Blind Irish Explorer, Mark Pollock, Faces Next Challenge: Paralysis

January 5, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Mark Pollock in Dublin, December 2008, prior to his departure for the South Pole, where he became the first blind man to track to the South Pole. (Martin Murphy/The Epoch Times)
Mark Pollock in Dublin, December 2008, prior to his departure for the South Pole, where he became the first blind man to track to the South Pole. (Martin Murphy/The Epoch Times)
DUBLIN—The glass half full, is a phrase often rolled out to describe the optimistic among us; for a special few, a mere drop of hope is equivalent to a brimming glass.

On July 4, 2010, Belfast-born explorer Mark Pollock, who two years prior became the first blind man ever to reach the South Pole, fell 25 feet from a bedroom window while sleepwalking in a house in Henley, U.K. where he was staying.

Mark was sent to hospital with a shattered spine, a fractured skull, and close to death.

“Paralyzed, blind and broken,” was how he described himself. The next six months were “truly torturous” he said, as days and nights were spent lying on his back, wondering, “Why?”

It had taken Mark a decade of challenges, culminating with him racing across the Antarctic, before he could say to himself that he had overcome his blindness. Now he was back at square one again.

“I was feeling pretty good in the last two years; I felt I had cracked the blindness and any demons that I may have still had with that. … Life was good, I was planning all kinds of new projects,” said Mark, describing the period after his polar adventure two years ago.

Now, six months after his accident, Mark was allowed to travel back to Ireland from the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the U.K. for Christmas.

Looking back on 2010, Mark said he forgot how well the year had started out: Running at dawn on the Copacabana beach; land-sailing the Pampas of Barreal at the foot of the Andes Mountains; snowboarding in the Swiss Alps; and racing around Ireland on a yacht, were but a few of his adventures early in 2010.

“Until you write down what you have been up to, life can kind of drift by,” he explained.

“The start of the year was brilliant, exactly what I wanted to be doing,” he said.
Halfway through the year, disaster struck. Now paralyzed, the second half of 2010 would prove his biggest challenge ever.

One setback after another blighted his recovery: infections, weight loss of over 40 pounds, recovery and relapse pushed Mark to the edge of his resolve.

“I really couldn't see beyond the next day, the next infection,” he said.
Up to that point, Mark said he had always been a person who set goals and worked toward them. But lying on his back, unable to sleep, he had all the time in the world to reflect on the negative.

“I was in as dark a place as I’ve ever been. … It was like swimming but being unable to catch your breath; I felt like I was going down, down, and down. I don't think I got to the point where I gave up, lost the will to go on … because I'm still here,” Mark said with a chuckle.

The ability to return home for a few days over Christmas has reignited Mark's positive nature. “It feels like I can start looking to the future. … In the next few days I will decide what I’m going to do and go for it.”

Reframing his situation is something Mark says has helped him pull through his darkest hour. He said he realized that he had to try and understand that he would get through each of the little challenges one by one.

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