Woman and man with one prosthetic leg doing thumbs up for the camera outside

After losing a leg in a motorbike accident more than 30 years ago, Mark de Waard’s whole existence was turned upside down. Now, he wants to share his story and his motivation for forging a fulfilling future.

This time last year, amputee Mark De Waard wasn’t able to stroll into the ocean for a dip, he couldn’t take a shower on his own, and he wasn’t able to mow the lawn for his family.

He was in constant physical pain, maintaining his mental health was a struggle, and he felt isolated.

With the help of a couple of NDIS plans, however, and through his own sheer willpower and determination, Mark has been able to create a new life for himself.

Since losing his leg on October 15, 1987, after a motorbike accident on his way to work, Mark has undergone multiple surgeries to his back and leg and has endured ongoing pain in his shoulders.

Over the past 34 years, he’s had no choice but to learn how to cope in his new world of living with a life-affecting disability. One of the hardest obstacles has been not being able to stand on his own in a shower because a ‘normal’ prosthetic leg can’t withstand water.

Another major disappointment has been not having the ability to step confidently into a pool or walk into the ocean – with the security of two legs – with his wife Jade and their children, 11-year-old Brae and 15-year-old Dustin.

A sea of support

However, as part of the health care plans activated with Feros Care and the NDIS, Mark was provided with a ‘wet’ leg in his 2019 plan. This prosthetic is now allowing him to enjoy a range of social and family activities, as well as take on responsibilities around the house which previously, he simply couldn’t tackle.

“Now I can go swimming, I can go to the beach with my kids, and I can go fishing,” Mark says.

“I’m not sitting around if we go to a water park – I can walk and go on a slide.

“The really big thing for me though was when I walked into the shower with two legs and I was standing up.

“I haven't been able to stand on two legs in the shower for 30 years. It was a real turning point. I went ‘wow’ and said, ‘I can’t believe this.’

“I am also stronger in my back and I can now mow the lawn. And that makes me feel normal.”

Mark says that because of the supports and services he’s receiving, his social opportunities and mental health have improved.

“When they first came to my house, I didn't think I needed any help from the NDIS, but now I am so glad I joined the scheme.”

As well as the wet leg, supports have included the provision of an everyday leg, exercise physiology including massage and hydrotherapy, bathroom modifications, help with household cleaning and yard maintenance, and assistance with trips to the library so Mark can explore courses he’s interested in studying.

“I’m out and about – I’m a social butterfly now.”

Working towards health and happiness

His improved strength and physical health meant Mark could contemplate regular employment. Last July, he started a job organising orders and working with couriers three days a week at the Bushman’s Bakery in North Mackay. He’s also completed training and now has his forklift licence.

“At the beginning, I had a lot of anxiety because I hadn’t worked for 30 years and suddenly I was straight into it.

“It was half exciting and half stressful but good bosses and a supportive environment were a big thing. They don’t look at you as disabled, which helps.”

Mark’s aspirations for his future have also soared, and longer-term, he’s planning to work in the field of community services to support others with disabilities in advocacy work and through sharing his story.

“At the end of the day, I’d really like to study and be a case officer for the NDIS.”

“He’s the reason I do the job I do”

Feros Care Mackay Local Area Coordinator Stacey Atkinson says that working with Mark and being able to see the impact of how NDIS plans can help people live the lives they want is “amazing”.

“He’s the reason I do the job I do. People can go from being reliant on informal supports like their partners to being able to get the confidence back and shower themselves and do things they haven’t been able to do.

“You might not think it’s a big deal, but it’s a huge achievement.”

Stacey says that many people, once they have better supports and services in place, are able to gain employment which is a huge step in boosting independence and self-esteem.

She says Mark would be “amazing to have in the field” if he carries on with his plans to work as a case officer.

“He’s got insight into what is was like in the earlier days because he’s been an amputee for 30 years, and he’s never used his situation as an excuse in life.

“He wants to tell people about it and he wants to be a motivational person.

“He wants to share his story, and I think having people with that sort of lived experience is worth more than any text book.”

Stacey says Mark will be able to offer others his personal insights into the challenges he’s faced, how he feels in society, and around any of the barriers he has put up in front of himself.

“I remember the day he rang and told me he got the job. I nearly cried – he had said he just wanted to work and he just wanted the opportunity, and he did it off his own back.”

She says that when she first met Mark, he had wanted to achieve so much, and the NDIS plans have helped him reach those goals.

“For him, the waterproof leg now means being able to go to the beach and go for a swim which was something he didn’t even think he could do.

“Being able to go and do those activities enables him to engage.

“Now, Mark has got a spring in his step, he’s proud, he stands tall, and he’s happy.”

FOR MORE STORIES OF FEROS CARE PARTICIPANTS KICKING THEIR GOALS, CLICK HERE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE NDIS, CLICK HERE.

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