Jamie Unlike some military charities, Supporting Wounded Veterans doesn’t insist that the veterans it helps have been involved in recent conflicts. Jamie, 46, began his adult life as an engineer in the Fleet Air Arm. But his military career was brought to an abrupt end when, while preparing to be deployed into a front line squadron for the first Gulf War, he became registered blind. Jamie has rod-cone dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder that causes the loss, first of central vision and gradually the deterioration of colour definition and peripheral sight. Today he is almost totally blind, but he lives by the mantra: “We are here for a good time, not a long time.” SWV founder Gilly Norton says she invited him to Klosters because “as soon as I met him, I knew he would prove to be an uplifting presence to everyone on the trip.” SWV’s expert team of instructors includes several who are trained to work with the visually impaired. They equipped Jamie with a microphone and earpiece so that he could communicate with a guide and gave him two buddies who acted as a protective circle around him on the slopes. Although Jamie had skied before, the support the charity was able to provide took his capabilities to a whole new level. “My vision allows me to see contrast and shadows in bright light, but I have no idea where I am going. In my ear, I can hear the guide saying, ‘left, left, left, right, right, and I make my turns to their instructions,” he explains. “When I need to halt, they count me in – three, two, one, stop.’ You have to take a deep breath and place complete trust in your guide but the payback is exhilarating. I might not be taking in the mountain views, but I’m showing just what is possible.” Jamie, who lives in Nottingham with his wife Katrina, a lawyer, and their two daughters Maddie, ten, and Poppy, seven, had a second career as a tax adviser. However in 2013 he was forced to stop work because of the increasing severity of his sight loss and he subsequently underwent treatment for stress and anxiety. The SWV gave him a whole new lease of life. Since returning from Klosters he has joined the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team and is training as an alpine racer with the hope of being a contender at the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea. “If you said to me now that I could have my eyesight back, I would think twice about that because I wouldn’t be the same person that Supporting Wounded Veterans has enable me to become,” he says.
Jamie, veteran 2014