War hero Gary Prout insulted by offer of £450 for injury which ended career
Exclusive: Decorated soldier left in constant pain by training accident
An army veteran from Northern Ireland said he has been hurt and insulted after an insurance firm offered him just £450 for a life-changing injury.
Gary Prout (33), originally from Lisburn, joined the Royal Artillery 12 years ago and has done a tour of duty in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan.
He received a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in 2010 after he went back out to try to save another soldier during a Taliban ambush on his second tour of Afghanistan.
He explained: "We were ambushed heavily and one of our lads was left behind. I pushed forward and got the hold of him.
"I had to go further into the ambush to get him some cover. Sadly he was killed as there wasn't anything I could do for him.
"I received the award because my job was to call in the artillery and airstrikes and I had tried to save him."
After he received the cross, Gary began training new recruits. However, during one training exercise on a mountain in Scotland in 2013, he snapped his lower right leg in several places, leaving him with terrible injuries.
A few weeks later, he noticed his leg was not healing properly and he was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which means the skin of his leg has become so sensitive that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain.
He explained: "My leg was blue and there was no circulation in it. I could push against it and it would stay dented. I was in extreme pain all the time."
Gary said that doctors told him he may need to have his leg amputated and he may never work again.
He was forced to give up his career in the military and, for the past three years, he has been able to walk only very short distances unaided due to the intense pain he suffers.
The former soldier paid for high-premium personal injury insurance throughout his military career, using a company called PAX insurance.
He was assessed through the company and was awarded £150 for the initial injury and then a further £300 for his disability.
He claims that he was assessed as being 3% disabled because most of his disability comes down to his pain syndrome, and said the company stated that "pain is subjective".
He did receive a separate employment pay-out of £2,000 because he had to give up his job.
He said: "I can only hobble short distances but they said I was only 3% disabled. If I was disabled 2% or 3%, I could still run a marathon but I can't even walk. They can't measure my pain and because of that, they won't award me for the disability."
Gary's pain was so severe that last year he chose to have another operation on his back to have a spinal stimulator installed. He faces further surgery throughout his life to have its battery changed.
He said that, with that in mind, he felt it was a "massive insult" for the insurance company to tell him that his pain could not be measured.
"When you look at my foot, you can see it's swollen and there's a colour change. Even wind blowing against it can cause pain. This is such a massive impact on my day to day life.
"This weekend, I will be able to go on my first holiday since I got the injury. I have been in so much pain that I was scared to go anywhere. It's difficult to do anything.
"This is such a kick in the teeth because I just want to get out and get on with things but £450 for a life-changing injury is not right," he added.
In the years after the accident, he trained for the Invictus games for injured service personnel, and was the Archery Team captain at the 2014 event in London.
He then found full-time employment with a business consultancy firm in England, where he now lives with his wife. Without their help and support, he said he would have lost his house.
"They have been really understanding with my condition and let me work from home if I need to.
"Without that, I wouldn't have been able to pay my mortgage.
"I haven't got my armed forces pension yet and the insurance payments have been so small.
"There are other people who aren't able to work, who can't pay the bills.
"I believe this type of insurance is not fit for purpose."
AIG insurance, the company which runs PAX, said it could not comment on individual cases.