By Endurance We Conquer

Two weeks ago the surgeons cleared my spine of broken bone and stabilised
the vertebrae with titanium rods and screws. They also decompressed my
spinal cord. They did not find out if I will get any feeling or movement
back below my belly button. They couldn’t.   But I knew that before the

I don’t think I really wrote the truth in my last blog about how scared I
was before the operation; I was petrified. Maybe it was the massive doses of
morphine since the accident, maybe my fear was the same as everyone else’s
fear as they go to theatre. I don’t know. But, the risk of bleeding to death
or waking up with my arms paralysed, as well as my legs, consumed me. Like
so many worries, it didn’t happen – the four-hour procedure went as planned.

Since then I have endured days of demoralising pain, vomiting, an
unidentified infection, endless drugs, blood transfusions and fluid running
into me through needles in my wrists. When my wrists ran out of available
veins they used my ankles.  I was in some dark places in my head; I am not
sure if I have ever experienced as tough a week as last week. Spirit close
to breaking point, I tried, without success, to write this blog.

But today I emerge from the haze and I know this is going to be a very long
race. And I don’t know where the finish line is or what the prize is. The
last couple of weeks were a test.  Now running through my head is the great
polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s family motto: – By Endurance We



20 Responses to “By Endurance We Conquer”

  1. 1 Michael Buckley August 18, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    By Endurance We Conquer. Is’nt it amazing that was his family motto? I mean think about it. It could have easily have been something like “Hunker down when it gets cold” or “Could’nt be arsed”. No wonder he was so inspired by it himself. Anyhoo, just to say sorry to hear about your bad week old boy but glad you have come out of it. No doubt there will be further days and weeks like that but I suppose the one thing to hang on to is knowing that our brains are always wired to correct themselves somehow, and with the love and support of those closest to you, you will always find your way home, no matter how dark the road is.
    I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was to visit you and Simone. I know you were still fuzzy after the operation but to see you smile and natter and joke, and with Simone like some sort of super nurse was truly as inspirational as anything my dear old Dad first told me about Shackleton or Crean all those years ago when I was just a wee lad. And let’s not forget poor old Scott too. He always gets such a bad deal in history I think. He may have lacked the inspirational leadership qualities of Shackleton but his endurance levels were still way beyond the average man or woman for sure. Anyway, I’m waffling as usual and can hear Simone sniggering already at this. Just to say I am constantly thinking of you here in Singapore Mark and every day I still call upon the spirits of the bowl to help you on your journey. If you don’t know about the spirits of the bowl ,Simone will fill you in. Their powers are not to be taken lightly nor laughed at 🙂
    Love and thoughts always,
    Michael Buckley (family motto “Neither rashly or timidly”. I think that basically means “Loud”)
    p.s. And don’t think I did’nt spot via the wonders of Google that the family motto of Pollock is not “Swim in the other direction when you see a fishing line” but actually “Boldly and Strongly” !! 😉

  2. 2 David Lysaght August 19, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Firstly Sir, I just want to say that I am glad the operation went as planned and that you are coping so well in a situation where I can not even imagine how scary it is. You are truely an inspiration to us all I wish that I process half the strenght you have.

    If you don’t mind, I would like to pass on the motto’s that I live by and that have helped me through the hard times in my life.

    “It’s not until you accept and embrace your limitations in life that do you begin to grow as a person”

    My personal favorite ” If life was easy, it be boring”

    My best wishes to you and your family

  3. 3 Debbie Cave August 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    By endurance you will indeed conquer. Greetings from not such a sunny Mallorca – it’s actually raining today so catching up on mails in an internet cafe! Keep the fighting spirit Mark. I read your blogs with huge interest and concern and thank you for updating it with your progress. It may not feel like it right now, but every day is progress. Love to you and all your rascal, retrobate Irish chums! x

  4. 4 Estelle August 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Hi Mark
    I don’t know if you remember me, I am the French girl who worked with Kevin and Matthew at Open Interface for a while. Anyway, they told me what happened and I am now reading your blog.
    I am touched by what you are living. You appeared to me as a very strong man and I am sure you will be ok.
    Hope to read you soon,

  5. 5 Leontia Hoy August 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Hello Mark
    I heard you speak many years ago at an Instonian prizegiving when Mr Ridley was head of RBAI. Both my sons went to the school. Now hears the ‘in–common’ bit coming. My oldest son was injured in an accident and has the same injury as you this happend about 18 months ago. So Mark I know where you are in your head that dark place. I was there too and my son was at times in total despair calling out to God at times to have mercy upon him. So Mark share your thoughts with me and I will do my best to inspire you.
    Both my sons are thinking and hoping for you.
    I thought I would never laugh again or see my son laugh in that dark place, but the light does return and you will laugh soon.

  6. 6 tyrella August 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Mark,

    What an amnazing man you are! Keep that motto in your heart. All of Ireland is cheering for you. Thinking of you. With much love,

    Helen and Brian Parks

  7. 7 una o'halloran August 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Dear Mark,
    My husband Steve and I have been reading your blog since we read about you in Outsider magazine.Steve was having surgery on his back and the article on you meant a lot to him.I am a doctor by profession and I know the invasion of your body with tubes, wires and metal is very traumatic for you.I hope there is a little bit of reserve in there somewhere to allow you to push through as you have done so many times in the past.Take all the support you are offered.
    We will be thinking of you,
    Warmest Regards from Cork,Ireland

  8. 8 Helen Baker August 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Greetings Mark from The Baker Clan. So glad you managed to find the energy in putting this very important blog together giving us some insight into your operation and just how you are managing to cope with this latest test of “endurance” You are one mighty guy Mark and while none of us can feel your physical pain, believe me so many of us are feeling your pain deep within us. You are in our thoughts every day and we wish you every best wish.

    Hoping to visit you again soon.

    Love from.

    Helen, Brian and Baker clan

  9. 9 Coin Forbes August 22, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I had the privilige of going to the IFI to see your documentary, “Blind Man Walking”. It was both inspiring and a very moving tribute to an extemely brave and determined man.

    I have just recently been discharged from hospital after a period of 19 months waiting for a heart transplant. Unfortunately, I did not receive a donor heart, but I was fortunate enough to have an artificial heart implanted while I wait for a transplant.

    I want to thank you for helping me deal with my situation and giving me the motivation to get on with life.

    My prayers and thoughts are with you and I wish you a speedy and sucessful recovery.

    Once again, it was an apt documentary about a very extraordinary man.

    God Bless You.


  10. 10 Colin Forbes August 22, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Just been to see your documentary, “Blind Man Walking” and congratulations, it was both moving and very inspirational.

    I have recently been discharged from hospital after a period of 19 months waiting for a heart transplant. Fortunately, they were able to implant an artificial heart while I wait for a suitable heart.

    Seeing your documentary and learnng about your accident has enabled me to put things into perspective.

    I wish you a speedy and successful concluion to your accident and I really do hope that I get the privilige to attend one of your motivational talks.

    God Bless You and thank you.


  11. 11 landy August 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Dear Mark,
    Thank you for putting your thoughts and feelings out there for us – it is amazing to read them. You are a very inspiring man – but sure we all know that! Lots of love to you and Simone

    Shoot for the moon…if you miss you’ll land among the stars

  12. 12 Pascale Claes August 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    To take your own analogy of the race, I am one of those spectators, standing by the side of road, waiting for news of your progress, and cheering you to the top of my lungs as you pass by.

    Mark, rest assured that they are a lot of people thinking of you, and I am one of them 😉

    Pascale Claes (from Kanchi’s SB)

  13. 13 Pat Flynn August 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Mark,

    came across another of Shackleton’s quotes:

    ‘Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.’

    After all the challenges you’ve come through, we’re confident you’ll overcome your present difficulties too.

    We’re rooting for you,

    Anthony, Colm, Joachim, Andrew, Niall, Calum, Conor and Pat
    – Round Ireland 2010 ‘Miss Scarlett’ crew.

  14. 14 Jason Reid August 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Mark

    We have never actually met, but I saw you speak at the Great Outdoors earlier this year about your race to the South Pole. I was fascinated, and inspired, by your story.

    Part of my intrigue was that it initially struck me as being ‘impossible’ to undertake a polar expedition without the use of sight. Well you certainly disproved that theory! I was interested to hear during your presentation about how you managed it, the logistics and training etc. Sounded like quite an adventure. You seem to have a way of turning pipe-dreams into reality when you put your mind to something.

    I was sorry to hear about your accident, and I have been following your blog to get the reports on your progress. I’m sure that there are many others like me whom have seen you speak, but have not had the chance to meet you, whom are also tacitly willing your recovery along.

    I just thought I’d write a quick note to wish you the best with what lies ahead. I hope that the experiences that you have encountered (both voluntarily and otherwise) up until now lend to your mental and physical strength over the coming weeks.


    Jason Reid

  15. 15 Beth mcninch September 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    I just watched the rte program following your amazing trip to the south pole and was filled with admiration for your determination and enthusiasm. I couldn’t believe it when i saw about your accident, you have never let anything beat you and i am sure this won’t be the end of your adventure. You are a true inspiration and i wish you all the best for your recovery and whatever you set your mind to next!

  16. 16 Aisling dunne September 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I have sat down and watched blind man walking race to the south pole. Which I think u are a remarkable person. The credits at the end of the programme show that u had a bad fall and now are recovering we hope and pray that u keep ur spirit up and come back to full health. I will be keeping a close eye on ur recovery from ur blog.
    Aisling Noel and barbara dunne

  17. 17 Derval O Connell September 6, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Know that while you are lying in your bed
    …that many are thinking of you! I spoke about you on numerous occasions today… to my patients, friends and family.You are a truly inspiring person and to say you have been through alot is an understatement! But I will say a prayer for you everyday until you recover…get well soon! Derval O’Connell(was in Trinity while you were there…one of the O’Connell twins)

  18. 18 John Fulham September 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Hey Mark,

    I have been keeping track of your progress. I know you are in the best possible hands but that the journey is a scary one right now. Know that we are behind you and rooting for you all the time. Trust and rely on those around you, as you say we cannot achieve things on our own.Where ever this road leads you, we are supporting you all the way. I know you have so much more to do. The Sounding Board and Kanchi look forward to they day you are back giving your opinion.

    John Fulham

  19. 19 elaine o callaghan September 18, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Hello Mark,
    I have never met you but I have just seen your documentary on RTE about your expedition to the south pole. You are an inspiration to many people. I just wanted to post a message to say that you are an amazing guy and that we wish you the best of luck in the weeks, months and years to come.
    Elaine O Callaghan (Cork).

  20. 20 Derval O Connell March 10, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Hi Mark,
    I hope you are keeping well? It was great to talk to you last week… And to be truthful I didn’t realise I had your number!!…. A drunken call I’m afraid! I hope your stay in Santiago is fruitful… And that they can help you… You deserve it. Your positivity in this situation is really an inspiration.
    Best wishes,
    Derval O’ Connell.X

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