I served as a police officer for 21 years, four years as a special constable and 17 years as a regular. All of my service was in Hampshire Constabulary where I really enjoyed the variety of work throughout my career.
Everything had been going well. I was at peak fitness, and was serving as a frontline officer and was as a sign language lead for Hampshire, I had also worked as a traffic officer and been involved in tutoring.
In 2012, I was injured on duty whilst attending a concern for welfare of a suicidal man. Upon detaining the man, I had to use a takedown with another officer to prevent the man from harming himself further. I landed on my kneecap, which misaligned it significantly - at that point I knew then that my career was over.
Following extensive surgery which resulted in me having to use a wheelchair and wear a full leg brace for a year, I had rehabilitation in the form of physiotherapy, to regain full movement of my leg. This was hard work and hugely depressing as I had previously been so active.
Upon my return to work ,whilst still on crutches, I was immediately placed on light duties and was given very menial tasks. I felt like I was a hindrance to those around me and this caused my mental health to deteriorate.
Further surgeries took place, however they were unsuccessful, still leaving me in chronic pain. I was suffering flashbacks, zoning out, having nightmares, and I just wanted to stay at home. I had an uncontrollable desire to feel safe all of the time, I was petrified of the dark and I unable to be sociable, when out I always sat near an exit with my back against the wall to feel safe.
I couldn’t tell anyone what was happening to me.
With my mental health rapidly going downhill on November 5th 2019, I suffered a breakdown whilst fireworks were going off - they caused me great distress, so much so that I thought terrorists were coming into our house, they sounded like gunshots. My husband was very patient with me and very caring and managed to calm me down.
However, a few days later I considered taking my own life, but something changed in my head and thankfully I was able to see a glimmer of hope. I left the house and went to see my local minister for help - we had a cup of tea and he listened.
I was later diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
The next few days were a blur and in complete and utter desperation I sought help from Service Dogs UK. An amazing charity for those who have served and have PTSD. I had worked with other dogs but one dog in particular stood out for me and I was partnered with Bert for four years. This changed my life.
Bert was an extraordinary dog and managed to alleviate some of my daily symptoms. Ensuring I could leave the house, he made me feel safe and I managed to maintain some sense of normality. Although my symptoms still remained I was able to continue with the charity work that I enjoyed doing. This was important as it gave me focus and purpose after leaving a career that I so desperately wanted to stay in due to ill health retirement.
During the four years with Bert and I attained a BEM, I was shortlisted in the national diversity awards, attended Buckingham Palace with Bert, received a point of light award and was shortlisted in the NATURO superdog awards.
Bert sadly passed away in February 2023. He was one of a kind, and as a team we achieved so much together. He is very much missed. One of Bert’s last jobs before he passed was to take me to sitting down volleyball after encouragement from Helen, a police officer who had been present at a talk that I had carried out about mental health.
Bert navigated this one for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Since January 2022, I have continued to play, and am proud to be part of the Hampshire sitting down volleyball team. Volleyball has given me a new lease of life and I thrive being around people who really understand disability.
This planted a seed, I researched what national competitions are available for individuals with a disability working in the emergency services. I was disappointed to find there wasn't much out there, so I am now setting up a national games for injured and disabled emergency services workers who have served or are still serving - 'The Intrepid Games'. It may take some time, but I am determined to make this happen.
I have received backing from charities, and am fully supported by the National Police Chiefs Council NPCC and the Disabled Police Association. I have also received support from the Hampshire Police Federation. The games will be for all emergency services, covering mental health, physical disability and those who live with neurodivergence.
See more information at www.intrepidgames.org and they are on Facebook, instagram, Twitter/X and Linkedin.
In memory of Bert Snuggs.
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