Up, dressed and smiling again

Another 4 a.m. start to the week. It doesn’t seem to matter if I take the
sleeping tablets or not – I wake early in the morning. For three and a half
months I have dreaded going to sleep at night knowing that I will face the
lonely hours between waking up and the day beginning. Usually three or four
hours of time to think about the situation that I, and we, are all in. But
for the first time since the accident, Monday’s early start brought hours of
enthusiastic planning and a desire to really get stuck into the physical
side of the rehab. I must have been simply too sick until now to allow my
mind to look forward.

As usual, Simone was due to arrive at 8:30 a.m. to make me breakfast and to
bring it to me in bed. The routine for months now has been for Simone or my
family to arrive and find me sick, flat on my back in the bed and drowsy or
distressed. For nearly three months I didn’t, couldn’t, even sit up enough
to feed myself. But as Simone was preparing for the usual breakfast routine
on Monday, I was getting ready to change it.

An hour before her arrival I managed to find a banana from my stash on the
sliding table beside my bed. I then had the daily wash in bed with much less
help from a nurse as I began to do more and more for myself. And finally, I
put in a forty minute effort to dress myself in bed after the nurse set my
kit beside me. I was ready.

I wanted to be sitting up, dressed and ready to get up when Simone arrived.
And I was. Sitting propped up on the hospital bed smiling like a fool. As I
write this it seems, yet again, farcical to get excited about getting washed
and dressed. But I was excited, very excited. I suspect it is because this
represents a glimmer of independence and I know this is the Holy Grail for
me. It was when I went blind and it will be now that I am paralyzed.

The smile as I sat up in bed was only a by-product of my morning plans.
During my early morning thinking time I reviewed my timetable for the day: –
physiotherapy 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., patient education from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. It
seemed a waste of time to lie in bed all morning again. I decided to get up
and try to get a slot on one of the passive leg-bikes in the gym (a bike
that pedals for you to keep your joints and circulation moving.) A voluntary
extra session has not been part of my thinking under any circumstances up
until now. But a combination of the infection abating, a return of my
appetite and an unexpected bit of rehab progress over the weekend when I
transferred myself from wheelchair to bed for the first time all conspired
to produce a rush of confidence and resulting motivation. I also have to add
that meeting another patient, a young guy called Jamie whose grit and great
spirit never fails to inspire me, at the gym sneaking in extra sessions
tipped me to do it.

Simone positioned my wheelchair beside the bed and I slid across a thin
wooden board between the bed and chair. It was early and I knew that even if
other patients were booked to use the leg-bikes there was a strong
possibility that at least one person would be sick and not make it or simply
decide it was too early to get out of bed. I was in luck, all the bikes were
free and as I sat in my wheelchair the physiotherapist strapped my feet to
the pedals and turned it on. I did forty minutes of involuntary movement as
the machine cycled my legs for me. I don’t feel them moving as I sit there,
but it helps move blood through the limbs and maybe, who knows, it might
remind my spine and brain that I still have legs! I had a tough
physiotherapy session at the planned time later that day and went to bed
tired and sore. But this is where I want to be. This is where I am
concentrating my effort now – getting fit and strong and putting myself in
the best possible position to gain or train function and feeling back below
my belly button.

44 Responses to “Up, dressed and smiling again”

  1. 1 Michael Buckley October 14, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Mark that is wonderful news to hear. So lovely to hear you back to your usual upbeat stubborn bugger best. There is a smiley face here, trust me! But you never told us what Simone’s reaction was upon seeing you all dressed up and ready like this that morning! Tell us more please. Apologies for not finding the time to send you more boring me email shite-ology. Will rectify that soon.
    Love and butter (it’s a Buckley thing)

    • 2 Garech Mulcahy October 14, 2010 at 7:07 pm


      Valerie and I have being following your progress and you have never been far from our thoughts. Your news today is fantastic and brought a very big smile to my face. Our love, support and admiration are radiating to you all the way from Texas.

      Keep well.
      Garech, Valerie, Rian and Daisy.

  2. 3 Patrick October 14, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Mark

    Being following your blog since your brilliant documentary aired.
    Inspiring stuff
    Glad to know your progressing


  3. 4 Wendy McCullough October 14, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Wey hey…. Mark is back! Delighted to read this blog….and even more delighted to hear the smile is back too x

  4. 5 Catherine Keating October 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Well done Mark I read your blog today with a smile on my face & a tear in my eye keep it up

  5. 6 mike October 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    good man, I’m completely able bodied and don’t have half of your lust for life. Today I used the stairs and not the lift. I know that makes me sound like a lazy bugger, but I am inspired, thank you.

  6. 7 Keith McCabe October 15, 2010 at 8:55 am


    What a drive and determination you have, so glad to hear you are making progress again after such a hard slog. You are probably getting comments, texts, emails and phone calls from afar, but just so you know, iv been keeping track of your tough time and I know you will emerge from this with a fresh positive spin on things (that is if you can manage to make people’s outlook on life any more positive!!)
    Keep it up and keep inspiring me and many others,


  7. 8 Felicity October 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Bloody fantastic – that’s how good your blog was on the 14th.
    Keep smiling.

    I had seen your documentary and have followed your blog since.

    To say that you are inspirational is an understatement.

    Take care

    Felicity (unknow to you)

  8. 9 Debbie Cave October 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Mark

    It is so nice to receive your blog updates and see your spirit getting higher again in each. Progress is going to be undoubtedly slow, but every day in every way, you’re getting better and better(one of my Mum’s great sayings!).

    It has been an extra-ordinary month of tragic freak accidents. My neighbour’s sister was hosting the kids watersports birthday party where an 11 year old girl was killed when thrown from an inflatable banana ride, straight into the propeler of the motorboat. Great friends who have been trying to have a baby via IVF for the past 7 years, got pregnant this year naturally and unexpectedly lost the baby at 20 weeks – a milestone after which you think nothing can go wrong. And worse still, I attended the funeral yesterday of a friend who was fit as a fiddle and died of a heart attack, unexplained, aged 34 on the eve of his wedding day. I was awake all night thinking of how amazing Jane, the fiance got through yesterday, she is such a strong, amazing girl.

    Makes me think there is no god at all, when these things happen to those that least deserve it, but yet you have to have faith. I tell these stories only to make the point that however bad you think things are, there is always someone suffering more. You have a zest for life, the love of your fiance and family and friends and you will get through this.

    On a brighter note, all is well, JJ is still a scally wag and by the look of Kerin’s birthday pictures, we missed a good bash!

    You take care and look forward to your next update.

    Best wishes

    Debbie x

  9. 10 Alan October 15, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    You have:
    – a fantastically vivid style of writing;
    – balls of steel.

    This blog is must-read material.

  10. 11 Lisa George October 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    i would like to think that the 2 slices of Steps of Rome pizza i flew over to you and the 4 Butlers chocolates was the helping hand you needed to find your umph again, or its just that you are who you are and the fire you have inside has just been ignited once again. Keep up the good work, gold star for you.
    Love Lisa Lamb xo

  11. 12 Amanda Baldwin October 15, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    You are such an inspiration Mark. I am in awe of you. Whenever I think of you or read your blog or get news from family about your progress, I am very quickly brought back down to earth with a very heavy thud. All gripes and moans about life pale into insignificance when I consider what you have been through and how you are handling your circumstances.

    It’s a great relief to hear that you are clear of those miserable infections and I applaud your determination to get fit and strong again. Keep at it and thank you for reminding me to keep life in perspective.

    Love and hugs to both you and Simone


  12. 13 Tony McManus October 17, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Mark,

    It’s 7AM here in Los Angeles and as usual one of the first things I do is check in to see if you’ve updated your blog. Today is going to be a good day not just for you but for all that follow you and admire you.

    We’ve all waited for this today to hear the strength in your words, the belief that the battle can be won not just the hourly skirmishes. This first step to take on the gym of your own accord is announcing your back and those that follow your blog (some you know and others like me you’ve never met) wel,l hopefully you’ll know we’re thinking of you so, if you’re ever feeling lonely know there’s someone, somewhere at that very time reading your blog and wishing you strength.


  13. 14 Klair O'Brien October 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Great news! Delighted to read that you are progressing and feeling determined! Keep it up, I am rooting for you!

  14. 15 Michelle Nolan October 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I sat beside you in a cafe in Ranelagh I think in 2007 – you had a really lovely guidedog with you. I was struck by how charismatic you were and how you so obviously had a phenomenal attitude to life. I was having a black day that day and some of your joie de vivre brushed off on me and lifted my heart. I think it was the way you grinned at the waitress! I had no idea who you were and then lo and behold you started to appear on TV shows raising money for your antartic trek. I remember watching Sile Seoige flirting with you on RTE – and you flirting back a little – it was great entertainment.

    Anyway, I have been following your progress and am so delighted to hear that steadily you are recovering. It’s wonderful and long may it continue. I know it won’t be long before you’re back out and planning your next extraordinary feat.

    Well done Mark, you really are a inspiration and I thank you most sincerely for that.

    Yours, Michelle

  15. 16 Hilda October 19, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Glad to hear you are smiling again, Hilda

  16. 17 Sarah Winckless October 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Mark – great to read this – would love to come and visit again! Can’t wait to see and hear about your progress.


  17. 18 Eveline October 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Mark

    How fantastic to read your latest entry on your blog – brought a big smile to my face. Can only imagine how Simone and your family felt. You continue to inspire – even on your dark days believe it or not.

    Eveline (ex DCP)

  18. 19 evelineholmes October 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Mark

    I’m hoping that this post works – I’ve tried a few times – hard to believe I’ve been an IT tutor in the past!!!!

    It did my heart good to log onto your blog and read your upbeat post. You continue to inspire – even in your darkest moments. Thinking of you always.

    Eveline x

  19. 20 Jim October 23, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Great news Mark that things finally seem to be “looking up” for you. To continue my metaphor that first “Bambi” started, and I then elaborated on in my comment of September 9th, of Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition; It would appear that you are now at the stage that Shackleton left his ice floe “Patience Camp” and started his seven day, 100 mile journey in his three lifeboats North to Elephant Island. Still a long way to go, but now at least actively progressing forward. To confirm, and mix metaphors, you have already taken to the water with your hydrotherapy!

    Best wishes for your continued recovery.


  20. 21 Gillian Lee October 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I was really moved to read your recent post. I admire your courage and strength more than I can say.

    My thoughts are with you, Simone and your family.

    Stay strong!

    Gillian xx

  21. 22 David Booth October 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Glad to hear you are on the up Mark, fingers crossed for a swift and full recovery.

    Best wishes,


  22. 23 Daphne Coad October 25, 2010 at 11:47 am

    You dont know me Mark but I have heard so much about you and have been folowing your progress since your accident.. great to know you are progressing and smiling again, it can only be downhill from now on. I live in Inistioge near Ballyduff House where you were to have had your wedding reception and my husband Brian won the first round Ireland race in 1980.. he was later killed in a road accident in 2004, both my son Peter and soninlaw Darren are regular conpetitors in Round Ireland races and I followed your progress with interest last summer. Thinking of you and Simone and hope it will not be too long till you are back to Ireland for your wedding day. Keep smiling Daphne.

  23. 24 Olivia October 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Just read your update and you have made me smile.

  24. 25 Antoinette October 31, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Hello Mark,

    Great to read that things are looking up. Please don’t forget that there are many many people worldwide thinking of you and willing your situation to improve.

    Regards to you and your fiancee,


  25. 26 Robert walsh November 1, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Hi Mark
    it’s great to hear you in better form , keep goin. You’ll get there ..
    Stay positive your an inspiration yo us all .
    Good luck and please keep blogging


  26. 27 mathieu November 2, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    hey man great to hear you are feeling stronger mentally and physically, you seem to be getting a lot of support from family and friends aswell as on this blog, and i check in regularly to see how you are progressing. keep going like only you know how!!

  27. 28 laura November 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm


    thinking of you lots after watching your documentary.
    you have more spirit then I could dream of.
    i hope you get well, i will be thinking of you fondly

  28. 29 Liam November 7, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Hi Mark, I’ve just caught up on your last few blogs and it’s just amazing to read your determination, grit and focus in this adventure life has thrown at you. I have no doubt you will succeed. You are an inspiration and an Adventurer.
    Kindest Regards,

  29. 30 Vivien Bond November 9, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Hi Mark
    I met you once when you spoke so brilliantly at Speech Day at Kh in Dublin. I also watched you on tv. My cousin is married to your uncle, and I’ve thought of you since your accident-thank God you are improving and sounding more upbeat. So many are out there wishing you well. So glad I looked at your blog and read of your progress- you are an inspiration to us all.

  30. 31 Stephanie November 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Hi Mark

    You don’t know me, I’m just an admirer of your attitude to life from afar. You’ve faced far more battles in this life than seems fair for 1 person and your loved ones to endure. I discovered your blog just after your last update on Oct 14th. You’ve probably had some dark moments/days since then as you are bound to have on this journey. For one of those days when you need the extra encouragement and love, remember there are many people you have inspired, and continue to inspire, with the obstacles you have overcome, and all of these people are willing you back to health. I was once told by a doctor that metaphorically he knew I was at the bottom of the lowest valley at the time. He gave me faith and hope when I had none myself that one day I would stand at the top of the highest mountain. I got there, metaphorically speaking, and the view was amazing. I fell again a few times since but I picked myself up again and again, with help from others and I’m praying the same will happen for you. With your determination I’ve no doubt it will. I’m one of those “strangers” rooting for you all the way Mark. Take care, Steph

  31. 32 Malcolm Guy November 10, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Hi Mark
    Youre now starting to make Tom Crean seem ordinary! All at Inchmarlo send their best and Elma and I think/talk about you often Heres to the next time we all meet

  32. 33 Sarah Cole November 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Mark, It is great to hear that you are fighting back. I
    have been following your progress and when I read in your last
    posting that you were sitting up in bed smiling it made me smile.
    As always your smile is infectious. Keep fighting, you are an
    inspiration. Sarah xx

  33. 34 Andy Jones November 18, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Hi Mark It was during a recent call to my mum (liz jones)
    that I heard about your accident and that brought me to this blog.
    This accident is absolutely tragic but if anyone knows how to get
    through this, its you. I remember helping launch boats with you at
    the nationals in Royal North, almost 15 years ago now. I have
    followed your progress with total admiration and respect for your
    strength and determination. I have been working with adaptive
    snowsports programs for the last couple of years, teaching and
    coaching all types of people with all kinds of disabilities. One of
    the atheletes I was coaching last winter broke her neck
    snowboarding in 2005 and as a result of her injuries became
    quadrapalegic. Jodie learnt to walk again and is now one of the top
    adaptive snowboarders in the world. Jodie has been an inspiration
    to me in showing the determination to overcome her injury and the
    conviction to keep going no matter how hard things are… in that
    respect she is alot like you. Your positivity is amazing and I have
    so much respect for you, especially how you are baring your soul on
    the blog. I will be checking back often to see your progress and
    updates on how it’s going. I really want to wish you all the best
    for your recovery, I know that with the right attitude anything is
    possible. I really hope that we can ride the mountains together one
    day in the not so distant future. With total admiration and respect
    Andy Jones

  34. 35 Willie Galvin November 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Keep fighting Mark. Keep fighting.

  35. 36 maryjennings November 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Mark, As always you are an inspiration! Your ‘One Armed
    Feiend’ fron ‘Confidence in Action’ Mary

  36. 37 bryanjlittle November 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Wow what agreat read, I have nothing to complain about!!!
    You are inspirational. Keep the faith and mving forward – Cheers

  37. 38 Niall December 8, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Mark, Thinking of you. Hope you are well. Niall

  38. 39 tom murphy December 31, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Hello Mark.

    I wrote to you a few months ago when you were in hospital by snail mail. As one of your frinds said, you certainly have balls of steel. Suffering is truly the greatest mystery of our existence. I am a carer myself. I look after my mother. She is very dependent and the only thing she can do independently is to feed herself. I utilise whatever services are available. I certainly don’t claim to be a saint,and at times I can be very impatient and cross. But I do believe with the depths of my conviction that God would not have gone up on a cross if there wasn’t a purpose in it. Keep fighting Mark. There endeth the lesson.

  39. 40 Mary January 13, 2011 at 12:22 am


    Happy New Year!
    I hope things are going well for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Mary from Confidence in Action

  40. 41 Breege Lennon April 14, 2011 at 9:50 am


    I listened to your interview this morning and you have really put my life in perspective. I recently lost my job and at times I am inclined to feel sorry for myself. After hearing about your life I really felt disgusted with myself. Your zest for life , your constant positive outlook, the way you overcome all difficulties that appear to come your way has made me say to myself cop on. Get a life.

    I know you are going to get total control of your life again.

    Say a big hello to your family and especially your girlfriend.

    Moral of the story if you have the right outlook in life, have bright positive people around us and always take care of each other in whatever way possible we can overcome anything that is thrown at us in life.

    Keep up the good work Mark, you are an inspiration to us all.

    Bye for now.

  41. 42 Vanessa Shipman May 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Mark, We’ve met once, I’m an old friend of Simone. I saw you both on tele last week and unlike everyone else I am new to your blogs. I’ve heard bits and bobs about how you are doing but it was great to hear so much of the story last week. The two of you are showing such strength. I can’t imagine how hard it has been and yet the two of you seem to be moving forward with so much determination. And Simone’s happiness when she saw you up and smiling, the relief, the hope and the love and admiration she must have felt as she saw your face must have been overwhelming. How wonderful. You are both so lucky to have each other. I’m sure you are so proud of each other. I wish you good luck every day of your life and hope to meet again soon. Keep up the good work (inspiring so many).


  42. 43 Hannah June 6, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Hello Mark,

    You gave a lecture at my school when I was in fourth year (St.Andrews College 2004) and hands down we always agree it was by far everyones favorite. My friend bumped into you a few weeks ago in Dunlaoighre and emailed your blog to us all.

    We have all scattered around the world, some studying, some travelling, others working but each of us (in my groups of school friends) have checked your blog and one way or another you have once again inspired us all.

    Fair play to you.

    Ill be keeping a close eye on this from now on!


  1. 1 Digest – October 18 2010 – The Story Trackback on October 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm

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