Mark McCourt, from South Shields, shattered his pelvis, and broke his leg, knee, ribs and back when a car ran over his body after knocking him off his motorbike.
The 39-year-old remained awake throughout the horrific ordeal in April 2021, during which he flipped over his handlebars, bounced off the car bonnet, skidded along the road and was then run over.
Mark was air lifted to the Major Trauma Centre at The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, where he was operated on by specialist medical staff.
He spent a month in hospital and even longer at home recovering, which involved learning to walk again, living and sleeping downstairs, and showering in a pop-up tent in the garden.
One year on from the crash, Mark has had seven operations, is receiving specialist treatment in London for his damaged bladder and urethra, undergoing physio for his pelvic area and walks with a limp due to weakness in his left leg.
The former marine engineer is also dealing with the ongoing psychological impact caused by the injuries, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), flashbacks, and missing out on a ‘dream job’, which he was due to start two days after the crash.
But despite his own suffering, Mark is thinking of others and has helped launch a new partnership between charity Day One Trauma Support and the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which treated him.
Speaking publicly about his ordeal for the first time, he said: “Although what happened to me was horrendous, I was lucky to have the support of my family around me to get me through it.
"I had excellent care from the hospital staff, but when a major physical trauma happens to you, there are so many questions that go through your head and you don’t know where to turn.
"It’s fantastic that Day One is there to help people like me, and my family, navigate the system, and I can’t wait to give back and use my experience to help others across the North East.”
Mark’s life was turned upside down in an instant when a car pulled out at a junction as he rode along a country lane near Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham, in April 2021.
He was riding a few moments behind his fiancée Maria Kajda, and had only had seconds to react.
Despite trying to steer around, the car hit him, throwing him off his bike, over the bonnet and skidding along the road.
As he lay conscious face down in the road trying to process what had happened, to his horror the car continued to move in his direction and ran over his midriff, crushing his pelvic area and the force flipping him onto his back.
“I was riding along and could see a white car at a junction ahead of me,” he said.
"I had right of way, but could suddenly see it started moving out.
"All I was thinking was please don’t hit me.
"I had about 15 metres to react.
"The front of the car hit the bike, I hit the bonnet and continued moving down the road.
“I felt the hard hit on my left side and was awake, when the front and rear left wheels of the car rolled over my pelvis.
"I don’t think the driver realised they had run over me and thought I was where my bike was. I was shouting in pain and tried to get up but couldn’t move.”
Mark had multiple operations, including emergency surgery two days into his hospital stay when his chest and neck swelled up, causing him difficulty breathing.
This was caused by surgical emphysema as a result of the trauma.
Mark was left temporary paralysed by the incident and left hospital after nearly four weeks.
He had to stay in a medical bed in his living room and use a wheelchair commode to go to the toilet.
Fortunately Maria – a teacher – was given two months leave to care for him.
During the summer they also set up a make-shift shower in the garden with a pop-up tent and battery powered shower.
Mark added: “I am so lucky that I had the support around me. My fiancée was amazing as I couldn’t get out of bed on my own.
"She had to help me go to the toilet and wash.
"If I had been single, I would have had to live with my parents and get my mum to do this, which you don’t expect when you’re in your thirties.
“When things are taken away from you, you appreciate the little things like a shower and cleaning your own teeth. I remember feeling water drip down my face for the first time and it felt like a massive deal.”
It took Mark 12 weeks before he was able to put weight on his feet and walk for the first time, which was frustrating for someone who had been very fit and active.
Now, a year later, Mark has had seven operations and is receiving specialist treatment in London for his damaged bladder and urethra.
He is undergoing physio for his pelvic area and walks with a limp due to weakness in his left leg.
Mark said: “It’s been a long journey and I’m still not at the end of it yet. The infections and setbacks get you down. When people look at me now, compared to a year ago, they’re amazed at the progress I have made.
“But although the scars and bruising have gone and I’m back walking, my life still isn’t the same.
“I still have difficulty going to the toilet. I’m waiting for reconstruction work on my bladder and urethra and have nerve damage in my pelvic area. People also don’t see the psychological impact something like this has.
"I still have night terrors about it and suffered PTSD, which I sought help for.”
Mark, who spent most of his life working on oil tankers, was about to start his ‘dream job’ as an ROV pilot (operating a submersible craft) two days after the crash.
Due to his injuries and risk of bleeding, he’s been told he won’t be able to work at sea again as the remote places he would work wouldn’t have the medical equipment or urgent access needed should the worst happen.
The driver of the car later pleaded guilty to causing injury by driving without due care and attention at Peterlee Magistrates Court on 10 September 2021 and was given five points, £100 fine and ordered to pay £100 fees.
About Day One
Day One says it is the only charity supporting major trauma patients and their families in the UK, regardless of injury type or location.
Under the new partnership at James Cook, the charity will provide a caseworker alongside NHS staff on the ward to support patients and their families as soon as they need help, by providing practical, emotional and financial support.
Lucy Nickson, CEO of Day One Trauma Support, said the organisation can go beyond the scope of the NHS by providing emergency funding for accommodation, clothing or specialist equipment, legal and welfare benefits advice, counselling, and befriending through its dedicated team of peer support volunteers – which includes Mark.
She said: “We’re thrilled to launch this partnership so we can help people like Mark get the support they so truly deserve.
"NHS clinical care is exceptional and has improved thanks to the work of Major Trauma Centres such as the one at James Cook.
"If you suffer a major physical trauma, you are more likely to survive your injuries, but enormous pressures on the NHS and inequities in the system mean recovery and rehabilitation support is inconsistent.
"That’s why Day One is becoming the ‘go to’ support for anyone affected by major trauma, as we can provide the vital practical and emotional support people need so they can rebuild their lives and look forward to the future.”
Mark himself remains under the care of Mr Andrew Gray, a consultant orthopaedic and trauma surgeon at James Cook.
Together, with the Major Trauma Service, led by Dr Laura Evans, the team is launching the new Day One service for the North East which will aim to help support the many aspects of patients’ lives as they recover from life-changing injuries.
Mr Gray said: “It's a privilege to work in a Major Trauma Centre and help treat the most seriously injured of patients.
"We have a fantastic team of specialties here at James Cook that help cover the range of injuries that patients unfortunately suffer after a major incident.
"These life-changing injuries affect the many physical, but also the psychological, financial and emotional, aspects of patients’ lives and that of their families.
"This can impact patients long after their injuries have ‘healed’.
"Being involved and combining with Day One will help our Major Trauma Centre support both patients and their families during the difficult weeks and months after injury and aid their overall recovery and rehabilitation.
"I am delighted to be part of this initiative.”