Irish adventurer Mark Pollock launched Team Unbreakable, a new charity programme that aims to raise €250,000 annually for research into paralysis, at a screening of the 2014 documentary ‘Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story’ in Trinity College last night. The launch, which was followed by a Q&A with Mark Pollock and his fiancée Simone George, was one of the opening events of Trinity’s Body & Soul Week 2015 yesterday evening.
Pollock, a Trinity graduate, became totally blind at the age of 22, yet went on to became a motivational speaker and, 10 years after losing his sight, became the first blind man to race to the South Pole. Only a few weeks before he was due to marry George in 2010, an accident then left him paralysed from the waist down. The documentary focuses in particular on the challenges of paralysis and the search for a cure to spinal cord injuries.
At the event, organised by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union and Student2Student, Pollock told the audience that the documentary by filmmaker Ross Whitaker is “an observation of the truth” and provides an insight into the physical, psychological and emotional challenges of the condition for both himself and his family. “I cried every day for three months,” he says at one point in the film. “I cried every second day for the next three months.” He hopes the film will raise awareness about the challenges facing people with paralysis and the importance of research to find a cure.
When asked how he came to terms with the paralysis and how he maintains a positive outlook, Pollock replied that for him it is important to “be brave enough to deal with reality,” to challenge conventional wisdom and to disregard impossibility. He also emphasised the help and support of his fiancée, his family and friends in dealing with his paralysis. George commented that in the aftermath of the accident, she put a lot of energy into studying Pollock’s condition and the current research being carried out in the field of spinal cord injuries.
Pollock is exploring new developments in research and treatment of paralysis, and the documentary follows both his regular visits to Trinity College to use robotic legs and his time in California where he took part in an experimental study with scientists at UCLA. Speaking to students, he emphasised the importance of interdisciplinary work, connecting experts in fields such as robotics, science and medicine to develop a cure for spinal cord injuries. They are currently trying to establish links between Trinity College and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to further this research.
Pollock is dedicated to raising awareness of the condition and raising funds for research, and, along with his fiancée, was appointed to the Board of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in 2013. He is also an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run, a charity run that raises money to help find a cure for spinal cord injury. The Mark Pollock Trust aims to raise funds for research through initiatives such as the Life Style Sports Run in the Dark, which takes place on Wednesday, 11th November 2015.