Profile Series: Patrick Medhurst-Feeney - Soldiering on
Patrick is 31 and lives in Devon. Serving in the British army for 5 years, he joined at the young age of 19 as a veterinary technician and dog handler “I enjoyed a busy career getting some amazing opportunities to travel the world” he explains.
In 2011 he was involved in an accident on adventure training but carried on in his career and deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. Whilst on this tour he was involved in another accident that ended with him suffering serious nerve damage in his back. After being flown back home and spending some time recovering he realised he was beginning to lose feeling in his right foot and ankle which left him struggling to walk.
In 2016 he was medically discharged from the army but unfortunately wasn't quite finished with his medical journey. Not only had he been suffering with the physical limitations of his injury, he also suffered with mental health conditions which meant that his day to day sadly became focused around appointments and medication which must have been an exhausting way to live. It can be hard when you feel like there’s no end to it so it’s important that you fill your life with things you love to do. Outside of the appointments Patrick found enjoyment in cricket that had been adapted so that he could play. He also discovered handbiking through Help For Heroes who helped him source a handbike - “It was a way of enabling me to exercise which up to that point I had struggled with” explains Patrick.
After getting into handbiking he decided to do something with it and planned a charity event to help some of the charities that helped him throughout his journey. In 2018 he cycled his handbike from Edinburgh to Exeter sleeping in the back of a long wheel based van driven his dad!
Fast forward to 2020 and what a year it's been! After years and years of scans and treatment Patrick was finally offered a below-knee amputation. He received his first prosthetic on May bank holiday Monday and his first goal was to get himself back on a bicycle and he did so pretty much straight away. However, he had to get used to riding again after so long away from a regular bike. To begin he used a turbo trainer for a few months and then just took the plunge and hit the road. “Now you can't stop me. It clears my head and helps me to shift some of that timber… I love the escape that cycling gives me.”
Why didn’t you carry on handbiking? What made you want to switch back to a regular bike?
I moved to normal cycling because I was finally able to use my right leg again properly. It's a psychological thing of being more ‘normal’ and showing I'm able to do things everyone else can do. I clip in the same as anybody else. The only thing I need to remember to do is clip my prosthetic in first when I get on the bike and put my good leg down first when I stop otherwise I have a tendency to kiss the tarmac! Although I have plenty of cushioning to soften the blow.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
Post amputation, it was getting in and learning to walk again but also learning to ride again. After using a handbike for years and cycling a little before that it was a case of learning a new skill in road cycling. It's a lot higher up than the handbike. Scary.
What makes you feel affiliated with FLAB?
After spending ages looking for cycling kit that didn't make it look like I was busting out of it I came across FLAB. It's so comfortable and practical. Not only that but the Facebook community is fantastic. No judgement, just amazing support, and amazing cake photos!
What do you do after a grueling ride?
I take my leg off and sweat it out with a nice brew.
Big thanks to Patrick for sharing his story with us. I think it really shows us how fragile the life we know is but how resilient we are in accepting and adapting. From handbiking to getting straight back on a regular bike, Pat has really made his life work around his injury which is truly inspirational.