Reblogged from Beyond Disability
Michael Lyddiard was 12 years into a planned 20-year career with the Australian Army in early November 2007 when his world was shattered by two kilograms of insurgent explosives in Afghanistan.
The former Sergeant and bomb disposal expert with the Townsville based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment was “quartering” (gently uncovering an improvised explosive device on a grid pattern) in the Chora Valley.
Fortunately only about a third of the six kilogram main charge deflagrated (subsonic explosion), but that was enough to blow off the brave sapper’s lower right arm, remove half of his left hand, take out his right eye and inflict severe lacerations to the rest of his head.
I remember the incident clearly, but I never understood the extent of my injuries,” the former soldier said.
“I wanted to get back up to help but my mate told me to stay down.”
Fast forward three-years and nothing could have prepared the loyal soldier for the email he received in August 2010 advising that there was “no requirement for Sergeant Lyddiard to be promoted to Warrant Officer”.
That was followed by a medical discharge notice in October 2011 that advised him to identify a new career outside defence.
“All I wanted to do was my 20 years and to become a Warrant Officer,” he said.
“I could have worked on as an instructor, but they just refused to listen to me and ignored my best interests. My treatment by the army was worse than my injuries. I believed in loyalty and then I got the email and it destroyed me.”
After 12 years of distinguished service under the 24/7 security blanket of the military Michael Lyddiard found himself at the mercy of the Department of Veterans Affairs where damaged
ex-military personnel become a number who must fit neatly into a bureaucratic mould.
For a man with no right arm, half his left hand missing, no right eye and visually impaired in his left eye with severe facial scarring, a hearing impairment and muscular imbalance as well as major psychological damage this was not a friendly place.
Now four years down the track he is forced to fight regular battles with bureaucrats who he says are happy to sit in Canberra and strictly apply inflexible policies without getting to know him as an individual.
He was flat on his stomach and into his final “quarter” using the “blow, crush, prod” technique to manually expose the explosives when he struck an anti-disturbance trigger planted by the enemy.
For 52 long minutes the gravely wounded sapper had no morphine as the pain from his massive injuries kicked in. The medical evacuation helicopter arrived outside the “golden hour” and 70 minutes after the blast, but he was kept alive by his well-trained comrades who were versed in battlefield first aid.
Sergeant Lyddiard spent 24 hours in intensive care at the Tarin Kowt Role Two intensive care unit before being transferred to the US air base at Bagram and on to a medical evacuation flight to Ramstein in Germany.
His physical recovery was remarkable and he was released from hospital and flown home to Australia less than a week after the blast.
Defence Chief at the time General David Hurley told his then wife that the ADF was not prepared to handle his injuries as he was the first regular soldier to be so badly wounded in Afghanistan.
His sacking triggered a descent into deep depression as the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) took hold. He felt alienated and had to come to terms with a loss of identity.
One of the most frustrating battles he is forced to fight concerns his damaged eyesight. Under DVA rules he is only allowed two pairs of glasses but having just three fingers means he requires specialised spring loaded frames so he can use the glasses he needs to be able to see so he needs at least three pairs.
His impairment means that he struggles to help his two kids with their homework or even see them clearly playing sport.
“Everything is now computer based but they [DVA] do not cater at all for hardware or software for the visually impaired under the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP). The RAP looks at low vision aids like hand held magnifiers, large font notepads and calendars, and talking clocks.
“I am grateful for help but because of my injuries I can’t do normal things such as change a tap or fix a gutter or fence so I have to get three quotes for even small jobs around the house.
Wounded soldiers … Former Australian servicemen SGT Michael Lyddiard and CPL Sarah Arch
“They won’t allow me to see a remedial massage therapist for $70-an-hour for my muscular imbalance. They insist I see a physiotherapist that likely costs more for 40min per session and they only treat one problem area per appointment. They are just not listening to me nor
do they understand my daily frustrations.”
News Corp put several questions to Veterans Affairs about Michael Lyddiard’s case with his written permission for personal information to be disclosed.
The department refused saying it would only release information directly to the individual or their legal representative.
Reinforcing Mr Lyddiard’s point about the lack of individual care it simply responded to the questions with passages from the regulations such as;
“In any two-year period DVA card holders are entitled to receive either one pair of multifocal glasses or one pair each of distance and reading glasses. [If assessed as being clinically necessary],” it said.
“It would be unreasonable to provide household services for an indefinite period of time, as there would be no accounting of possible changes in circumstances.”
Retired Afghanistan veteran Sgt Michael Lyddiard and his son Kyran, 8, at the ANZAC Square War Memorial, Brisbane. Pic Liam …
Michael Lyddiard lost his lower right arm, right eye and two fingers to a mine in 2007 on the Strand. Picture: Liam Kidston Source: News Limited
Sadly his sight will not improve and he will lose function in his remaining hand due to pain, stiffness, and arthritis.
“Three quotes are required for new claims to ensure the Commonwealth is paying a fair rate for services,” DVA said.
“Under DVA health card arrangements, Gold Card holders are entitled to clinically necessary massage therapy when it is provided by a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath, following a referral from their treating general practitioner.”
In addition to his fights with DVA Mr Lyddiard, whose university studies are paid by defence and DVA, is also battling the Military Superannuation Benefits Scheme (MSBS, Comsuper) for a Class A Invalidity Pension.
He said every day was a battle and even cooking a meal, doing up shirt buttons or putting on a tie was a major chore.
“I am fighting it now because I want the best for my children and I don’t want to be fighting in 10-years-time,” he said.
Courtesy of News.com