2023 marks 40 years since brain injury survivor Mark Winterbourne received revolutionary and life-saving surgery. In that time Mark has achieved some fantastic things.
Aged just 15 years old Mark began suffering from severe headaches and fatigue. His schoolwork suffered significantly, and everyone noticed a change in him. Initially told he was suffering from migraines, it was only when his mother stood up to the GP that the doctors agreed to investigate further and discovered Mark had a brain tumour.
"Nobody had ever heard of brain tumours" Mark recalls.
Despite neurosurgery being in its infancy, there were options. His parents were given a choice between a short operation with a six to eight months life expectancy, or a high-risk surgery with the potential of Mark living another ten years.
“It was an absolutely horrendous experience for them, and I felt very much like a guinea pig” Mark said.
Mark’s mother was certain and pushed for the latter. They had to give her son the best chance.
On the 8th of August 1983, at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, the late Mr David Price performed a craniotomy, the tumour was clipped, and Mark’s brain was fitted with a Hydrocephalus shunt, which is a tube that drains away cerebrospinal fluid. This operation changed Mark’s prognosis forever.
Mark has completely surpassed expectations. Forty years on from his surgery he said:
“Because of the time span, I’ve outlived the shunt. It doesn’t work anymore. It causes problems now and again, but my body’s learned to drain itself. You can hear it. None of the neurosurgeons want to touch it.”
Mark has a particularly inspirational element to his story too, he made a conscious decision to employ a positive mental attitude and created a bucket list of things he wanted to achieve.
“We all dream about wanting/having/needing something but after suffering from a life-threatening brain injury these become less material and more significant in the sense of achievement rather than acquisition."
“My upbringing made me appreciate the outdoors, particularly the British countryside and the Lake District. My love of photography was born from this and how much value can you take from sitting by a lake like a mirror pool in the morning glow waiting for the sun to breach the horizon. The peace and tranquillity lead to bird song and a pure connection with the natural world. Having that time to think and compile thoughts can be very productive... I turned this time into making plans.”
Whilst making these plans, at age just 16, Mark came up with an ambitious bucket list of things that he would love to achieve. He has shared a selection of his list below:
a) To fly in an aeroplane
b) To fly an aeroplane
c) To meet a celebrity or TV personality
d) To have a photograph published
e) To meet David Bailey
f) To climb England's highest mountain
g) To learn to drive a car
h) To become a Police Officer
i) To drive a fast car
j) To have a centre spread in a magazine or newspaper
k) To go on Concorde
l) To speak to a large gathering of people about photography
m) To meet the queen
n) To have children
o) To teach
p) To give knowledge to others for free
Mark has gone on to achieve everything on his list, and much more! What a wonderful way to keep positive and motivated when your world has changed unrecognisably.
When asked ‘if you could give others facing life after brain injury any piece of advice, what would it be?’ Mark said:
“Negative thoughts create sadness and reduce productivity.
“Deciding what you want or would like isn’t wrong…Making plans to achieve your desires is positive … Making those plans happen is rewarding from the start… The baby steps to the final stages are all just as rewarding.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is always someone out there that knows the answer and in a world of IT and www. it’s so much easier.”
Thank you to Mark for sharing his story, and as he suggests, if you want to know more about brain injury there is a wealth of information right here on our website.
We would love to hear from you on our social channels if you have also created a bucket list and want to share some tips or inspiration for others.
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