How a Blackpool woman who was medically discharged from the RAF is now fit enough to compete in the 2020 Invictus Games

When Lynsey Kelly was medically discharged from the RAF, she fell into depression.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Lynsey Kelly, of Blackpool, (far right) with her Team UK participants
Lynsey Kelly, of Blackpool, (far right) with her Team UK participants

But nine years on, the 35-year-old, who grew up in Blackpool, has been selected as one of 65 veterans and WIS (Wounded, Injured, Sick) service personnel to be part of Team UK at the Invictus Games next May. Following her experiences, she wants to raise awareness of inclusive activities for people who have been injured or have health issues.

Lynsey said: “I want to inspire people to have a go and get back into sport, as it will improve your physical and mental health.

“If I can do it, anyone can. I want to inspire other people to do it and to know there is help for them.”

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Lynsey Kelly swimming

Lynsey joined the RAF in 2001 at the age of 17, training in logistics at RAF Brize Norton, before being posted to RAF Lyneham. In 2003, she was posted to Cyprus for three years, during which time, she was deployed to Iraq for Op Telic. Whilst out there, she landed awkwardly after jumping from the ramp of a C130 Hercules, injuring her knee.

She explained: “I continued working out there and then returned to RAF Lyneham. I had pains in my legs and struggled with the compulsory exercise. Military medics put it down to shin splints. There was a long delay of three years before doctors decided I had Compartment Syndrome in my legs, which has since developed into secondary fibromyalgia.”

Lynsey then suffered further injury when she crushed her foot on aircraft steps whilst in Oman. She had to be flown home in a medical helicopter and was sent to Headley Court for rehabilitation.

She returned to RAF Lyneham, where she worked on repatriation. She recalled: “That was one of the proudest moments of my career as our team got mentioned in the Queen’s Honours list and I got a commendation for the work I did.”

Lynsey Kelly doing archery

But Lynsey began to sink into a depression and she suffered anxiety and panic attacks. As her leg and knee injuries meant she was no longer able to do compulsory military exercises, she was medically discharged in 2010, which increased her depression even further and she put on extra weight.

She found work with the Ministry of Defence in RAF Brize Norton, as an office manager. She was also a veteran advocate for chronic conditions and disability in defence network and a disability advocate. As she sought support from Help for Heroes and its beneficiary support group Band of Brothers, she enrolled on a swimming course last October.

The former Millfield High School pupil said: “I watched the Sydney Invictus Games on TV and watched a woman swimming. She had a wobble, but she carried on and everyone cheered. I thought if she could do it, so could I.”

From that, she applied for Warrior Games in America. She added: “It was a real rollercoaster of emotion. Organisers didn’t care about how good I was, it was about my recovery and how the sport helped my anxiety and body confidence. I loved the fact I was around like minded people.”

Injuries to Lynsey Kelly's legs

Lynsey then took part in the Invictus UK trials in Sheffield, becoming a mentor to others and she won gold in archery. She will now compete in the 50m breast stroke, front crawl and backstroke, archery and power bench pressing competitions in the Invictus Games at The Hague next spring.

She added: “I am so happy and proud of myself. I am keen to carry on with the swimming, as that was what started my sport recovery and get my personal best. I am keen to work hard and do my best in archery. Power bench pressing is very new and I can only bench press 38kg but organisers don’t care. They just want you to try and have fun doing it.

“It helps me feel empowered and helps with my confidence.”