Man amputates his legs to walk, proposes to girlfriend on TV
WOULD you amputate your legs if it meant you might have a chance to walk again?
This is one agonising decision former soldier, Mark Urquhart, had to make after he became an incomplete paraplegic eight years ago as a result of variety of medical issues from a parachuting incident in the army in 1993.
Three months ago, Mark, 48, underwent life-changing surgery in Sydney which removed his legs in the hopes of giving him a chance to walk.
He is recovering in Cooroy's Eden Rehabilitation Centre and has shared his remarkable story, as well as his amazing announcement he made on national television on Saturday.
Mark isn't only learning to walk, he is learning to walk down the aisle as his girlfriend, Vikki Cooper accepted his surprise engagement in front of the Weekend Sunrise team.
Mark recounted the accident that changed the course of his life in 1993.
He had been exiting a Hercules Aircraft when his parachute opened "and the wind flicked my legs up and they caught in the risers of the parachute".
"It deflated the chute" as Mark was hurtling towards the ground.
"I got three-quarters of the way down, when I was able to pull some air into canopy."
This was not enough to save him from serious injury when he crashed to the ground.
It was the start of a long and painful journey as doctors and surgeons tried to fix Mark's knees, ankles, hip and shoulder.
In 2008, after a series of medical mishaps, Mark became an incomplete paraplegic and was no longer able to walk, stand or "weight bear on my right leg".
His marriage of 23 years also dissolved.
Mark had made a promise to his daughter shortly after he and his wife split up.
"I promised her I would walk again and that I would walk her down the aisle," he said.
Despite ongoing complications from a hernia operation in 2010, Mark's sporting career was on the rise.
He started triathlons and in 2014 became a world champion in the Open Class.
He also went to the Invictus Games where he won two silvers and two bronzes and struck up an unlikely friendship with Prince Harry.
It was here he met Dennis Ramsay, a double amputee who was able to walk with the aid of prosthetics and the idea was birthed in his mind of how he could achieve his goal of walking again.
"He and had many talks about me getting up and walking. He was watching me, I could move my hips and he thought I could walk."
Doctors and psychologists including well-known orthopaedic surgeon Munjed Al Muderis were not so sure.
"I took a couple of years to convince them."
Three months ago, on July 23, Mark had the surgery which amputated his legs.
"I decided I was better off without my legs even if I couldn't walk as there were so many medical problems.
"But I was determined to walk."
The surgery wasn't without complications, he had a stroke on the operating table.
But six weeks after the operation and Mark achieved a medical miracle, he stood up.
Not long after, he was able to walk to his daughter at the military base where she was training.
And then on Saturday, Mark was able to propose to the woman who has been by his side for the last year and through his surgery, Vikki Cooper.
"She had no idea it was going to happen," Mark said.
This week Mark also achieved a series of new highs, including some "first-timers" in front of the Daily's photographer.
He was able to run on a treadmill and do leg crunches.
Mark knows in the eyes of many he has achieved the "impossible" by being able to walk.
"It's only impossible until its done," he said.
"Now I hope there will be many more after me."
He could only praise Eden for its fabulous rehabilitation program which has helped him get on his feet again.
"It is the best in Australia," he said.
And there is still a long, slow road ahead.
"All the muscles deteriorate, it is going to take years to rebuild."
He has his eyes on a special prize.
"Absolutely, I will walk down the aisle (with Vikki)," he said.