Martha Prinsloo has been sharing her story with the media about how an explosion in Afghanistan completely changed her life and the MailOnline has published her experience.
The incident occurred in 2013 when Martha was travelling in a vehicle while on tour when she was “blown up into the air” after driving over an improvised explosive device (IED).
All passengers survived, but from the outside, Martha said “everyone thought they were all dead”.
She said: “The smell was putrid and there was just smoke everywhere. It was a massive loud explosion and you could feel the secondary blast go through you – if you imagine turning a bass speaker up to full volume, it was a thousand times worse.
“I remember us actually going up, down, up, down, and we ended up at an angle where we were hanging… and no-one knew if we were alive or not.
“It looked absolutely horrific when I watched the footage. You see the vehicle, then you don’t see the vehicle; you see this dust cloud and then you see the vehicle all of a sudden way up here, above the dust cloud, and then it’s gone.
“It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody… nothing is ever the same after that.”
Although after the explosion she initially seemed unharmed, the impact of the blast caught up with her during a nursing shift in 2017. It was while she was treating a patient that she went temporarily completely blind – with the blindness staying permanently in one eye.
Martha was then medically discharged from the army, but she struggled to settle in to civilian life. Mentally she became unwell with anxiety and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) which led to her entering a “depressive state”.
Martha said at the time she felt like an “oxygen thief” and that she “shouldn’t have been brought back out of Afghan alive”.
The nerve damage sustained from the blast led to her losing her mobility as well, and she eventually tried to take her own life.
She said: “When I got back from Afghan, there weren’t any helicopters, there weren’t missiles going on, there was nothing and it was dead quiet. It’s almost like you’re staying on edge because you’re waiting for something to happen.
“You’re waiting to grab your rifle and then there’s nothing – you can’t sleep and then you’re awake – so that adjustment period was absolutely horrific.”
However, after receiving support and treatment from St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Veterans Service and Op Courage – an NHS mental health specialist service – Martha said she received “life-changing” support and treatment – for which she will be “forever grateful”.
She is now preparing for the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany, in September – where she will compete in the swimming, powerlifting, and archery categories.
“Life has made some interesting twists and turns,” she said.
“From cheating death, not just in Afghanistan but with my mental health, to competing at the Invictus Games, I’m now finding a way through sport and challenging myself in a different way.
“It’s so easy to fall into that groove of giving up, and it’s much harder to get out of it, but once you are out, or start to get out of it, it’s so worth it.
“As long as you’ve got a bit of hope to hold onto, you’ll get through it.”
“We’ve got an amazing team of people and we all get along really well, and I think it’s because we’ve all got that longing to be a part of something again – it’s ingrained in us.”
On her life today, she added: “I still have all my other struggles, they have not gone away, and the slow deterioration is still there – I can’t do anything about that.
“But for as long as I am breathing and there’s life in my bones, I’m going to do things and I’m counting down the days until the Invictus Games.”
The Royal British Legion, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, will be taking Team UK’s veterans and military personnel to this year’s Invictus Games. To find out more, visit: www.rbl.org.uk/Invictus
Martha is also fundraising to purchase a wheelchair for the Invictus Games – click here to contribute.