A DESPERATELY ill veteran stuck down by a mystery bug abroad has told of his joy at finally getting back home – and thanked Evening News readers for their help.
Former paratrooper Derek “Benny” Bennett, from West Lothian, spent more than a month in a Northern Cyprus hospital paralysed from the neck down.
Frantic family and friends launched an online fundraiser before borrowing the rest of the money to medivac the 66-year-old father-of-two.
“Benny would do anything for anybody and wouldn’t expect anything in return,” said family friend Victoria Guthrie, 29.
“He wants to thank everyone, of course for the donations, which have been massive, and people’s generosity has been incredible.
“But also for the messages of support people have given him. They’ve really helped boost his morale.”
The ex-Royal Scots Dragoon Guard fell ill on September 15 while on a holiday with family and friends, including Victoria’s mum Yvonne Troy.
Previously based in Northern Cyprus, Mr Bennett makes regular visits from his home in Kirknewton.
He spent two-and-a-half weeks in intensive care while friends and family kept a bedside vigil and took turns to help feed him.
Medics believed Mr Bennett contracted a virulent infection which attacked his central nervous system – but were baffled as to the cause.
Generous donors boosted the fundraiser past the £17,500 mark helping fly Mr Bennet back to Edinburgh in an air ambulance before on to hospital.
“I went in to see him and he’s deliriously happy to be back – he even compared the Western General to a five-star hotel,” said mother-of-one Mrs Guthrie.
There was even some good news on the medical front as some movement has returned in Mr Bennett’s left arm.
But specialist medics are “starting from scratch”, said Mrs Guthrie, to discover the cause of his mystery paralysis.
“I don’t think I was quite prepared for the weight and muscle mass loss – but he’s in very good spirits, ridiculously so.”
Mr Bennett faced a ten-hour mammoth trek from Northern Cyprus – medivaced to Edinburgh Airport and then by ambulance to the Western General.
“I think the happiness of being home just carried him through,” said Mrs Guthrie. “He can’t get over how amazing everybody has been. He got quite emotional.”
Mr Bennett served in Northern Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Israel, Germany and the Gulf during 25 years with the regiment.
He trained other Paras and was even awarded the UN’s Peacekeeping medal for his 1974 Cyprus tour – in addition to long service and good conduct recognition.
Friends greeted news of Mr Bennett’s return. Lyn Rodger said: “Benny is a great friend and a true gentleman. He would do anything for anyone. Keep that fighting spirit going love.”