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RAF Wittering squadron leader helps spinal injury suffers




Following surgery to remove a spinal tumour, Squadron Leader Daz Purchase from RAF Wittering is working with a leading UK charity to help others with spinal injuries.

In 2012 Sqn Ldr Purchase was diagnosed with a tumour in his spinal cord.

The tumour was lurking just inches beneath the base of his skull. It was a life-changing moment for the RAF logistics officer who had always maintained a high level of fitness.

Squadron Leader Purchase. Photo: Crown Copyright
Squadron Leader Purchase. Photo: Crown Copyright

Daz said: “We never really appreciate how these events will affect us until they happen. I can honestly say I went through all the stages of the grief cycle.

"Eventually I let go of my anger and my pragmatic, logical nature kicked in.

"I knew I had to face the reality of my situation, not to mention plan for the future.”

Daz Purchase's stitches. Photo: Crown Copyright
Daz Purchase's stitches. Photo: Crown Copyright

Most people would want to start treatment immediately, to kill the tumour as soon as possible, but the doctors believed otherwise. Surgery inside the spinal cord is fraught with risk of paralysis and they advised Sqn Ldr Purchase to leave the operation until it could not be avoided.

And so for four years the married father-of-two lived with the knowledge that a growing tumour was compressing his spinal cord.

The effects meant a loss of function in his upper left side which, slowly, was beginning to show itself on his right side. The time for surgery had arrived.

Twenty hours on the operating table lay ahead, with a further five days of absolute stillness to allow the spine to heal and then weeks of physiotherapy at Headley Court to build his strength up again.

Daz Purchase's scarring today. Photo: Crown Copyright
Daz Purchase's scarring today. Photo: Crown Copyright

Daz said: “My wife Jude was an absolute star throughout this entire period. She suffered all the same uncertainty and emotional turmoil and was my rock.”

Today Sqn Ldr Purchase is all clear and is devoting his energies to supporting the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA). For more than 40 years the SIA has been the leading source of advice and information for spinal injury sufferers.

First up is the Wings for Life World Run in Cambridge on May 3. It’s a reverse marathon which ends for the runners when the catcher-car draws level with them.

The Purchase family. Photo: Crown Copyright
The Purchase family. Photo: Crown Copyright

Daz is also doing active support work, using his own experience in counselling others with spinal injuries.

He said: “Nothing prepares you for that moment when you hear the diagnosis.

"I know that I could not have got through this without Jude and our kids, or without the support of the Royal Air Force and Spinal Injuries Association. I’ve been incredibly lucky, it’s not the sort of thing you take for granted, so it’s important to give something back.”

Squadron Leader Purchase at RAF Wittering. Photo: Crown Copyright
Squadron Leader Purchase at RAF Wittering. Photo: Crown Copyright

Sqn Ldr Purchase is Officer Commanding No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron, which is part of No 85 Expedition Logistics Wing at RAF Wittering. 85 Wing is led by Wing Commander Debs Wright.

Wg Cdr Wright said: “Squadron Leader Purchase would be the first person to acknowledge how fortunate he has been to have survived this, and how much the people around him have aided his recovery.

"For me, Daz’s story is a lesson in how to confront adversity and then use those same experiences to help others.

"He is a remarkable officer and a credit to the RAF.”

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