NHS Shetland physiotherapist Gemma Passmore has been selected from a huge number of applicants to become a “ski buddy” during a ski-habilitation week for injured veterans.
Gemma’s father, Colonel Jonathan Passmore, served in the army for many years and it was the experiences she had following him around the world in his various postings that inspired her to work with and raise money for military charities.
Skiing With Heroes was set up in 2013 to provide injured service men and women with a week’s skiing where they can learn new skills, gain confidence and speak to others in similar situations. All the veterans are then provided with support to access civilian employment, which is commonly very difficult due to their injuries.
Gemma saw the buddy advert and as a high-level skier along with her personal military experiences, she had the skills they were looking for.
She said: “I had to fill in an application form and was really surprised when I got short-listed. I was then invited to London for an informal interview and to meet the committee.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t make it but thankfully that didn’t put them off asking me for a phone interview.
“The main thing they wanted to know was how I would deal with the emotional aspect of the week as the people we will be looking after have had some pretty traumatic experiences.
“Some of the experiences I’ve had both in life as a military child and in my job will help with this.”
The ski buddies’ role is crucial in ensuring the veterans get the most out of the week. They arrive on the Friday night and spend Saturday preparing for the heroes’ arrival.
They also have lessons learning how to ski on one leg, ski blindfolded and ski in a sit-ski (a moulded seat on a ski).
The veterans then arrive on the Saturday evening and on Sunday everyone heads out to lessons with specially trained adaptive ski instructors.
The buddies are there to assist the skiers and instructors, voice guide blind skiers, assist their skier on/off the lifts and generally ensure they have the time of their lives.
Gemma said: “I’ve seen first-hand the traumas that veterans, both from recent and past conflicts, experience.
“We’ve all seen the amputees coming back from Afghanistan but there are also the others that have severe post traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy and balance issues from head injuries and other life changing problems. I spent time down at Headley Court and was touched by the stories of the people I met.