Invictus Games: Ex-soldier David Wiseman winning medals with a bullet in his chest

Dave Wiseman and Prince Harry
Prince Harry (right, with David Wiseman) launched the Invictus Games in 2014

Everywhere David Wiseman goes, a piece of shrapnel - a bullet about an inch in length - goes with him.

Eight years after being shot on the battlefield of Afghanistan, he can look back on a collection of achievements that goes well beyond the Invictus Games medals that hang around his neck.

Alongside Prince Harry he was a driving force of the Invictus movement, is a veteran of the Games himself and has climbed some of the world's highest peaks.

He carries with him the vivid memory of the pain from the moment the bullet entered his body.

"The pain is heat. It's searing heat. I could feel where the round had gone and I could trace it through my body," Wiseman, 34, tells BBC Sport.

"It was like someone had taken a hot poker and put it in. There's no getting away from it. It's inside you."

Wiseman sits in a hotel in downtown Toronto, the nerve centre of the third Invictus Games, a Paralympic-style event for injured and ill service personnel and the brainchild of Prince Harry.

Wiseman competes as a swimmer but was also intrinsic to the creation of the first Games in London in 2014.

The reason he is here in Toronto, the reason his service as a captain in the Army ended, was because of that bullet.

He was leading a liaison team embedded in the Afghanistan army, conducting an operation to dominate land they had recently won, when a "scrap" broke out. A round would hit him in the collarbone.

"Being shot is not like Call of Duty or James Bond, where they get up and carry on. I've seen lots of people get shot and they don't tend to get up and bat on," he said.

An X-ray of the bullet lodged in Dave Wiseman's chest
An X-ray of the bullet lodged in Dave Wiseman's chest

"When this thing hit me it picked me up and threw me backwards about two metres and I ended up from walking forwards to sitting flat on my back looking up at the sky.

"It felt like a sledgehammer had hit me square in the chest. That little bit of metal is not the stuff that does the damage, it's the energy transfer. It's the shockwave that goes through your whole body that rips through the flesh."

The bullet travelled from the collarbone down the length of his torso, bouncing off the ribs in his back, bouncing off the ribs in his front and before coming to rest in his right lung.

Wiseman had four immediate threats to his life - the bullet had penetrated a major blood vessel, it had caused paralysis down his right side by striking the bundle of nerves called the brachial plexus, he had internal bleeding and he had a hole in his lung.

"The upshot of that is you have one lung completely shredded and the other is slowly becoming less effective as the space is being filled with air and blood," he explained.

He rolled into a ditch for cover, but was submerged in water - if the bullet wasn't going to kill him, then drowning might.

British-Fijian soldier Lance Corporal Fong pulled him out "in an act of bravery". British-Ghanaian medic Manny Ansah shook Wiseman and dislodged something in his chest - he could breathe again.

An American rescue team picked him up. Danish nurses worked on him. British, Canadian and American surgeons administered the immediate treatment.

His saviours were as multi-national as the Invictus Games itself, where 17 countries are represented and each one of them won a medal.

"When I'm here in the team hotel or the swimming pool, I do reflect on that team effort and I can see it in what we're doing today," said Wiseman.

Dave Wiseman
On how swimming aided his recovery, Wiseman said: "I had a lot of intrusive thoughts, with a very busy mind and videos replaying. The only place it was quiet was the pool."

"We've fought together, we've been wounded together, we've repaired together and now we're competing together."

The recovery for Wiseman, as it is for almost all injured or sick soldiers, was physical and mental.

The paralysis wasn't guaranteed to fade, but it did - and with a series of surgeries he was on the road to physical recovery. Although his nerves in his right arm still do "funky" stuff.

But Wiseman's Army career was over and with it he was stripped of what defined him - his duty and his uniform.

"After injury I began to define myself both in the past and the negative. So I was a wounded soldier, an ex-soldier, a broken soldier.

"But when I got involved in sport I had something I was proud of in the present that I could define myself by."

That initial therapy came in adventuring and the process of writing a book - Helmand to the Himalayas is a literal and metaphorical journey that sums up Wiseman's rise from a hospital bed to mountain peaks.

"I was shot on 15 November 2009. In August 2011 I was standing on top of the highest mountain in Italy. On 5 October 2011 I was standing on top of the the eighth highest mountain in the world and the following season we had a failed attempt at Mount Everest," he said.

"I realised there was this semi-magical juju that could be passed on and the vehicle for that was sport."

And therein lies the concept of the Invictus Games - giving that "juju" to veterans who might otherwise be struggling for a purpose.

David Wiseman shows his Invictus Games medals on Twitter
Wiseman shows off his medal haul from the Invictus Games in Toronto

Wiseman had become an acquaintance of Prince Harry through his adventuring and it was while they were watching the Warrior Games - an event for American service personnel - that the Invictus Games was thought up.

"In May 2013 in Colorado Springs, I remember sitting around the breakfast table and it was Prince Harry's idea.

"He said: 'These Games are fantastic, but we're going to take it back to the UK and I want it in the Olympic Stadium and on the BBC, I want it massive and international.'

"We were just like, 'Oh my goodness, let's see what we can do.'"

The sights and emotions during Invictus week in Toronto have not only displayed the power sport has to help recovering soldiers, but it has also captured the attention of a national audience, with millions watching on BBC One - just as Prince Harry foresaw.

"You've seen how actively Prince Harry has been involved this week in Toronto, but what you haven't seen is how involved he is behind the scenes - he's driving this. It's his focus and his passion," said Wiseman.

For Wiseman, swimming has acted as a therapy to deal with the mental health problems he has contested, predominantly linked with a mass casualty incident he witnessed, rather than his own brush with death.

"I had a lot of intrusive thoughts, with a very busy mind and videos replaying," he said.

"The only place it was quiet was the pool. Physically you're immersed and everything is muffled. You can feel the water on every part of your body and you can't help but feel present."

Wiseman finished with five swimming medals in Toronto - one gold, two silver and three bronze.

But none of those are as valuable as the "juju" he and 549 other athletes can use to move on from a life they can no longer go back to.

If you're a former British soldier and are interested in competing at Sydney 2018, you can register your interest here.