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Reaching for the Sky

Reaching for the Sky

As the “war” in Ukraine continues following the invasion by Russia, there is a danger of compassion fatigue setting in, especially when wars and disasters are taking place in other parts of the world.

While not overlooking or forgetting the suffering across the globe, it is so important to remember the horrors being endured on an everyday basis in Ukraine.

We have always felt that Sir Douglas would have wanted to help the brave people – many civilians – who are fighting for the freedom of their country. So many emerge from the bombing and devastation in Ukraine with missing limbs or with limbs so badly damaged that there is no alternative to amputation. Sir Douglas would have wanted to support them as he supported amputees in his lifetime as a double amputee himself. Reaching for the Sky for others with disabilities.

This is why the DBF was proud to support the LSN Group’s first mission to Ukraine. (You can read about this on a previous post on the DBF Website via a link at the bottom of this page. Please note that all links in Nicholas’s blog will open in new tabs.)

Since then, the group continues Reaching for the Sky as it develops the ways it can support amputees as you will see below. The courage and commitment of the team is admirable and I’m delighted to be able to share this update from Nicholas Mellor. I thoroughly recommend that you take time to read the blogs to see just how much positive work is being done by LSN.

It’s moving to know that Nicholas’s connection with Douglas goes back a long way. When he was about 8 his grandmother took him to see the film, “Reach for the Sky” and it was then that Nicholas decided that he wanted to fly with the RAF. This is also why the title of the blog is important to him. With all he’s achieved under the auspices of LSN for amputees and people who are suffering mentally or physically particularly as a result of trauma, I think that Reaching for the Sky is a very appropriate title anyway! Interestingly, in 1993, Nicholas had set up Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International) with 2 friends. Merlin was a humanitarian organisation delivering medical expertise, healthcare, and support in crisis and conflict zones around the world. Their first operation was in Sarajevo, which was then under siege, and the team felt as though they were ‘reaching for the sky’ in those early days.

Its that same spirit that I have sought to tap into, in every initiative I have embarked on, and it takes me back to walking out of the cinema with my grandmother all those years ago, when with both innocence and youth I imagined with sufficient conviction, perseverance and courage anything was possible! Nicholas Mellor

Reaching for the Sky

Reaching for the Sky

Ninety two years ago, in January 1932, Douglas Bader took to the air again just weeks after his accident in December 1931 which had resulted in the loss of both his legs. His determination and resilience were remarkable, as he quickly adapted to his prosthetic legs and pursued his passion for flying. 

Forty years ago the Douglas Bader Foundation was set up in him memory to ‘advance and promote the physical, mental, and spiritual welfare of individuals who are born without or have lost one or more limbs, or are otherwise physically disabled, as well as those who suffer from diagnosed mental illnesses’.

Last year LSN Group https://www.lsngroup.org launched an initiative to support victims of trauma, particularly amputees, in Ukraine. The team’s efforts have focussed on various aspects of rehabilitation and support for these individuals, but what made every mission unique, is that members of the team have been amputees or disabled veterans themselves. No one knows the urgency of this work, nor can speak with as much authenticity and authority as people such as Alex Lewis, Mike Wildeman and Edward Hall.

As well as providing tangible support with medical supplies and prosthetics, the team has also sought to encourage change in practice and policy but beginning a dialogue around the benefits of  early intervention in the rehabilitation process. This can significantly shorten the journey to greater independence and improve the prognosis for the patients. A second aspect has focussed on the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to ensure integrated future care for the patients, and giving the patient the support and where possible, the prosthetics so they can remain proactive in their path to recovery. A health system that is overstretched, insecurity and a shortage of supplies make finding more efficient and effective approaches even more urgent, but at the same time, change is always difficult to manage.

The LSN team has also emphasized the importance of building independence for amputees, which is crucial in their rehabilitation journey. This includes enhancing the quality of life, increasing self-esteem, facilitating reintegration into society, reducing the burden on caregivers, and improving physical health. Emerging technologies in prosthetics are creating even greater opportunities for enhanced functionality and comfort. The team is also involved in initiatives to help amputees learn new skills, particularly in emerging digital fields, opening up new job opportunities. This approach not only aids the individual amputees but also contributes positively to the economy by filling labour or skills shortages in various industries and increasing workforce diversity.

The Douglas Bader Foundation have been a key part of getting LSN’s initiative off the ground, when they became a co-sponsor of the first mission to provide support for amputees in Ukraine. Their support reflected the foundation’s overarching mission to support individuals affected by limb loss and other disabilities, inspired by the legacy of Sir Douglas Bader, a renowned RAF pilot who returned to active service despite his own limb loss.

The initiatives by LSN Group and the support from the Douglas Bader Foundation (DBF) demonstrate a comprehensive approach to aiding amputees, encompassing physical rehabilitation, skill development, and psychological support and it is this holistic, and integrated approach than is so important to the well-being and empowerment of amputees in Ukraine. 

These series of blogs illustrated different facets of this approach from patient centric innovation https://www.lsngroup.org/post/driving-innovation-through-collaborative-university-research involving DBF Ambassador Alex Lewis, to finding purpose with DBF ambassador Mike Wildeman https://www.lsngroup.org/post/re-finding-purpose-and-creating-opportunities-for-amputees .

However the scale and intensity of the trauma and injury faced by veterans and civilians alike shows that there is no easy solution and the support of organisations like DBF is crucial to encourage the search for better ways of supporting victims of trauma such as highlighted in these two blogs https://www.lsngroup.org/post/nurturing-recovery-purpose-and-growth-amidst-trauma-and-adversity  and https://www.lsngroup.org/post/healing-together-the-impact-of-peer-support-groups-in-war-torn-ukraine .

The challenge for the individual, their families, their communities and their society is enormous, but as the saying goes ‘ the longest journeys start with a single step’ and that first step for the LSN team was made possible by DBF, and the inspiration of the pilot who in spite of his disability, still ‘Reached for the Sky’.

Reaching for the Sky

(Nicholas Mellor)

Reaching for the Sky

Above: DBF Ambassadors, Mike Wildeman (left) and Alex Lewis (centre right)


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