Mark Pollock: ‘Expect problems as we explore possibilities’

This week on Róisín Meets . . . the adventurer speaks on finding a cure for spinal cord injury

In the latest episode of the Róisín Meets . . . podcast, blind adventure athlete Mark Pollock joined Róisín Ingle to talk about his quest to find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Pollock was left paralysed from the waist down after a fall from a second-storey window in 2010, only weeks before his wedding to fiancée Simone George.

Now his mission is finding a cure for spinal cord injury. To this end, he is one of the world’s only testers of robotic legs, made by Ekso Bionics.

“Maybe it’s just my way of making sense of the blindness and the paralysis and so on, but I think life is just filled with problems so we shouldn’t be surprised that they appear along the way.

“So if you accept that the problems are going to happen, and pop up from time to time, then it frees you to look forward and look at the possibilities and that’s what I was trying to get across,” he said.

Pollock had his first setback at the age of five, when his retina detached and he went blind in one eye.

Despite avoiding ball sports to protect his “good eye”, his other retina detached during his final year of college.

The avid rower and captain of the intervarsity board club was about to graduate and take up an investment banking job in London when he went totally blind.

“I was devastated because losing my sight also meant I lost my identity. I wasn’t involved in rowing anymore; I wasn’t involved in student life; I didn’t think I’d work again.

“Unbeknownst to me, I clearly carried a lot of prejudice about what I thought blind people could and couldn’t do,” he said.

South Pole

However, on the 10th anniversary of losing his sight, Pollock became the first blind person to race to the South Pole.

After going blind, he became an adventure athlete and participated in extreme endurance races across the world, including completing six marathons in a week in the Gobi Desert and a marathon at the North Pole.

He also turned his misfortune into a mission: trying to find a cure for paralysis.

Run in the Dark, the race organised by The Mark Pollock Trust, takes place every November in 50 cities across the world and raises money for this mission.

Pollock and wife Simone are on the board of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and earlier this year they went to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, where they attempted to put the topic of paralysis on the global agenda.

They are also looking for a sponsor for Run in the Dark.

To listen to the conversation or other episodes of the podcast, go to Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher or irishtimes.com.

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