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The sky’s the limit - Mark Ashby’s story

The sky’s the limit - Mark Ashby’s story

Living with a traumatic brain injury can be an isolating experience. But sometimes, out of that isolation, something incredible can bloom. Today we share the inspiring story of Mark Ashby.

In his early years, Mark was a model student; a prefect, an athlete, and a sprinter for Canterbury. He also came first in the high school senior's 200-metre sprint.

Mark worked in operating theatres in hospitals around Christchurch, he was a sergeant in the order of St John and was studying hard to work as a radiographer.

“I always have been a person who cares about other people,” says Mark.

In 1993, Mark's life suddenly transformed. He found himself in the passenger seat of a 1968 Ford Falcon GT, as it hit a power pole on the way home from the pub.

What followed was a challenging period in Mark’s life. It was difficult to depend on others for help, as walking and moving became difficult. During this time, one of the more unknown challenges that came to light was the social stigma surrounding TBI.

“I found the social stigma challenging, I had frustration with some people's new attitudes towards me. I had to express that I was able to live, I do have time for others.”

Mark moved from Timaru to Christchurch and stayed with us in the residential home while seeking an apartment where he could be independent. While it was a time of isolation for Mark, he says it was a time that allowed him to grow in many ways. Today he is more aware of social behaviour, and he has gained significant independence.

“The isolation and stigma did occur, but with Laura Fergusson, I really wised up. I believe that since my accident, I’ve matured beyond my years. I’m elated with Laura Fergusson, all of the staff have been magic.”

These days, Mark is living in a positive space. He has learned how to keep a clear mind, and his memory has grown strong. Has been a part of our Reconnect group, and now enjoys an individual tailored programme as a part of our ACC funded Living My Life service. Mark says the Living My Life Rehab Coaches have helped him appreciate life, interact better with other, and improved the relationships in his life.

Mark’s determination in rehabilitation has gotten him incredibly far, and he feels that he will not be stopping any time soon.

"Even if things haven't gone as expected during the week, Mark still always greets me with an upbeat attitude, with a strong focus on the positive,” says Trish, one of our wonderful rehabilitation coaches who works closely with Mark. “This, along with Mark's determination to always be bettering himself as a person is inspiring.”

And better himself he does, as Mark loves going to the gym each week, and has found great success in bodybuilding. He has competed around the world in Perth, Hawaii, Arizona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. He is a self-confessed “show pony,” but that title is rightly earned, as he came second in a competition for physically challenged.

“Bodybuilding has been great for my self-belief. I know I can do it because I have done it before.”

It is not only bodybuilding that Mark has found success, as his art has been featured around the country, including our very own Art and Sculpture exhibition last September.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity to have my art at many art galleries. They have been so good to me. I’ve had my art at a New Brighton cafe, as well as Ferrymead. I even got a letter from the Prime Minister, I’ve painted her daughter and herself.”

The creative opportunity is an essential part of Mark’s life today, as he finds it a form of expression that can be communicated to anyone and everyone. Through art, Mark has been able to be his own person, not defined by others. He says that his brain injury has even brought new flavours into his art!

“With art, there is a beauty, you can see beauty anywhere.”

As for the future, Mark says the sky is the limit. He wants to continue his progression in art and to continue expressing himself in new ways through it. He is also ready to do more travel with his bodybuilding, with his eyes on a potential trip to England to visit family and friends.

With support from his girlfriend Mary, and his young daughter, Mark is looking forward to continuing to grow into the future. We are excited to continue to grow with him, and we are greatly looking forward to what comes next in his inspiring journey!