‘Game Changer’ foot brace helps former archer rediscover his freedom of movement.

Former Archery GB competitor rediscovers his independence and love of the outdoors, thanks to his revolutionary silicone foot brace.

Mark Pattenden lost his leg below the knee 21 years ago as a result of an incident at work. Having spent most of his time since helping other amputees to realise their potential, Mark has dedicated himself to finding and nurturing those in need of a little push.

Mark is a popular figure in the disabled community and always turns his attention to achieving his goals, despite their difficulty. Back in 2014, he took on the challenge of scaling the dizzy heights of Mount Everest to reach the base camp. It was during this challenge that Mark met the team at Dorset Orthopaedic, when he received a lightweight prosthesis to help him conquer the mountain! This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship which saw Mark take on challenge after challenge after challenge! “I always consider myself very fortunate to have been introduced to Dorset, which has enabled me to continue to raise funds for charity and to strive for better”, said Mark.

The next big endeavour was to be the first amputee to run the Great Wall of China and to achieve this, he needed to find a way to move quicker than his current prosthesis would allow. So Mark got himself his first running blade aged 54 and realised his goal in 2016 to become the first amputee to run the Great Wall of China marathon. “I was really excited to be invited to be the first amputee to take on The Great Wall of China Marathon” said Mark, “and it seemed like a challenge I couldn’t pass over”.

After the marathon, Mark settled back into his normal way of life and kept his fitness regimes going. Along the way, Mark met a number of other amputees and he decided to start the ‘Pay it Forward’ scheme. This started with a young lady called Kelly Jackson who Mark met through mutual Facebook friends. Kelly had recently become an amputee and need a running blade to help with her rehab. So Mark began raising money by walking 10km a day and raised enough funds to allow Kelly to get her running leg, which massively helped her. “After raising money for charity from the Great Wall experience,” said Mark, “I wanted to do something of my own to help others. After Kelly got her blade, I discussed with her about continuing it on”. “Mark is my hero”, said Kelly. “He saw me struggle, trying my hardest to run with my everyday leg and amazed me with his kindness to fundraise to get me a running blade. I’ll be forever grateful for his kindness and hope his legacy continues to grow”.

Kelly and Mark then did the same for Hannah Moore who has since gone on to be World and European Para-Triathlon Champion. This noble venture all started out as an idea and has achieved more than Mark could have hoped for at the beginning. “Mark has really helped me change my life since my amputation” explains Hannah. “My ambition was to get into triathlon and I had started on my standard everyday prosthetic but knew I would never be able to be competitive without the right prostheses. Mark’s initiative kick-started my triathlon career and I would never have been able to race internationally, let alone win two World Championships without it”.

In 2017, Mark attended the ‘Discover your Gold’ trials and was put on an intense training programme in archery, where he quickly developed his skills. He was approached by Archery GB and invited to become part of the squad to prepare for Paralympic competition. During this time, Mark’s two recipients of the Pay it Forward scheme, nominated him for a Pride of Britain Award. “Throughout my challenges, I have never expected to receive any awards and I have done these to push myself and support others” said Mark. “I was shocked and honoured to be nominated for the award. It was very humbling to be part of this nomination”.

Mark grew from strength to strength and quickly got to grips with the sport, until a spinal injury scuppered his chances of reaching the pinnacle of competition in 2019. After he endured this disappointment, Mark focused his attention towards his recovery and once again turned to Dorset Ortho for some trusted support.

After dealing with the pain and adapting his body to function again, Mark was almost back to full strength and the only physical challenge he faced was partial drop foot on his non amputated side, resulting in him tripping or catching his toes especially when he was exerting himself or tired.

After some discussions with his team at Dorset, Mark was prescribed a custom made Silicone Ankle Foot Orthosis (SAFO), which instantly corrected the problem and allowed Mark to get on with his life.

Now, a qualified personal trainer for people living with disabilities, Mark spends his days helping others to rise above their conditions and to focus on the road laid out in front of them.

Mark’s next adventure is ‘Challenge UK’, which is a solo self-supported walk around the coastline of Britain in aid of the Arctic One Foundation. “It is an ambitious endeavour,” says Mark, “but I’m confident that I can do it. I hope by doing this challenge it will help raise significant funds so that other amputees can realise what they can achieve with their prostheses”. He hopes to start this early next year, COVID dependant; watch this space for further announcements of how you can help or even get involved!

“If I could give my younger self and anyone else any advice,” said Mark, “it’s very simply, give yourself time to initially recover from the operation and rehabilitation. Give yourself realistic goals to achieve on a daily basis and build your confidence in your walking and to maintain a healthy lifestyle thereafter. Never give up on your dreams because one day you may surprise yourself and achieve them. Most importantly, strive for better every day.”