Page last updated at 01:44 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 02:44 UK

Soldier's fight to rebuild his life

By Richard Westcott
BBC News


Mark Ormrod explains his various prosthetic limbs

The way injured British troops are treated has been in the headlines in recent weeks. Here, the story is told of one soldier's road to recovery after he was injured in Afghanistan.

"My first thought when I saw him, I thought, he's not going to want to live like this, he's not going to survive this, " says Jackie Ormrod about the moment she first saw her son's injuries.

They were in a hospital room in Birmingham, just days after Royal Marine Mark Ormrod stepped on a landmine in the Afghan desert.

Mark Ormrod with his wife Becky
Mark proposed to his girlfriend, Becky, from his hospital bed

He lost both legs above the knee, and his right arm. It was Christmas Eve, 2007.

"The instant thing was a lot of confusion", Mark, 26, says. "There was no pain at all. "I was thinking about, just turning around and engaging the enemy…as I was trying to turn, that's when I realised what had happened to me."

Even while he was lying in the middle of a minefield with catastrophic injuries, Mark says he always knew he would get out alive.

Rather than experiencing panic, or fear, he felt annoyed with himself for getting caught out. Around him, his colleagues kicked into action, inching their way towards him. They chatted to keep him awake, keep his mind right. And they got him out.

For about a week he was either unconscious, or pumped full of drugs. Then came the real fight, to rebuild his life.


Step one, was to propose to girlfriend Becky. Mark had actually been drafting a letter to her parents before he got injured, asking their permission.

Instead, he decided to blurt it out from his hospital bed just days after he regained consciousness. Becky jokes that he was still high on all the morphine, but she said yes anyway. Straight after accepting, Mark fell asleep, she says.

Everything had to change. An MoD house has been kitted out for his disability in Plymouth, and he had his BMW M3 convertible adapted so he can drive it.

Mark Ormrod before he was injured
Mark, pictured before his injury, is involved in the Help for Heroes campaign

Most important of all though, Mark's been given state of the art prosthetic "C-legs". They even have Bluetooth and plug-in points so a computer can measure your gait to help you walk. There are separate attachments to help you run too, curved blades, like the ones made famous by the athlete, Pistorius.

They are fabulous until you want to stop - "you have to find a convenient brick wall or tree branch to run into", Mark says.

He explains: "I set myself goals and targets. In the beginning it was, small, 10, 20 metre walks, then I'd have to sit down. It was quite demoralising.

"I've come from being one of the fittest soldiers in the world, to not being able to walk 20 metres without sitting down…it's getting better every day though."

There were two main goals driving Mark in those early days. To stand alongside colleagues at his medal ceremony, and to dance at his wedding. It is a mark of the man that he achieved both just a matter of months after he was blown up.


But this does not mean there were not very low points. At his first family party, he was stuck in the hallway all day because his wheelchair would not get through any of the doors. But he says he was determined not to sink into a severe depression.

Incredibly, Mark is back working for the Royal Marines, helping other troops in his situation. He is also integral to the Help for Heroes campaign, has met Princes William and Harry, and has a book coming out about the whole experience.

"Obviously, it's a second chance", his wife Becky says. "It hasn't changed what we can do or can't do".

Mark, his mum and Becky, with his specially-adapted car
Mark has a specially-adapted BMW car

The way British troops are treated has been headline news for weeks now. How much they are compensated, and how much is heard about the horrific injuries as well as the deaths. Jackie says it is about time.

"We didn't hear about the injuries. People are becoming more and more aware now…a lot of injured troops are coming back, support is growing," she says.

Mark adds: "A lot of people come up to me, they say like, thank you. There's nothing but praise. I think the country's a lot more behind the lads than people think."

Mark's life is far from easy, the simplest things are still a struggle. Hot weather is tough, for example. We lose a lot of heat through our skin, and he now has less of it.

He is shorter too, a 6ft 1ins, strapping soldier cut down to about 5ft 6ins on his new legs. But he has decided to come out fighting and it is impossible not to admire his determination to succeed in whatever he does.

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