Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Injured soldier Ben Parkinson starts oxygen therapy

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Media captionBBC Inside Out follows injured soldier and Afghanistan war hero Ben Parkinson as he embarks on pioneering oxygen treatment for his brain injury

A soldier who suffered devastating injuries in Afghanistan has started oxygen treatment to help his speech and memory.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 30, from Doncaster, was left brain damaged and lost both his legs after a bomb attack in 2006.

He is undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment at Castle Craig Hospital in Peeblesshire.

BBC Inside Out was given exclusive access to the start of his treatment.

Pilgrim Bandits, a charity for injured servicemen, is funding the therapy.

The paratrooper, whose memory and speech were affected by the brain damage, will receive two treatments a day. The sessions involve breathing pure oxygen at higher than atmospheric pressures in an enclosed chamber.

Image caption Ben Parkinson will spend an hour every day breathing pure oxygen

L/Bombardier Parkinson said he was "excited" about the treatment, which he is convinced will make a difference.

"I know it will," he said. "I will walk and talk better."

He will spend an hour every day in the chamber for the next four weeks and the soldier said that after just one session he could already feel the benefits.

"It was brilliant," he said. "I'm already talking better."

Another veteran, Steven Thomas, is also starting the treatment.

He suffered a brain injury in a scooter crash in Thailand.

Mr Thomas said he was hoping the treatment would improve his speech and his memory.

Image caption Steven Thomas and Ben Parkinson at Castle Craig Hospital in Peeblesshire

Chairman of Castle Craig Hospital Peter McCann said he hoped there would be "some improvement".

"Flooding the brain with oxygen under pressure allows nutrients and oxygen to flow into damaged cells and revitalise them," he said.

Funding for other veterans

Oxygen could "have an effect in reducing inflammation" caused by brain damage, he added.

A spokesman for Pilgrim Bandits said it would fund treatment for other veteran members of its charity if it was successful.

"These two lads are the first recipients from the charity and if it goes as well as we hope then we will be funding others to attend too," he said.

L/Bombardier Parkinson, who carried the Olympic flame in 2012 through his hometown on his prosthetic legs, was made an MBE in 2013.

He was also one of a group of injured veterans who took part in a gruelling trek in Norway that year.

The expedition, organised by Pilgrim Bandits, retraced the footsteps of World War Two heroes of Telemark to mark the 70th anniversary of the mission.

The paratrooper suffered more than 40 injuries in the bomb attack in 2006.

As well as brain damage, he also broke his pelvis, his back in four places, shattered his arm and chest.

Now, he is determined to get fitter and healthier.

"I want to walk better, talk better and eat better," he added.

Image caption Ben Parkinson is determined to overcome the injuries he suffered in Afghanistan

Inside Out is broadcast on BBC One Yorkshire & Lincolnshire on Monday, 26 January at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for 30 days thereafter.

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