“I am a different person since this all started” – Dean Bousfield’s story 

The Pilgrim Bandits are looking forward to embarking on a twelve-day trek in the Himalayas, from 19th April – 2nd May, to support our injured veteran members. There will also be the opportunity to complete two tandem skydive jumps over Mount Everest. 

Injured veterans and support personnel will be trekking up to Namache (DZ) and staying in tea houses along the way. 

Army veteran, Dean Bousfield, will be among those taking part. Dean joined the British Army in 2004 and served for nearly 10 years before he was badly injured in Afghanistan. He was shot in the head by a sniper and was incredibly lucky to survive. The bullet passed through his brain, exiting above his right ear: he is the only known survivor of a gunshot of this kind. 

Dean was taken to Camp Bastion, where he was stabilised by the British medical team, and then on to Kandahar where the US medical team performed emergency surgery to enable him to be flown back to the UK. On his return, his family were invited to visit him and say goodbye as specialists thought it unlikely that he would make it through the next few days. 

Dean remained in a coma for the next six weeks and has no memory of this time. In 2015, he made the difficult decision to have his left arm amputated due to paralysis from his brain injury. 

He tells us more about his motivation for taking part in the expedition: 

“I was trained to parachute in the Army and these will be my first jumps since I was injured. I would like to know my limits physically and mentally, as I struggle with walking and balance. These treks are going to be the biggest walking challenges that I have faced since being injured. I really don’t know how my body will handle this amount of walking, especially on such varied terrain. 

“I want to push my physical and mental limits as I haven’t really pushed myself to this extreme since my injury. I did cycle from Brussels to Paris in 2014 but this will be a bigger challenge.

“I have been training in my home gym: I have a static recumbent exercise bike and my wife has a Peloton Bike+, so I have been doing cycling classes through the app. I have been doing both low resistance high cadence training and low cadence high resistance training. I have also been doing dumbbell and kettlebell exercises to build up my strength.

“I just love the fact that Pilgrim Bandits push people out of their comfort zones with these extreme expeditions. I really want to try and raise the profile of the charity and raise funds for them. This will be my first expedition with them, hopefully there will be more to come too. I would love to become more involved with the charity and try to promote it as much as I can.”

Always a little further 

“The charity pushes veterans both mentally and physically and that’s why most of us joined the military in the first place. Some of us have lost that sense of purpose that you get within the military and these challenges are a chance to prove something to ourselves. We can still do these “extreme” things and push ourselves, just like we used to do before our injuries. 

“For me it is has given me that drive that I was missing. My wife will tell you that I am a different person since this all started. I have something to aim and push myself for, I am in the gym every morning before I have to go to work. 

“Matt Hellyer and the rest of the Pilgrim Bandits team need more recognition for what they do as these types of events are really good for mental health more than anything. It’s not just physical: I am in a much better place mentally since being accepted onto this. 

“I really can’t thank everyone involved enough for making these type of things available to us all; I just wish I could do more to help.”

If you would like to learn more about Pilgrim Bandits’ upcoming expeditions and how you can get involved, contact info@pilgrimbandits.org.

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