A former soldier from County Durham who lost both legs and several fingers in a bomb blast in Afghanistan said computer gaming has saved his life.
Mikey Keighley was injured during a foot patrol of scrubland on his second tour of duty in 2011.
The 33-year-old became a recluse but said he now has a thriving social life after learning to play one-handed.
Mr Keighley, from Shotton, competes with gamers all over the world.
He also has a growing fanbase on a streaming platform, where he goes by the username MonkeyNooLegs.
Mr Keighley suffered severe injuries when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated.
“I went flying up in the air and then I hit the ground,” he said.
“The first thing I did was look at my right hand and I screamed ‘man down’. My friend ran over and patched me up with tourniquets before I was helicoptered away.
“I signed up to the army aged 19 and did my first tour of Afghanistan aged 20, I was injured aged 21 and spent my 22nd birthday in critical care.
“I was on life support for a few weeks and I was paralysed from the neck down for months due to the trauma that was caused to nerves in my back.
“I had to lie in bed for months on end – that was the worst time.”
He was treated at a defence medical rehabilitation centre, before his family turned to Help for Heroes when he was medically discharged from the army.
He recently raised almost £1,000 for the charity during a tournament.
Mr Keighley was able to rediscover his love of gaming after finding a controller he could use, with four underside paddles which he plays with two fingers and a thumb.
He said: “I used to be socially isolated but now I have this massive friendship group who I spend hours with, it just happens to be online.
“I never thought I’d be friends with people from Australia and America.
“I would say gaming has saved me. When you are messing about gaming you aren’t thinking about what’s going on with your life.
“I used to sit in my kitchen with the music on all day, I would just stare out of the window.
“Gaming makes me talk to people – that’s something I didn’t do outside of my family.”
Mr Keighley now wants to travel abroad to compete in tournaments in person.
“It would prove to myself how far I have come since I was injured and what I can do. Without Help for Heroes I would be a very sad loner,” he added.
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