Horncastle veteran who lost both his legs in explosion is ready to take on the world

Tom Folwell. EMN-191029-151445001
Tom Folwell. EMN-191029-151445001

Tom Folwell admits he will be the proudest dad alive when he takes part in the 2020 Invictus Games in Holland next May.

The former soldier’s world was literally blown apart seven years ago when he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan and lost both his legs and the tops of four fingers from his left hand.

Tom, who lives in Holbeck near Horncastle, has shown unbelievable tenacity and bravery to fight his life-threatening injuries.

His wife Tania and six-year-old son Harvey have been beside him throughout.

Harvey - a pupil at Horncastle Primary School and Tania - who teaches Mathematics at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School - will be among family members watching from the stands in May.

And Tom hopes they will be as proud of him as he is of them.

Tom (34), told the News: “Competing in the games will show all the hard work has been worth it - and that I am still a member of the greater military family.

“It will provide me with a much-needed sense of achievement.

“The games will also provide Harvey with an opportunity to experience his dad in an environment that he has never been a part of - one of brotherhood, camaraderie and excellence.

“I know I’ll be proud to represent my country. Hopefully, it will give Harvey a sense of pride and an opportunity to inspire his young mind.

Tom is part of the 65-strong team of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans selected to represent the UK at the games.

He joined his teammates - and Prince Harry (“a really sound bloke,” says Tom) - in London last week after a rigorous selection process.

All the team members will undergo training delivered by Help for Heroes to ensure they are prepared for international sporting 
competition.

Tom faces 15 training camps between now and next May when he will be competing in three wheelchair events - rugby, basketball and volleyball.

The former sapper admits he remembers little about that incident in June 2012 while on foot patrol in Helmand Province...“I know we’d left a compound and I was looking to get a clearer view of what was ahead of us.

“One minute I was fine and the next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed in Birmingham.”

On the way to Birmingham, from Afghanistan, Tom’s evacuation flight had to divert to Cyprus after he developed a blood clot mid-air and needed emergency help to stabilise him.

He admits the fact he has re-discovered a love for competitive sport has helped his recovery.

Tom adds: “It’s been really hard but I’m still here - I’m still alive.

“It was about three years ago when Tania suggested I tried taking up sport.

“I think she just wanted me out of the house!

“I am always looking to learn in order to better myself.

“Sport is brilliant. It’s given me so much, and saves me from the boredom that can be so demoralising.”

Tom is determined to walk again and is waiting for an operation which will see metal rods inserted in what remains of his legs.

He has developed sleep apnoea which has also had a major impact on his life.

On the plus side, he has managed to quit smoking.

He explained: “I had a 20-a- day habit for 16 years that no-one thought I would ever kick.”

Now, he wants to use that determination to inspire others.