Life changed in an instant for young officer

A YOUNG RAF officer whose spine was badly damaged in a car smash fears he may have been robbed of his military career.

Tuesday, 22nd November 2011, 8:34 am

Martyn Bowden was in his car waiting to pull out at a junction when it was hit from behind by a white van he believes was travelling at 70mph.

Now he has metal rods holding his spine together and can only walk short distances.

Mr Bowden had to be cut free from the crushed car and was taken to hospital where doctors at first believed he had escaped major injury.

The 28-year-old, of Samian Close, Gateford, said: “I had extensive muscular damage to my neck and back, with severe bruising to my ribs and chest, but remarkably it appeared initially that I had escaped any major injuries.”

“But later MRI scans showed I had fractured bones in my lumbar spine and severely damaged a disc, as well as nerve damage which was affecting my ability to walk properly and giving me extreme pain in my lumbar back and legs.”

The incident on 8th September last year happened just a month before Mr Bowden was due to marry his fiancee Sabrina. The £12,000 wedding went ahead, with Mr Bowden on morphine.

He was put on an extensive rehabilitation programme of physiotherapy and gym work, but after six months was still no better.

He said: “I was then referred for neurosurgery at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and in August this year I had the damaged disc removed and the two adjacent vertebrae were screwed in place with four titanium screws and two rods.”

Originally from Bristol, Mr Bowden worked as a legal advisor before deciding to pursue a more physically active career in the RAF.

He was the top student on his course and was working at RAF Digby, Lincolnshire.

Mr Bowden, who is also seeing a psychiatrist because of the trauma he has suffered, said one of the hardest things to come to terms with was that the case never went to court.

Lincolnshire police charged the van driver with driving without due care and attention and offered him the chance to pay £185 to go on a two-day driver improvement course instead.

A police spokesman said: “These courses are offered at the discretion of the inspector. We always write to the other driver to ask if they have any objections to this.”

“At the time of the incident Mr Bowden’s injuries were recorded as respiratory problems caused by the seatbelt and lower back tissue damage.”

He has found living so far from family and friends has made his recovery more lonely.

“It makes you realise how difficult it is to meet people when you take away work, sport, family and your already existing network of friends,” he said.

He will face another RAF medical board in December and expects to be signed off for another six months. “I am hopeful that I will recover to a level that will enable me to return to work, as I love my job more than anything,” he said.