Mark Anthony Smith
Mark Anthony Smith, 44, served in the Royal Corps of Transport (later the Royal Logistics Corps) as a Driver from 1989 to 1994 serving in Canada and Northern Ireland. The father-of-two was diagnosed with cervical myelopathy in 2016 and has since undergone surgery to replace two discs in his neck with metal plates.
Mark struggles to manage constant pain and now finds even the shortest journey difficult. As a result he is forced to spend much of his time at home alone. Mark’s SSAFA caseworker Pete Gillespie was able to offer both emotional and practical support through this difficult time, arranging for new carpets and for an occupational therapist to assess Mark for the right bed.
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Mark initially went to see his doctor two years ago when he took up running again and began suffering from pins and needles. When the symptoms persisted he was referred for an MRI and finally diagnosed with cervical myelopathy in November 2016.
He said: “If you imagine the inside of your neck like a cylinder, mine is more like an egg timer. The cervical myelopathy affects everything below my neck. I have lost the use of my right hand before. I have now had two discs removed from my neck - four are affected altogether - and had metal plates put in which took five hours.”
After leading a previously active lifestyle, Mark is now virtually housebound. He said: “It’s taken me from one extreme to the other. When we were based in BATUS I used to bomb along the Rattlesnake cross country trail in the truck. Now I can’t even take a seven minute bus ride. I have been in tears on the bus before. Being in a car with all the braking and accelerating and going round corners is also excruciating.”
Mark, who previously worked in NHS mental health services, also struggles to spend quality time with his children when they stay at weekends. He said: “I used to have them for two nights but now it has gone down to one because I find it difficult to do anything with them and they need to be out and about.”
Mark, who has published a book of poetry called Hearts of the Matter, was also finding it difficult to focus on writing. He got in touch with SSAFA East Yorkshire and caseworker Pete Gillespie was able to offer some much-needed support.
“Pete was a real Godsend. I’m a pretty positive person usually but I’m quite isolated now. I see the kids at the weekend but I don’t really see anyone else because it’s hard to get out. Pete was just fantastic. He was able to offer me lots of emotional support but also helped with practical things like getting new carpets and arranging for an OT to come and see me and assess me for the right bed. I was at quite a low point but he came at the right time and he got me through it all. I’m so thankful for what SSAFA did for me. Now I’d just really like to get back to work.”