Hi, my name is Mark Mitchell and this is part of my story.
It all started back in 1992 when a routine knee operation to have my kneecap removed went wrong. The surgeon decided to put a tourniquet around my right thigh so he could have a relatively dry operation. The next day I was discharged from hospital with a blue foot. After numerous tests, a month later I was back in hospital for a graft to my femoral artery. The surgeon for this operation gave me a ten year warranty on the graft.
Twelve years later, in 2004, I was back in hospital for a below knee amputation due to reduced blood flow to the bottom half of my right leg. I was then transferred to Rehab Plus - a rehabilitation unit in Auckland. I stayed there for three weeks and was able to go home on the weekends to spend time with my wife (who was still working) and my nine month old daughter, Jasmin. The support from the physio, Karen Wilson, who drove me to obtain my maximum fitness level before I went home, was invaluable and I will never forget the time I spent there.
Five weeks after the operation I got my first artificial limb. It felt quite strange having this thing hanging off the end of my knee, but with the help and support I got from the manager and staff at the Limb Centre in Auckland, I was walking again pretty quickly. So thanks to them I had a pretty smooth transition. These guys are not someone you just go to get adjustments done to your prosthesis, they become part of your family.
Having been a long distance truck driver for many years, I decided to change my field of employment. With the help of ACC, I went back to school and became a driving instructor and a Road Transport Industry-registered assessor, working for such places as New Zealand Road Transport Association, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and more recently Gobus transport in Hamilton as their instructor/trainer.
In 2009 I took up lawn bowls after being invited up to a bowling club for a drink one afternoon. After having a go at the game, I thought I can do this, so I became a member of the Hillcrest Bowling Club in Hamilton. I also became a member of NZ Disabled Bowls. This is my third season playing and I am really enjoying it.
By November 2011 I had to resign my position at Gobus Transport. After more tests and a MRI, they found the graft had finally broken down (not a bad stint, as I was only given a ten year warranty to start with). So it was back into hospital in January 2012 for an above knee amputation.
Man, things have changed heaps since my first amputation. I now have three children at home Jasmin 9, Connor 7, and Cullum 3. Without the support from my friends and family I don't know where I would be right now. You don't really know how much support and strength people give you until you have gone through what we (and a lot of other people) have been through, or are going through at the moment.
Living in Huntly, I changed to the Limb Centre in Hamilton, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. The manager in Auckland rang Claude, the manager in Hamilton, and between them the came up with a prosthesis they thought would work for me. My first appointment in Hamilton was great, I felt comfortable talking to the physio, Mary-Clare and to Claude. In the last few weeks I've had many appointments - fittings, getting the alignment right, learning how to try and walk again (it's probably a 12 month process). These people tell you exactly what's going on and are up-front with you. They are there for you, to help you get going again.
But YOU have to want it too. Don't just sit there on your backside doing nothing, get up, put your prosthesis on and do what you can. When you go for your next appointment, you will notice some progress yourself. You have to want to do this.
It's like I mentioned before, you form a relationship with these people for many years and it's nice to know that there are people that are there for you and all they expect back is a bit of input.
When I was approached by the NZALS to write something about myself, I thought - it's not just about me, it's about the people that helped me get to where I am now and will be later on in life.
Thanks for reading.