MIRACLE soldier Dean Middleton is fighting fit once again after surviving a massive roadside bomb blast which claimed the life of his comrade.
The 27-year-old was on a routine patrol in the Bowri desert in Central Helmand, Afghanistan, when his armoured vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.
Corporal Steve Dunn, who was also travelling in the Jackal, was thought to have been sat close to where the bomb struck and suffered fatal wounds.
Cpl Middleton was thrown from his gun position by the force of the blast and knocked unconscious.
Airlifted to a field hospital, he clung to life despite being left with head injuries.
Flown back to Britain, he then had a life-saving operation to remove a section of his skull to reduce swelling on his brain, before spending weeks in an induced coma in a bid to improve his condition.
He had to endure another major operation when his wound became infected.
But Cpl Middleton, who serves with the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, has amazed medics by battling back from the brink of death and, after having a metal plate inserted into his skull, he is now planning a new life after the forces.
“I’m just glad it’s all over,” said the soldier, from Parkside, Seaham. “The first time I was in hospital I was in for quite a while, there was some swelling on the brain, but this time, thankfully, it wasn’t too bad.
“The operation was about two hours, but everything went okay and I feel great.
“It was mainly cosmetic. The difference is amazing.”
Cpl Middleton said it was a “miracle” he survived the attack in 2010.
Cpl Dunn, 27, from Gateshead, was attached to the battalion from another regiment when he died in the blast.
Cpl Middleton, who has served in the armed forces for more than eight years, has no recollection of the explosion which virtually destroyed the Jackal.
“It’s amazing I’m still alive,” he said. “The hospital and staff at the rehabilitation centres have been fantastic.”
Despite his ordeal, the former pupil at Seaham School of Technology, who was just two months into his second tour of Afghanistan when he was wounded, said he plans to launch a new career as a fitness instructor after a medical discharge.
“I was a physical training instructor while I was in the forces, so I want to continue that in civilian life,” said Cpl Middleton. “It’s something I think I’ll enjoy, but it’s going to be quite a while before I leave.
“I’m doing all sorts of training at the minute and they want to make sure everything is okay first.”