Veteran sick of official treatment

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WHEN SHAUN RUSLING received a medal for his part in Operation Desert Storm he was a proud man. As a paramedic attached to The Parachute Regiment just miles outside Iraq, he helped sick soldiers who could have died. Now, eight years after the end of the conflict, he feels sick - debilitated by illness and disgusted with the Government.

"I have had no medical treatment from the Ministry of Defence whatsoever," he said yesterday. "All I have ever had from them is confirmation of health problems which were identified by civilian doctors. I feel betrayed.

"It was naive of me to think that if I was injured serving my country that I would receive proper medical care. The medicals I received from the Ministry of Defence were nothing more than cursory clinics."

Like thousands of other Gulf veterans, Mr Rusling, who suffers from a bone disease and severe pain in his joints, said he was dismayed by the Government's continued failure to acknowledge Gulf War Syndrome and to pay for the necessarymedical treatment.

He is one of the 70 veterans who have handed back their medals in protest at the Government's failure to order a public inquiry.

After returning from the Gulf conflict, Mr Rusling, now aged 39, had a physical and mental breakdown. In 1993 post-traumatic stress disorder and depression were diagnosed. "I was suffering severe pain in my feet, hips and spine," he said. "I was chronically fatigued and had heavy sweats. I went to the medical assessment programme run by the Ministry of Defence, which just confirmed I was suffering from these conditions."

Mr Rusling, from Hull, also has osteoporosis, a bone thinning disease, fibromyalgia, a condition characterised by pains all over the body andchronic irritable bowel syndrome. He says these problems are typical among the unwell Gulf War veterans.

Mr Rusling, who has an 80 per cent "war" pension and a 100 per cent "disabled" pension, says that it is clear to him why the Government will not acknowledge Gulf War Syndrome. "It is cheaper for [the ministry] to refute the problem," he said. "If they accept that there is a syndrome, large numbers of veterans could come forward. They wouldn't want to be liable for medical care for all of us. There is also the issue of compensation. It's cheaper to let us die."

He says that the ministry's stance is made more infuriating by a diagnosis he received last year. A consultant neurologist at the Hull Royal Infirmary said that he had Gulf War Syndrome.

Mr Rusling says his life has been devastated by his health problems. "I'm now faced with going into the second part of my life with a severe disability."

But it is not all bad news. His wife, Maria, has just given birth to a healthy girl.

Aware that many Gulf veterans have had children born with defects, Mr Rusling said that they had thought long and hard before deciding to have a child. "It was a great relief. She was born with everything she should have and nothing she shouldn't," he said.