Amputee revels in opportunity to 'Get Moving' in life

By Peter Thornton

Marty Clark, who lost his left leg in a horrific motorcycle accident more than 30 years ago, still lives life to the full.
Marty Clark, who lost his left leg in a horrific motorcycle accident more than 30 years ago, still lives life to the full.

Marty Clark loves it when people tell him that he can't do something. It only makes him want to do it more.

The 54-year-old, who works for a project called "Get Moving", which is a jointly funded initiative by the Nelson City and Tasman District Councils, lost his left leg in a horrific motorcycle accident more than 30 years ago. He still lives life to the full.

You suffered an awful accident more than 30 years ago, can you explain what happened?

I was travelling towards Ohope Beach on my motorcycle and encountered an overtaking driver on a bend forcing me to choose to ride between the two cars. I clipped the overtaking car with my knee which essentially sheared off the hind quarter severing the femoral artery and causing a fair bit of internal damage as well. Fortunately for me I had the good sense to have the accident close to where a district nurse lived so she was able to stem the blood loss until an ambulance arrived.

You were living an active life, how hard was it mentally when you discovered that you would lose your leg?

There was no real problem accepting the loss - there just didn't seem to be time to dwell on it. Recovery felt like a fulltime job for the first 12 weeks then rehab followed immediately. Initially, I recovered very quickly which I attribute to being fairly fit and healthy and I was up and about after about six weeks, albeit rather shakily. Even while I was recovering I was scheming how to resume a fairly active life and was walking the stairwells of Whakatane and Tauranga hospitals.

How hard was it adjusting to life with just one leg?

It actually felt quite easy. I seem to thrive on the challenges and there seemed to be a constant stream of opportunities. I was back in the surf as soon as I was allowed, probably sooner, snow skiing almost fulltime a year later and probably a dozen sports over the next 20 years, most of which I've participated at a high level. Life right now is pretty darn good.

How do you MTB and surf with one leg?

I've been mountain biking now for probably 25 years and while I'm slowing down a little I still blow people away with what I do and where I ride. I pretty much can ride most trails anywhere providing I can maintain traction when I am climbing. All I do is rotate the seat as I have just the one buttock and use a clip-in pedal and just lift and push. While I love surfing, I no longer have the specific fitness to do it well.

What is your favourite sport and why?

I'm rewarded in different ways from different sports. Cycling is the most demanding and gives me buckets of endorphins, sea kayaking can take my wife and I to the most out-of-the-way places, golf is probably the most social and possibly the hardest sport to master so is the sport I want to spend time on the most.

How important is it for you to carry on living a normal life?

It's absolutely essential to live a full and normal life and I think that goes for everyone. I think it is a fundamental human trait to be a valued member of a community. I'm not sure being rescued from cave systems in the Waikato through to being arrested in Arizona for hitchhiking on the freeway can be seen as particularly normal for a hindquarter amputee but you only get one life to live, so why not?

You have an incredibly positive attitude, was that always the case?

Yes, as strange as it seems, even for me looking back. I've always looked on my accident in a positive light. I see my disability as not a barrier but an opportunity to overcome a new challenge. I don't know what shapes a person's character and attitude but I think I have always been fortunate that the people around me have never put limitations on what stuff I do whether it has been jumping out of an aeroplane or training as primary school teacher.

Your role with the "Get Moving" project must be rewarding. Explain what you do?

I'm working through our city and district councils as a cycle educator with a particular focus on getting intermediate-aged kids out on the road learning to apply cycle education in real-life riding situations.

I also get to work with older returning riders which is very satisfying seeing them reconnect with the passion of riding bikes.

What advice do you offer to other people who have suffered a disability?

It's difficult giving advice to others as no two people are the same. I certainly believe we don't need to be confined or defined by our disability. Anyone with or without a disability can and should dream big.

The biggest disability is likely to be the limitations we place on ourselves.

- NZ Herald

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