Accidental inspiration for motivated Marine Technician

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), LSIS Lee-Anne Mack (photographer)

Location(s): Rockingham, WA

Able Seaman Marine Technician Mark Daniels sets up for a dead lift in the HMAS Stirling Gymnasium Weight Room.   (photo: LSIS Lee-Anne Mack)
Able Seaman Marine Technician Mark Daniels sets up for a dead lift in the HMAS Stirling Gymnasium Weight Room.

For HMAS Stirling's Able Seaman Marine Technician Mark Daniels, 17 December 2015 is the date etched firmly in his mind.

Able Seaman Daniels was serving in HMAS Arunta and had recently returned to Western Australia from a four-month North East Asia deployment.

“The day started off the same as any other work day onboard Arunta,” he said.

“We were having a family day on the ship which was our last working day before a much-needed break, and I was looking forward to spending the next day catching up on some wakeboarding.

“My dad and brother joined me onboard Arunta for the family day and afterwards I hugged them goodbye and finished up my duties while waiting for leave to be piped.”

Upon leaving the ship, Able Seaman Daniels donned his Kevlar motorcycle gear, climbed aboard his motorbike and headed to his best friend’s house in Port Kennedy, near Rockingham, for dinner.

“After an amazing dinner with my mate, his wife and daughter, I jumped on my bike again and set off for my apartment in Wellard, unaware my life was about to change forever.”

Able Seaman Daniels doesn’t remember much of that trip but was later told exactly what happened by police and a number of eyewitnesses.

“I never made it home that night; just a kilometre from my mate’s place a distracted motorist turned across my lane and I slammed into the side of his car at 70 kilometres per hour,” he said.

“My bike flew more than 30 metres with my bike getting destroyed – my body didn’t fare much better.”

Able Seaman Daniels suffered a broken neck, 11 broken ribs, a broken hand, a punctured lung, a ruptured kidney and a severed femoral artery.

“I was bleeding out rapidly but a passing motorist stemmed the bleed, saving my life,” he said.

“In total, I believe there were five ambulance crews that attended the scene, and I was later told that the paramedics thought I would not survive the night.”

But Able Seaman Daniels did survive and after being rushed to Royal Perth Hospital was placed in an induced coma for 10 days.

That was the beginning of a long road back for the young sailor which included 12 surgical procedures, dialysis treatment, and an extensive physiotherapy schedule.

Six days after his accident, Able Seaman Daniels’ parents were forced to make the hardest decision of their lives – to sign the permission forms for their son’s right leg to be amputated.

“The leg began poisoning my body and my parents were told I would die if it wasn’t removed,” he said.

“I was put under the care of an amazing surgeon called Professor Rene Zellweger who not only managed to save my life but also saved my knee what was said to have been impossible.

In the following weeks, Able Seaman Daniels began suffering from depression.

“I couldn’t see the point of living anymore, but then I was put in touch with Paul de Gelder – the former Navy Clearance Diver who lost his hand and leg in a shark attack while diving in Sydney Harbour,” he said.

“Paul told me that people were always going to tell me that I can’t do things because I’m disabled but only I know what my body is truly capable of.

“He told me to never stop pushing the limits – I don’t think Paul realised how much he helped me, and I hope to meet him one day to thank him in person for changing my outlook on life.”

Following his talk with Mr de Gelder, Able Seaman Daniels started responding better to treatment and on 4 April 2016 was able to take his first few steps on his new prosthetic limb.

“The next big milestone for me was the HBF Run for a Reason which we ran and rolled 12 kilometres in my wheelchair raising money and awareness for charity, Soldier On. 

“I was supported by family, friends and serving members – in total, we managed to raise $2,300.”

Able Seaman Daniels has now returned to work at Stirling on a rehabilitation plan and has some serious plans for his future.

“My facebook page, which is called 'Team Mark', is a way of expressing my motivation and my latest video was viewed 20,500 times – I love having the ability to motivate and inspire people on a daily basis.”

“I have some big goals in my sights, including walking the Kokoda Trek with Mates4Mates, participating in the 2017 Invictus Games and hopefully the Paralympics one day.”

Able Seaman Daniels said he is determined to prove that he defines his own limits and his disability does not define who he is.
He also thanked the many people who have supported him over the past six months.

“My family was by my side every step of the way; my immediate family and my Navy family came together to support me and each other,” he said.

“I would especially like to thank my parents, Angela and Simon, my Marine Engineering Officer Lieutenant Commander Raymon Pozzebon and my Commanding Officer Commander Cameron Steil.”

Able Seaman Daniels said the Navy has been extremely supportive and he is grateful to be part of such a great team.