‘I have a big fear of going to sleep and not waking up’ - ex-soldier speaks of car crash recovery battle
PUBLISHED: 10:34 02 January 2019
A former soldier has spoken out about his battle to rebuild his life after a serious car crash.
For 33-year-old Randy Akam the past few years have been a constant battle and it is only now that he can start to put his past experiences behind him.
He was on tour in Iraq when he received a serious shrapnel injury, but this was not the only scar Army life left on him. He was later diagnosed with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He was starting to put his life back together - he had a job as a lorry driver, was studing for a degree at the University of Suffolk, was going to the gym regularly and seeing his children when he could when his life took another dramatic turn.
On June 19, 2017 he was involved in a serious car accident.
Mr Akam woke up in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, on July 3, with no memory of how he got there.
In his panic, he tried to rip a drip from his arm before a nurse was able to calm him down and show him photos taken on his own phone.
It showed a horrific scar running across his head, and he was told he had sustained a brain injury as a result of the accident.
Mr Akam had been travelling along Ramsholt Road, in Alderton, just after 5pm when the accident happened.
“I couldn’t remember anything about the crash,” said Mr Akam. “I had been to see my daughter the day before, I know that because there is a picture on my phone. That’s it, I woke up after 14 days asleep.”
His cracked skull required cranioplasty - surgery to reconstruct the bone at the back of his head and install metal plates to keep it together.
Mr Akam also had to relearn very basic tasks.
“I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I had to learn everything from scratch, it felt like I was born again.
“I had to learn how to read, how to shower, how to walk, I couldn’t walk for eight weeks.”
He faced months of rehab before he could even undertake the simplest of tasks.
“I remember looking down at my legs and thinking ‘I should chop these off’ because I couldn’t use them.”
He remained in hospital until November 2017 before being moved to a bungalow in Rendlesham by social services because he was unable to cope with stairs.
Even now, 18 months on from that fateful afternoon, he is still trying to adapt to a new normal.
Mr Akam said: “I have metal plates in my head and I have to wear a padded hat whenever I go outside.”
As a result of the head injury, he has suffered a string of seizures.
“My last seizure was in March so if I don’t have another one until March 2019 I can drive a car but I can’t work, I can’t drive a lorry until I’ve been seizure free for five years.”
He lives in fear of having another seizure, or worse.
“To be honest, I’m very scared at night that I will go to sleep and not wake up,” said Mr Akam.
He added: “I’m just taking it one day at a time, you have too.”
A year ago Mr Akam sought help from Rushmere Baptist Church and he has found the support of new friend Ian Dufour.
The 72-year-old retired engineer said: “He was a very angry young man when I first met him, not just because of the accident but I think because of the PTSD he had suffered in the armed forces.
“I think he needed a father figure, because I’m a little bit older he can tell me things he wouldn’t tell his peers.
Mr Dufour helped Mr Akam access support for his mental health issues and even encouraged him to take part in an NHS-sponsored anger management course.
As a result, he has recently felt well enough to return to his studies part-time and is also back at the gym, using Colchester’s Help for Heroes Chavasse VC House, a recovery centre for war veterans.
“I’m about halfway towards where I want to be,” said Mr Akam.
Thanking those who saved his life after the crash, and those who have helped him in his journey to recovery, he added: “The response of the police, the ambulance and the air ambulance on that day was amazing, I just want to say thanks for that.
“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. I’m just so grateful to them.”