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Naval Rehab Centre Transforms 350 Lives

Naval Rehab Centre Transforms 350 Lives
27 August 2019
Nearly 350 Royal Marines and sailors have been helped by a unique rehabilitation centre in Plymouth during its first ten years.

Set up in September 2009 principally to help commandos permanent scarred by battle recover from their wounds – or re-adjust their lives – Hasler Naval Service Recovery Centre now helps men and women from across the Forces with long-term conditions, injuries and illnesses.

Most injured or naval personnel are nursed and supported back to full fitness while still serving with their units, but more serious cases require longer term treatment and care away from their units and ships so they can concentrate solely on rehabilitation.

Originally established as Hasler Company – named after Cockleshell Hero and disability rights campaigner Major ‘Blondie’ Hasler – the recovery centre has moved on from mostly treating marines to supporting as many Royal Navy sailors and the occasional soldier or airman.

Those recuperating receive expert medical help, physiotherapy, moral support and career guidance to prepare them physically, mentally and professionally as well as possible for resuming their careers or starting a new life in the civilian world.

“Each day starts in the gym, most of the marines have physical injuries which require rehab and individual therapy,” explained Captain Mark Woosey, the Royal Marine in charge of the centre.

Afternoons are devoted to what the 20-strong team at Hasler call a ‘rolling recovery programme’: activities which can provide a welcome distraction from the hard work of rehab and treatment.

“Getting back to fitness after a major injury or illness can be a long, hard and sometimes dull process,” Captain Woosey added.

“They can be of direct help in an individual's transition or recovery – they can even help show exactly what they are capable of, reminding them they can still be the person they may fear has been lost through the injury or illness.

“You only need to see the face of a chronically-ill service person competing in a triathlon, playing sitting volley ball or surfing to realise the great value they have to morale and rehabilitation.”

We have an amazing team of physiotherapists and exercise/rehabilitation instructors who lead a programme including therapy, acupuncture, hydro therapy, yoga and tai chi.

Captain Mark Woosey

In addition there’s the chance to compete with the US Marine Corps in its Wounded Warrior Games trials, historical tours of the commandos’ spiritual home around Achnacarry or organise a music festival – all designed to raise morale, improve team spirit, motivate and encourage people.

Although the Hasler team is based in HMS Drake in Plymouth, support is provided to personnel – whose conditions range from combat wounds through chronic illnesses, mental health issues to terminal cases – at the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough, and as far afield as Scotland and the East Coast.

The goal is to help personnel resume their military careers. Where that proves impossible, staff focus on developing a person’s skills and preparing them for life outside the military.

One Royal Marine who’s benefited from Hasler described the centre as “a game-changer that allows individuals to either return to their profession or make that very difficult transition into the civilian world a little bit easier. It has equipped me with the required tools and contacts to move on.”

“The atmosphere is very much a ‘Band of Brothers and Sisters’. Though we all have slight differences with our personal conditions, Hasler allows us to help and support each other – vital in everyone’s recovery, which not only includes us, but all those who are part of our lives.”

Another found the visit to Achnacarry “left me with a sense of pride, honour and a zest to get out of the recovery pathway and back to the job I love”.

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