Just Another Mountain to Climb for Mark Ford as he Battles Back From a Stroke

Press Release / 27.01.2021
Mark Ford running with his children
Mark Ford running with his children / © Kathmandu Coast to Coast

To his mates and work colleagues Mark Ford seemed almost indestructible.

Having completed three Kathmandu Coast to Coasts and several ultra-marathons, the Executive Manager at Fulton Hogan and father-of-two was getting set to compete in yet another ultra-marathon. Then, on the morning of February 6, 2019, he woke up unable to speak or walk, keeping his eyes open was near impossible and the 40-year-old had almost no control over his emotions.

An undiagnosed small hole in his heart had allowed a clot to enter the bloodstream and lodge in his brain. He had suffered an ischemic stroke and his future was entirely uncertain. Within hours Mark and his family were at Burwood hospital where he was admitted straight to intensive care.

For someone who had lived his entire life by setting challenges for himself, nothing had prepared him for this.

“It was brutally hard – nothing comes close,” said Ford.

Almost two years to the day later, Mark will be climbing a new mountain. Literally.

Taking on the run leg of the 2021 Kathmandu Coast to Coast, as part of a three-person team alongside his Fulton Hogan workmates Craig Stewart (cycle) and Peter de Goldi (kayak).

Mark attributes being able to walk and talk again, let alone run over a mountain pass, to the power of a step-by-step, day-by day approach to life - of living in every moment.

“Bolts out of the blue, like a stroke, can surprisingly not always have negative side-effects,” Ford added. “As humans we tend to take so much for granted. I’ve since learned not to take anything for granted, never to dwell on problems, and never to ask, ‘why me?’”

“If you have a major setback and are able to ask, ‘why not me?’ you’ll be in a much better position to overcome it.”

The power of encouragement has also shown its true healing power as well.

“I have never been around people as encouraging as those in the medical community. No matter how small the achievement, or how small the improvement, I have been constantly encouraged. This constant positive reinforcement is something I want to take into every aspect of my life, including corporate life.”

Mark says that despite the positives he takes from his stroke and gradual recovery he’ll never be glad it happened; there’s nevertheless much he takes from the experience.

“When, in a flash, you go from life as normal to being unable to function as a father or to work, you re-evaluate what defines you. Ultimately, I’ve learned it is not the immediately visible things that matter, but the quality of relationships and things like inner character.”

He says the support and love of his wife Keryn and children Tayla and Kobe has been the most important.

“Because the focus is on the person with the stroke, the efforts and sacrifices of the support team at home can go unrecognised. They have been wonderful.”

Mark says Fulton Hogan has also been “incredibly supportive”, giving him the time needed to recover. Nine months after the stroke he came back to work for eight hours a week and has since gradually increased that back to full time.

“I have been humbled by the response of my colleagues,” he says.

He’s now just hoping two colleagues in particular come through with the goods on the weekend of the Kathmandu Coast to Coast.

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