A year ago a former soldier with a zest for life and love of all-action sports underwent a routine back operation that went tragically wrong and left him paralysed.
But 28-year-old Kirk Mount has defied all the odds, amazed doctors and his family and is still an all-action hero – from his wheelchair!
Off-roading on Pendle Hill, wheelchair cliff diving, horse-riding, archery, shooting, swimming, wood trekking and racing over beach sand dunes are just some of the activities he loves to do. Now he is looking for more outdoor challenges and wants people to help him find them as his “never say die” spirit urges him on – along with the practical and emotional support of veterans’ charity Salute who call him their “poster boy”.
The strapping 6ft 3in. ex-Royal Artillery gunner joined the Army at 18 and served until 2012 with 40 Regiment. Last July 2nd at the Royal Liverpool Hospital he underwent an operation to pin cracked vertebrae, but his spinal cord was damaged and he ended up in surgery for 16 hours. He awoke to find he was paralysed from the waist down and after three weeks in the high intensity unit moved to a special spinal unit in Southport.
“When I came round from the operation I had all my family round me and I could see from the look on their faces they were all gutted. I realised then I couldn’t drown my sorrows as they would have been even more devastated, so I had to put on a brave face and get on with it.
“All the time in Southport I never cried about my injury, though I heard others crying in the night. But in the Army we are taught we have to adapt to any situation, I did this but others couldn’t. I had always wanted to join the Army and loved it and my training helped me get through this.”
I don’t want molly-coddling and I don’t want people to look at me differentlyKirk Mount
When he left the spinal unit earlier this year he moved back to his father Simon’s home in Sabden and said he had to learn to adjust physically and mentally. But living in a terraced house proved more difficult than expected and someone put him in touch with Salute. He says organisers Danny and Aileen Hutchinson took him under their wing and the charity provided him with an off-road wheelchair which has proved a lifesaver as he can do so many activities he would never have dreamed of. “I wanted something so I could play with my children, but it has meant I can do so much more now.” Salute volunteer Alex Pridmore also helped him find his present home, an adapted bungalow in Elizabeth Court, Padiham, where he lives independently.
His life-changing operation brought about the end of his relationship with his partner but he still sees his children Olivia (5) and Fynn (3) and has a girlfriend, Lisa Holden, who is amazed by his bravery. His mum Julie lives in Hapton and he has three sisters, Marina, Gemma and Hannah.
“I don’t want molly-coddling and I don’t want people to look at me differently. If my mates want to go rock climbing I want to go too. But I would like people to help me get in touch with organisations so I can do things like rock climbing.”
Kirk volunteers and fund-raises for Salute and ex-forces charities and, through sheer hard work and going through the pain barrier, he has amazed medics by managing to walk a few steps and regain a little feeling in his right leg. “I had to. I knew if I wanted a brew I would have to get up and make it myself!”
He said there are other ex-veterans like himself with disabilities – but don’t call him disabled – who would like to get involved in action sports but need pointing in the right direction. If you can help please call Kirk on 07434736730. In the meantime, a keen motorcyclist, he is eager to get back on his superbike and this summer is planning a surfing trip to Newquay! “I don’t know how, but I’ll have a go,” he says.