A HERO soldier has returned home for the first time after having his legs blown off in a horrific blast in Afghanistan.
Michael Keighley, who was in the war zone serving with the Rifles, lost both of his legs as well as part of his stomach and bowel after being caught up in a bomb blast in July last year.
He fell and triggered an improvised explosive device while searching for bombs.
The blast also left him with a shattered pelvis, shrapnel wounds to his abdomen, a broken jaw, broken finger and injuries to his left arm.
Medics in Afghanistan said at the time that Michael’s injuries were the worst they had ever seen.
Rifleman Keighley was treated in Camp Bastion before being taken on an 11-hour flight from Afghanistan to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, where he spent more than seven months recovering from his ordeal.
He has returned to his home in Horden for the first time after being given some rest and recuperation by medics to give him a break from his gruelling treatment.
The 23-year-old, who remained conscious throughout the bomb blast and vividly recalls being airlifted just moments after the incident, has spoken for the first time about his experiences and the long fight he has ahead of him.
He said: “I thought it was one of the other lads that got hit when the blast happened. But then I realised it was me and I started screaming ‘I want my mam’.
“I remember being in the helicopter, but then I woke up in hospital but didn’t know where I was.
“I was scared and went into a panic attack.
“At first I couldn’t breathe properly, and then they started telling me I was in hospital and that I had lost my legs.”
Michael lost one of his legs below the knee and the other above his knee.
He added: “My nerves where my legs stopped were twitching and moving because they thought my legs were still there.
“The pain was horrible.”
Michael, a former pupil at Shotton Hall School, has a long journey ahead of him and is due for a spell of treatment at Headley Court Military Hospital, in Surrey, at the end of this month.
The brave soldier will spend at least two years at the centre to strengthen his muscles up, and to eventually be fitted with prosthetic legs.
Michael admits having the false limbs fitted is not something he is looking forward to.
He added: “They have to teach me to fall over just in case I do, and then try to get back up.
“I am not looking forward to it, it’s pretty scary.
But despite his ordeal, Michael is determined to remain positive and says he is grateful for the support of his family and friends.
“Despite what has happened, I still have my family and friends and I still feel I have a lot to look forward to.”