexplainable, all-over body pain, Lynsey was further diagnosed as having Pain Amplification Syndrome, a secondary fibromyalgia disease attributed to the psychological stress of her experiences and chronic pain, which changes the way her central nervous system works. This has left Lynsey with continuous widespread pain, sensitivity to light, smells and sound, extreme fatigue, difficulty regulating temperature and cognitive impairment.
Lynsey was inspired to take up swimming by those competing in the 2018 Invictus Games and took part in a course, facilitated by Help for Heroes.
After struggling to come to terms with her condition, Lynsey was encouraged by her swimming teacher to apply for the 2019 Department of Defence (DoD) Warrior Games, where she was voted Vice-Captain for the UK team.
This was closely followed by the 2020 Invictus UK trials, where Lynsey broke her Warrior Games personal best in swimming and won a gold medal in the Women’s Open Recurve Archery. She was selected for the games, which were delayed until 2022 because of the pandemic, but had to drop out due to illness.
Lynsey said: “When people say ‘recovery’, you immediately think of returning to how you were before your illness or injury. But there is no going back. You don’t just recover, more reinvent yourself into something different from what you were before – accepting and embracing ourselves as we break, as we heal, and as we reconstruct. I’ve always used the phrase ‘broken crayons still colour’ and it’s absolutely true. I honour my growth and am proud of who I am – I am about to represent all that the poppy symbolises and prove that determination has no disability.”
Lynsey, who is based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and is the A400M Fleet Manager, will be representing Team UK in swimming and archery at the 2023 Invictus Games in Dusseldorf in September.
Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard, Director of Air Combat and Disability Champion at DE&S, said: “This is an incredible achievement, and we are so very proud to have Lynsey as part of our DE&S team. Her drive and resilience are incredible, and I know she has inspired others with her positive attitude and focus on achieving her goals. Creating an environment where everyone can be supported to be the best they can be is key to the success of our organisation and we will certainly be watching the Invictus Games and cheering her on in September!”
As part of her recovery Lynsey has also helped coach others to achieve their aims. She said: “I’m at my happiest when helping others and feel pride in anyone putting effort into becoming a better version of themselves. Sports recovery has been so valuable to me, not just physiologically, but socially too. I want to carry forward that gift; to inspire, champion and support, because if I can, they definitely can!”
DE&S project manager Rich Waldrom left the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 2010 after struggling with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), which left him with debilitating anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Speaking about his condition, Rich said: “I was diagnosed with CPTSD in 2019 and faced some incredibly dark periods in my journey towards recovery. Anxiety and panic attacks became my unwelcome companions, making it difficult to carry out the simplest of tasks some days. Intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours, made each day a battle and attempting to hide the depression from others was exhausting.”
Richard got involved in the Invictus Games after a few difficult periods in 2022. He accepted into the programme in September 2022 and invited to the first pre-selection camp in Colchester in November 2022.
He said: “I was apprehensive, but as the first day got underway, I began to feel more and more at home. Meeting other veterans and listening to their stories and journeys made me realise I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t a fraud and I did in fact belong to this group after all. In February this year I received an email confirming I had been selected. I sat in shocked silence staring at the email before a rush of emotion just overwhelmed me. It took a while to sink in and to be presented with Team UK launch kit was when it really hit home that I was part of the team and being given the opportunity to represent my country once again.”
Rich, who is based at DE&S Headquarters at Abbey Wood in Bristol, will be competing in the Time Trial and Criterium cycling events at the 2023 Invictus Games in Dusseldorf in September.
Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard, Director of Air Combat and Disability Champion at DE&S, said: “This is an incredible achievement, and we are so very proud to have Richard as part of our DE&S team. Creating an environment where everyone can be supported to be the best they can be is key to the success of our organisation and we will certainly be watching the Invictus Games and cheering him on in September!”