Rowing the Atlantic


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Neil Heritage (waving) with crewmates during the Row 2 Recovery cross-Atlantic challenge.   Picture courtesy of Neil Heritage


I've been sorting through a disc of images from double-amputee Neil Heritage. They were shot during his epic trans-Atlantic  Row 2 Recovery earlier this year. What an extraordinary feat for a man who has no legs! Talking to Neil at his home near Poole on Tuesday it became clear that he is completely driven to lead as active and normal a life as possible. The irony is that in doing so he leads anything but an ordinary existence. For one thing he's an instructor at a Boot Camp for people who want to lose weight. Neil himself knows one failsafe method of shedding the pounds. He lost two stones during his Atlantic rowing expedition. So much that his articial legs didn't fit anymore on his return. As with most drastic weight-loss programmes (deliberate or accidental), rowing the Atlantic isn't a long term solution. He says he's put the weight back on again. 

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      Neil Heritage.   Picture Hattie Miles

Neal's life changed forever in 2004 when, while serving with the Army in Iraq he was out on patrol dealing with unexploded ordnance and a suicide bomber broke through a security cordon and detonated half-a-tonne of explosives just a few metres  away from him.  Neil was standing behind the door of an armoured vehicle and though the explosion tore his legs off above the knee, he somehow survived. He was terribly injured and unconcious for a week but summoned the strength to fight his way back to an extraordinary level of fitness.  

 Though he's remarkably modest and self-effacing, Neil acknowledges that rowing 3,000 miles across an unforgiving ocean is quite an achievement. "More people have been into space," he told me. You will be able to read my full story about Neil in a month or two in both Dorset magazine and Friday magazine. His story will make up part of a feature about the work of prosthetic limb pioneer Bob Watts who has made state-of-the-art arms, legs, hands and feet for some extraordinary individuals. 

© Jeremy Miles 2017