Tuesday, February 2, 2010
By JOHN KAY, Chief Reporter - The Sun
BRITAIN'S first woman soldier to lose a leg in combat dismissed her terrible injury last night as "just a scratch" compared to other heroes.
Courageous Captain Kate Philp coolly told doctors to cut off her left leg so she could get on with her life after it was shredded by a bomb blast in Afghanistan.
And, recalling her months in hospital, she insisted: "When one of the first people you meet is a triple amputee, you realise you're incredibly lucky."
Kate, 31, spoke to The Sun about her experiences to highlight today's relaunch of the Army Benevolent Fund.
The tough Royal Artillery officer said: "Fifteen months down the line, I'm walking and I've just stopped using crutches.
"I hope to be fitted with a cosmetic leg so I can wear skirts again and one day I aim to play tennis and go skiing.
"What's happened to me is just a scratch compared to some of the guys. I feel incredibly lucky to be alive."
Kate's world changed forever in November, 2008, when the Warrior mini-tank she was commanding ran over a 50kg Taliban bomb.
The blast killed Gurkha Colour Sergeant Krishna Dura, 36, injured three other soldiers, and shattered Kate's leg.
The officer, from Worcester, was airlifted to a field hospital in Helmand. Surgeons operated for hours and believed they had saved her limb.
But after she was flown home, medics at the specialist military Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham told her she would have a greater chance of regaining mobility without the leg.
Without a trace of self-pity Kate, who was serving with 17 Corunna Battery of 26 Regiment Royal Artillery, recalled: "You need to listen to the experts' advice.
"I was calmly happy about my decision to have the leg amputated. For me it was a simple question of function over cosmetics.
"My consultant, Professor Keith Porter, explained that my foot and ankle were a jigsaw of fractures which might have to be fused - and I might not even walk properly again.
"I asked whether with a prosthetic I would be able to run, play tennis and ski. When the reply came 'Yes', I responded "That's fine, then."
Single girl Kate spent six weeks at Selly Oak before moving to the Ministry of Defence rehabilitation centre at Headley Court, Surrey.
She described her time there as "weirdly buoyant".
Kate explained: "Not a day passed without a visitor.
"The phone was buzzing and the post poured in, some from complete strangers. It's an incredible feeling when someone who doesn't even know you has bothered to put pen to paper. It's very humbling.
"The staff, a mix of military and civilian, were fantastic - professional, compassionate and, importantly, great fun.
"Progress has been slow and my patience has been severely tested. I've surprised myself, my friends and my family."
Last October Kate was readmitted to Selly Oak and had to have four more operations.
But now she is well on the mend and has started a new job with the Royal Artillery's Training Regiment at Larkhill in Wiltshire.
And she said: "I'm sure I could eventually go back on active duty in Afghanistan."
Kate, who had deployed on two previous tours of duty in Iraq, then recalled the day when she and her six-man Warrior team were blown up.
Her patrol had picked up a sniper team when they were hit near of Musa Qala.
It was the first bomb attack to penetrate a 25-ton Warrior.
She said: "Two weeks before deploying to Afghanistan in August 2008, I celebrated my 30th birthday with a big party.
"I never thought it would happen to me. When it did happen three months later, I didn't really realise it had.
"A loud bang, a cloud of smoke and a smell of chemicals is what immediately greets you and all you're bothered about is, 'is everyone OK?'
"The radios were down, I knew that my lad next to me was unhurt and shortly afterwards that my driver was fine.
"But I quickly realised it was a different story in the back.
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