A HERO soldier faces months in hospital after his legs were blown off in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.
Michael Keighley was left with horrific, life-threatening injuries, after he fell and triggered an improvised explosive device while searching for bombs in July.
The 23-year-old was serving with The Rifles when he found two bombs buried underground.
After finding a third device, he turned to warn his fellow soldiers and tripped over some rubble, setting a bomb off.
The explosion caused him to lose both legs, one below the knee and the other above the knee, and left him with a shattered pelvis, shrapnel wounds to his abdomen, a broken jaw, broken finger, and injuries to his left arm.
Today as Michael, from Horden, lies in his hospital bed, his heartbroken family spoke out about his struggle for survival.
His younger sister Michelle said when she first heard the news she did not know whether her brother was alive or dead.
“I had a missed call on my phone from my mum,” said the 20-year-old.
“I then received a voicemail from mum crying, telling me to come home straight away.
“I knew something had happened and I had a gut feeling it was to do with Michael.
“I was devastated when I found out that he was injured. All I hoped was that he would carry on fighting through the long flight home.”
Michael had to survive an 11-hour flight from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where doctors told his family to expect the worst.
“Nothing could really sink in,” said Michelle. “It was as if the room was spinning. I just to had see it with my own eyes.
“We got told by the doctors that Michael was the worst case they had ever seen and every second was critical.
“I couldn’t prepare myself, I just tried to convince myself not to cry and be strong for my family.
“I didn’t recognise him with all the tubes, bandages, drips and his stomach open with a pelvis cage. I just couldn’t believe it was my brother.”
Waking up for the first time, Michael was confused as to what had happened to him.
“My mum would tell him what happened but because of all the medication he couldn’t take it in”, said Michelle.
“Then he would wake up and forget everything that was said and where he was.
“He forgot what injuries he had, leading to him suffering from phantom pains.”
The Rifleman, who went to Shotton Hall Primary and Secondary schools, has also had to fight three infections during his recovery, since the summer incident.
After months of critical care, doctors were happy enough to move he to a recovery ward, but Michelle says his battle is not over yet.
“My brother will have to go through physiotherapy every day. It is as if he is paralysed and doing everything again for the first time.
“He’s getting better now and understands what has happened but it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to come home for some months still.
“We aren’t going to have Christmas until he’s back home with us.
“He is a fighter and my hero.”