It has been a long road back for Williamstown’s Lance Bombardier, Brendan Dover, who six years ago lost part of his left leg and use of his left hand in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.
Dover, 34, will represent Australia in the 400 metres at this month’s Invictus Games for wounded warriors.
Deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, he recalls the fateful mission in Uruzgan Province that turned his world upside down.
“We were on a large sweeping patrol just before winter,” Dover said.
“I did one clean jump and, ‘bang’, off I went. When I got blown up, I thought it was someone else.”
“It was supposed to be a five-day operation but we were two or three days behind, so it was really slow, tedious, patrol.
“Then on the fifth day, there was nothing really happening – we weren’t getting shot at or anything else like that.”
His patrol was entering Koala Complex when a man in front of him slipped into an aqueduct.
“I presumed it was clear because nothing went off, he was in front of me,” Dover said.
“I did one clean jump and, ‘bang’, off I went. When I got blown up, I thought it was someone else.
“The eardrums were blown out, smoke everywhere, and I tried to stand up a couple of times and fell over.
“It wasn’t until I saw the arm was at a 90-degree angle, the bone was protruding, and I sat on my back to get comfortable to put the tourniquet on … when I realised the foot’s not there.”
A medic and another combatant ran a kilometre through enemy land to provide assistance. Dover spent seven days in a coma before being transferred to Germany and eventually back to Australia.
He spent four months in rehab and contracted an infection not previously seen in Australia.
“I was basically a bubble boy for the first two months,” he said. “Everyone that came in had the full gowns … if that infection had have got out, it’s an epidemic in Australia.
“That took a couple of months … dealing with international doctors to ascertain how to treat it.”
From there, Dover underwent more surgeries, including more than 20 to his left arm.
Dover, who now works for 1st Commando Regiment at Fort Gellibrand in an administrative role, said the road to recovery had been long.
He recently placed third in the para-skeleton world championships and is eagerly looking forward to the Invictus Games.
“I am proud to be representing Australia at these Games,” he said. “I have a very competitive nature so I won’t go down without a fight.
“During rehab, probably one of the things that motivated me was that you could see others who gave up and you saw how they were discharged from hospital – in a wheelchair or those motorised vehicles.
“I just said, ‘That’s not me’.”
The Invictus Games, initiated by Prince Harry, are expected to attract more than 400 competitors from 14 nations. They will be held in Orlando, Florida, from May 8-12.