Belfast Telegraph

Adventurer Mark Pollock going bionic in a bid to walk again using exoskeleton

By Victoria O'Hara

Four years after blind adventurer Mark Pollock fell from an upstairs window and broke his back, he has spoken of how his life is now "filled with possibilities".

The 38-year-old lost his sight at the age of 22 but defied his blindness by competing in ultra-endurance races across deserts and mountains.

And the adventurer from Holywood, Co Down, became the first blind man to compete in a race to the South Pole.

He won silver and bronze medals for rowing at the Commonwealth Games before a fall from a second storey window in 2010 left him paralysed.

Mark had just completed his latest adventure, the Round Ireland Yacht Race, one of the most challenging sailing races in the world, becoming the first blind man to co-skipper a boat in the 870-mile six-day non-stop race.

But after the 25ft fall from a window in England he lay in hospital for nearly 16 months– paralysed, blind and psychologically fragile.

He broke his back in three places, an injury from which doctors say he is unlikely to ever recover physically.

But tenacious Mark said he was determined to learn how to walk again.

Mark said: "It is exactly four years since the fall that left me paralysed. Everything is different now. Everything. There is the obvious lack of movement and feeling. And there are the hidden truths of paralysis – the secondary impact that strips me of my dignity every day."

Mark has been testing a high-tech exoskeleton – a pair of computer-powered bionic trousers – that help him stand and walk in the gym.

He had been due to marry his fiancée Simone three weeks after the accident.

But the couple, who have yet to wed, have spoken of how strong their relationship has become during the four-year period.

In a short film made to mark the anniversary of the accident, he said: "In terms of commitment, if that's what marriage is about, I feel like we're closer than ever."

Mark added: "Four years on I can't help but feel that life is filled with possibilities."

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