I never think, `what if...?'; A Family Affair

In 1993 Chris Moon, now aged 36, was clearing mines in Cambodia for the Halo Trust when he was kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge. He survived. In 1995, when clearing mines in Mozambique, he was blown up by a mine. He lost his lower right leg and arm. Since then he has run more than 20 marathons including the Trans Sahara 240km race - the world's toughest race - all for charity. This week his autobiography, One Step Beyond (Macmillan, pounds 16.99), is published. Doreen Moon, Chris's mother, aged 72, was recently widowed. She is a retired education clerk and lives in Wiltshire.


I'd done my last inspection and I was walking back down the lane to leave. What was strange was, I remember feeling that something evil and vile was rushing towards me, and I turned round and took three steps and - bang!

The next thing, I was looking at my right hand. I could see that it was sort of closed and bloody, but I could move it. Then I thought, there's only one logical explanation for this blast; I must have trodden on something that the de-miners didn't find in the clear lane. I was really surprised at that point, 'cause it was so hard to believe that the previous day the whole team had been running up and down that lane; you'd have thought that someone would have put their foot on it.

Then I turned over and thought, "prepare yourself, your lower leg will be missing". I knew it had to be, because I couldn't feel anything, and I looked down and sure enough it was missing, and there was just a finger of yellow bone and ragged flesh.

I shouted my casualty report to my back-up team on the road, but I wanted to know what had injured me, so I shuffled back to the hole, which wasn't far to go. It was a very deep hole. That's the thing that surprised me - how deep the hole was.

I knew that I'd have about a minute and a half before the pain set in, because the body produces endorphins so you don't feel anything for the first minute or so. I knew that to have these injuries was really life- threatening and I can remember thinking, well, do I regret any of this? And the answer was no.

Then the de-miners started to come in and they put me into the helicopter. We were just very lucky that an agency in the area had a helicopter, and that we had radio frequency.

I asked them not to give me morphine. I was afraid that it would reduce my ability to concentrate, and I wouldn't be able to control my environment. The worst thing was feeling that I was dying, knowing there wasn't anything I could do about it; but I certainly wasn't going to moan. I can remember thinking, "I've done the very best I could; I believe I'm dying, but I'm not giving up." I couldn't give up. That's the worst failure - not trying your best - but undoubtedly it would have been much, much easier just to go to sleep.

They flew me to hospital and from there I was airlifted to Johannesburg. Colin Mitchell, my boss, who's an amazing man, rang my parents and said, "Chris has been injured; we don't know how bad he is. As soon as we know we'll let you know." And they just had to wait.

The next day I rang them and just told them exactly what happened: "I was walking in a cleared area. My lower leg's blown off, right hand's been amputated. I'll be fine. I'm just going to stay here and get better." I said to my mum, "Look, I really don't want anyone to come out. I'm in a good hospital; all I can do now is just lie here and get better." I spoke to them every day and we'd have a bit of a laugh, so they knew I was OK. It was senseless anyone coming out.

I don't resent anything and I don't feel bitter in any way, because basically life's great and life's what we make it. I decided I'd never think, "what if...?" Because the fact is, I can do nothing about it. The other thing was never ever to say, "why me?" Because "why me?" is such a loser's attitude, and that's really assuming the role of victim. I was incredibly independent, and I have to accept help now, and that makes life much richer. I really think that's one thing that's been good for me. Shit happens. The important thing is not to let it stick.


We weren't really worried when Chris said he was going to work for the Halo Trust. We knew he'd play it by the book. He took his own safety and the safety of his men as paramount. I don't think we were ever really worried, just proud of him, proud that he would want to do such a humanitarian job.

Then one evening in March 1995 Colin Mitchell, who was Chris's boss and head of the Halo Trust, telephoned. He said that Chris had had an accident in the minefield - they didn't know how it had happened, as he'd been working in a cleared area - and that it was serious; so serious that he hoped he would reach the hospital alive.

Looking back I can remember thinking "Please God, let him live." But, strangely, I was very calm. I didn't panic at all. Colin said Chris was being airlifted to Johannesburg and that he would ring me as soon as the plane landed. And he did. He said that Chris had arrived at the hospital, that he was stable, that he'd lost a leg, and that his hand was badly damaged. Later they had to amputate it.

I can remember thinking, "I can't believe we went through all that terrible worry with the kidnapping, only for this to happen."

In fact the kidnapping caused us more panic and worry than this did, because then we hadn't known where he was or what was happening. At least with this we knew what was going on.

And, of course, I knew my son. I knew he was fit. He was the fittest person I'd ever met, so I thought physically he would be able to cope, and I also knew that he was very strong mentally, and that he would cope mentally too. And sure enough at 6am the next morning Chris rang from his bed and he just sounded like his usual self: "Hi Mum, don't worry about me; I'm fine. I won't be able to run for a bit. Don't come out to see me, there's no point."

The South Africa surgeon and doctors were very kind. Chris had to have four more amputations on his leg - salami chops he called them. They rang me to tell me what was happening. One day they rang to say he was out of danger, out of the trauma unit. At that point we lived again. Until then we'd felt as though our lives had been on hold.

Funnily enough it didn't enter my head to go to South Africa to visit him, and I know people thought that was strange, but I knew my son and he wouldn't have wanted me to go; and yet I don't think you'd ever find a mother and son closer. I knew that once the recovery period was started, he'd be looking forward to making a new life, and I thought he'd be absolutely OK. We notched up lot of phone calls, but it was normal chat. We'd always chatted on the phone and this was no different.

I spoke to the hospital psychiatrist and asked him about shock; what was Chris's mental state? And he said that Chris was as sane as he or I was. Perhaps I should have been worried at that point!

As soon as he got to Roehampton Hospital his sister, father and I rushed off to see him. None of us was sad, no one was saying "oh dear, this is terrible". Chris showed us his stumps - exhibit 1 and exhibit 2, and we were fine, but we are a positive family. We've never viewed ourselves as losers. We've always been close, and none of us has ever been pessimistic.

Chris always did charity work - even as a boy he had a social conscience. That was something his father and I instilled in him. For years I was a guider, and then I ran the village youth club, and I was a volunteer at the local spastics society and Chris used to come with me. He's always been a caring person; and right was right, and wrong was wrong. He's not someone who believes in fudges.

Chris is not a victim. He chose to do that work and accepts that, and I think the same. All the accident did to Chris was make him more of what he was before, so it accentuated his good points. I hope he doesn't do anything else to cause me grief!

Interviews by

Gina Rozner

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on