notification Created with Sketch. CORONAVIRUS: We are still taking precautions to keep you safe Coronavirus (Respiratory infections) Update

Caroline’s story

Caroline Beazley is a proud Military Veteran and Ambassador for the Hospital’s Centre for Veterans Health.  Caroline served in the Royal Military Police before her life changed forever. This isn’t just a story of a woman injured in combat. It is Caroline’s story of resilience, strength and survival to turn her life around and make a positive impact on the military community.

The devastating blow

While out on patrol and unarmed, Caroline was shot four times with an AK47. The first round pierced her lower back, the second shattered the base of her right thumb, the third tore through her jaw, tongue, and upper palate, and the fourth narrowly missed her head. Caroline was just 22 years old.

‘I remember looking at myself in the mirror in hospital, the first time I had seen myself since the shooting. Staring back at me was a swollen, scarred, broken face, unrecognisable as the person I once was. My face and head were held together with what I can only describe as facial scaffolding; I had pins in my chin and forehead, a silver frame connected by nuts and bolts, and my teeth wired up like a character from a James Bond movie. My only form of verbal communication was a hole in my throat which I had to cover to make a sound.’

People often ask how Caroline survived four 7.62mm rounds. She doesn’t have a clear answer, but she believes someone was watching over her that day. Her life changed forever in that split second. The military career she had envisioned vanished, and she was thrust into a world of pain, isolation, and struggle.

 

Hospital and Military Discharged

Once discharged from the hospital and the Army, Caroline began the long journey of recovery from both her physical and mental wounds. Whilst the former healed well, the latter wasn’t going to be a quick fix. Like many veterans, Caroline battled mental health issues, physical pain, and a loss of purpose. For years, she hid her struggles from those around her, growing more isolated.

New beginning

In late 2018, an email about a Pain Management Programme at the Centre for Veterans Health marked the beginning of a new journey.

Caroline shared that from the moment she walked into the Centre, ‘I felt safe and understood. The clinicians were incredibly caring, helping manage my pain and rebuild my self-belief. The programme transformed hopelessness into hope, fear into courage, and loss into re-discovery. The programme equipped me with the tools to rebuild my life.’

Before the programme, Caroline was afraid of strangers glances, ashamed of her scars and lacking confidence. Now, she stands as a testament to hope and strength, speaking publicly with confidence. The programme didn’t just help with her pain—it gave her a foundation to build a new life. Her scars have transformed from shackles into symbols of resilience and strength; her voice, once a barrier, is now a beacon of inspiration for others.

Caroline made a promise to herself to no longer be ruled by pain and fear. She used the tools she learned to change her story and move forward. The Pain Management Programme was pivotal in her recovery, drastically changing her life and the way she lived it. The positive impact extends beyond her, touching her family, friends, and fellow veterans.

 

Mentally and Physically Stronger

Since completing the programme, Caroline has achieved amazing things:

  • Becoming an Ambassador for the Centre for Veterans’ Health
  • Winning Silver in the 50m breaststroke in the Veterans Games
  • Volunteering in a South African orphanage
  • Recording a charity single with Jon Bon Jovi.

She has also become great friends with actress and Hospital advocate Victoria Smurfit. Victoria has been a special guest speaker at the annual Christmas Carol Concert which helps raise funds for the Centre for Veterans’ Health. Caroline was our Veteran of honour for the event, speaking of her story in order to drive home the impact of the programme. Victoria and Caroline have worked together to produced a short film illustrating her story.

Caroline credits these achievements as a direct result of the programme and the support it provided.

A life-changing programme

When asked about the programme, Caroline said

“This programme was life-changing, and I will be forever grateful for the support I have received. To the generous supporters who kindly donate, thank you from the bottom of my heart.” Caroline also wished to speak to her fellow veterans and say, “trust me, give it a go—it will change your life.”

 

More information

  • If you are a veteran in need of support, or have any queries about the assistance we can offer you, please contact Caroline Dunne, Centre for Veterans Health Coordinator: cdunne@kingedwardvii.co.uk
  • Find out more about the Veterans’ Pain Management Programme.
    Did you know all Service or ex-Service Personnel (including reserves) without medical insurance are entitled to a 20% discount on their hospital bill. It also extends to their spouses/civil partners and includes widowers and widows.

 

Help support our charitable work with Armed Forces veterans.

Are you inspired by Caroline’s story and wish to make a donation to the Centre for Veterans’ Health?

100% of donation to the Centre for Veterans’ Health, go directly to support veterans.

Donate now