It is the ultimate story of courage, devotion, determination and the love of a father for a son who is literally stepping out on an uncertain future after narrowly escaping death ….and now facing up to one of the greatest challenges of his life!
Four years ago, Lance Corporal Jonathan ‘Frenchie’ Le Galloudec was told by doctors that he would never walk again after been shot in the spine and paralysed during an operation near Basra.
Miraculously, with the never ending support of his father Steve and the rest of his family, Jon was to prove the doctors wrong and amazingly fought to back against all odds to walk again.
Now, Jonathan, still racked by spasms of pain, without the ability to feel anything below his knees and with bullet fragments still embedded precariously near his spine, the 30 year old hero is set to embark on his greatest challenge since being partially paralysed…by climbing over 4,000 metres to the base camp of Mount Everest in a bid to raise urgently needed money for other wounded servicemen.
And taking each step alongside the courageous soldier throughout the journey will be his equally proud and determined father 53 year old father who has been his bedrock since the fateful day when Jonathan was shot.
“He has always been there for me when I’ve needed him and I knew that he would want to be part of this.” Explains Jonathan. “ He has always been an inspiration to me and has done so much to help me through my recovery.
“I know this is going to be a very difficult trip, and I know it’s going to be painful. Bu t no-one knows me more than my Dad. He knows what I’ll be going through and it’s going to great to have him by my side. He was there for me when I was in hospital and wouldn’t let me give up. I am stubborn, but when you know my Dad it’s easy to see where I get my determination from.
“It’s not going to be easy because I can’t feel anything from below my knees and have to wear special support and literally have to watch where I put every step.” He adds resignedly. “I still have shrapnel in my back because the doctors fear the fragments are too near my spine to remove. I still suffer pain, and I know that there will come a time when I can be in pain sometimes every two or three weeks, so I know there’s a possibility that I will be suffering a great deal of pain during the trek. I take a lot less drugs for the pain because they don’t really help too much any more. So it will be good to have my Dad’s support.
“Because he’s also an ex-servicemen we share that kind of black humour that exists throughout the armed forces, and that helps so much. They just wont let you get down.”
Jonathan, who was serving with the 4thRifles, was shot during a detain and arrest operation in the Al Atiyah district of Iraq in June 2007. His friend who went to his aid was killed instantly.
“All I can remember is that it was like being hit in the back by a sledgehammer. “ recalls Jonathan. “I just lay there because I knew that the other lads couldn’t get to me at the time. I could hear ‘flip flops’ and my biggest worry of being taken alive. I decided that I was going to take as many as I could with me and then shoot myself rather than be taken.”
Fortunately rescue came and Jonathan was operated on at a field hospital in Basra before eventually being shipped back to Britain for treatment at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and later Stoke Mandeville.
“The doctors told me that I would probably never walk again and that as far as they were concerned there was very little they could do.” He explains. “ It was hard to contemplate…you really don’t know what you have got until it has been taken away from you.”
Astonishingly, Jonathan stunned the experts by eventually determinedly taking his first few wobbly steps along the path to some form of recovery just two months later.
“No-one could tell me how or why.” Smiles Jonathan, who is now studying for qualifications in land management. “ At first I could feel nothing, then I started feeling terrible pain in different parts of my body, and so I thought that if I could feel pain, then something must be working! Learning to walk again has been painful, but it’s also given me a new lease of life”
Throughout that time, Jonathan always knew that he could reply on the support and determination of his father and loved ones. But for father Steve, who retired from the Royal Air Force in 2001 after over 20 years with the rank of Flt. Lieutenant, it was a hard time.
“I think the worst part of it all was that there was no-one who actually sat down with you and told you what was happening.” He recalls. “ I just looked down at Jonathan in the hospital bed and couldn’t believe it. There were no outward signs that anything was wrong with him, and to be told that he probably would never walk again stunned us.
“But he’s always been stubborn and very determined and I knew that if anyone was going to pull though then he would.”
Father and son will be making the trek to the Everest base camp in November to help raise funds for the Help For Heroes Charity, which both support and campaign to raise money for.
In October 2009, Jonathan was part of a group of five wounded soldiers who took on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the charity.
“I missed that one, but there was no way that I would going to miss this.” Admits a determined Steve who now works as an IT manager. “I’m never going to be a kind of pipe and slippers kind of person, and when I came out of the RAF I just really decided to keep fit. I’m proud of Jonathan and his attitude and what he’s achieved and it’s an honour to be by his side for this trek.”
The pair, who live in the Oxford area and hope to raise thousands of pounds by their efforts, are set to embark on training regimes, including trips to Snowdonia before the main event.
Jonathan is passionate about raising funds for Help For Heroes.
“I just want to raise awareness for the charity and for the public’s continued support to help our wounded soldiers.” Says Jonathan.
Anyone wishing to contribute should visit the pair’s website at Bmycharity.com/shouldertosldier
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