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Diving therapy for our heroes; Injured soldiers use pioneering treatment in US.

Byline: Edward Chadwick

BRITISH troops wounded in the line of enemy fire are to benefit from pioneering underwater treatment, thanks to hero Solihull marine Matt Croucher.

L Cpl Croucher has organised a trip for three soldiers to fly to America to experience weightless scuba diving therapy.

The rehabilitation course has already helped dozens of US paratroopers and special forces who have been paralysed or undergone amputations to recover from their injuries and build better movement.

Thousands of pounds has been raised through sponsors and veterans charities for the trip to the Florida Keys on April 29.

The soldiers include Steve Hands, a former marine from Knowle, near Solihull, who suffered prolapsed discs in his back in 1996 while fighting in the Balkans.

He now suffers 30 per cent disability and receives a war pension.

"I'm not expecting this to be a miracle cure but if it means I can sleep a whole night without pain then I will be delighted," said Mr Hands, aged 33.

"I can walk with the aid of medication but I would love to reduce taking it because it increases the risk of a heart attack." If the trip is successful, L Cpl Croucher hopes to be able to take more troops on the Deptherapy course in October.

He has been supported by watch manufacturer Breitling, Virgin airlines, who will pay for flights, and scuba kit manufacturers Oceanic, who have supplied more than pounds 3,000 worth of equipment.

L Cpl Croucher, from Solihull, was awarded the George Cross after he threw himself on top of a booby trapped grenade at a Taliban bombmaking compound in Helmand, Afghanistan to protect colleagues.

"This is a fantastic course which has helped American troops to live more normal lives despite horrific injuries and I believe British servicemen deserve the same," said L Cpl Croucher, aged 24.

"It can't be done in this country because the water is too cold for people who have suffered paralysis." Deptherapy is run by Scottish former soldier Fraser Bathgate, who was left wheelchair-bound after a climbing accident in 1986.

Mark Turner, owner of Scuba and Outdoor Pursuits on Stratford Road, Shirley, has agreed to auction two PADI open water diving courses worth pounds 350 each to help raise money to fund the trip. To bid, visit www.

scubapursuits.com

CAPTION(S):

Help for Heroes at the Mayor's parlour, Solihulll (left) Mayor of Solihull David Bell, Matt Croucher, (back from left) Kelvin Richards (Oceanic), Ray Warren, Steve Hands (former marine), Alan Barratt (fitness instructor), Mark Turner (Scuba and Outdoor Pursuits), (bottom right) Fraser Bathgate, Deptherapy.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 18, 2009
Words:430
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