Rob BugdenRECEIVING THE CHAIR WAS THE MOST WONDERFUL SURPRISE
When Rob Bugden left the flat he’d bought a month earlier in January 2016, he had no idea that he’d never step foot in it again. A Physical Training Instructor (PTI) in the RAF, he was fulfilling his ultimate career aspiration to be a parachute jumping instructor and the course he was about to complete would see him training the very elite of the UK Armed Forces.
“I had the best job in the world, I’m a very social person and being a PTI in the RAF is a bit like being a Butlins red coat!”
Having spent the duration of the course completing complex and challenging jumps, Rob and his colleagues took the opportunity in the final days to get some normal jumps under their belts and of course it was the last jump, on the last day which would change every aspect of his life as he knew it.
“The last thing I remember was opening my canopy at 5,000ft, I looked up and thought it looked good.”
At 1,000ft, Rob collided with his colleague, causing both of their canopies to collapse and tangle as they crash-landed into the sand beneath them. Having suffered multiple major injuries including breaking several vertebrae in his neck, damaging his spinal chord and requiring facial reconstruction, Rob was left quadriplegic and facing a lengthy recovery journey which would see him receive treatment at both the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Headley Court rehabilitation centre.
Having been medically discharged, Rob’s civilian life started on 1st January 2020 and he now had to navigate a world where ‘normal life’ is much less accessible than it once was.
“I was always a runner and I’ve been told that my standard of fitness at the time of the accident is the reason I’m alive, so it’s important to me that I’m able to continue training. There’s a lot of disabled sport out there, but there are still big barriers to accessing them, if I want to go swimming I have to travel over an hour to get to a pool with a hoist.”
In July 2022, Minister for Veterans Affairs Johnny Mercer MP presented Rob with a custom-built sports wheelchair at a reception to celebrate the Oppo Foundation. The RGK Wheelchair was funded through a generous donation from the Ambassadeurs Group, who also hosted the event.
“Receiving the chair was the most wonderful surprise, because it’s adapted for sport I’ve finally got the right bit of kit to allow me to try all of these different disabled sports properly. It’s enabled me to take my fitness to the next level.”
Throughout 2023, Rob plans to take on five half marathons, raising funds for five charities including the Oppo Foundation. Always wanting to challenge himself, Rob’s final race will be the Cardiff Half Marathon in October where ten years ago, he finished in fifth place on foot.
“I’ve been so well looked after by the RAF and wider veterans community and am hugely grateful for all of the support I continue to receive. This is my way of raising awareness for these charities and giving something back.”
You can donate to Rob’s ‘5 for 5’ challenge here: Crowdfunding to raise funds for 5 Charities on JustGiving