What are the chances of living more than 50 years as a quadriplegic? One in 10 billion.
Mark Christiansen is one the longest surviving quadriplegics in the world. He grew up in a middle class family in Salt Lake City. At the age of 16 he broke his neck in a diving accident. Doctors didn't expect him to survive and let him lie in a hospital bed for days. He surprised them and lived. Given a life expectancy of 10 years, he continues to surprise and is now in his 53rd year living with neck-down paralysis.
After his accident, Mark married and had three biological children. I am the oldest. I haven't always wanted to share my dad's story. Just getting through the day can be challenging enough for both of us. As I've aged, I've come to appreciate the hardships my dad has endured. I've also come to realize how miraculous it is that he has lived so long and so fully. Even more miraculous is that he's done most of it with a smile.
- He's close to a world record as the longest surviving quadriplegic.
- He has water skied, banana-tubed, rafted, kayaked, sledded, snow skied, flown, glided, and descended part way down the Grand Canyon in a push wheelchair.
- He drives an adapted van.
- He's travelled to Norway, Denmark, England, and Japan.
- He nearly drowned while kayaking, tubing, and doing therapy.
- He volunteers.
- His life was saved by strangers after he fell, wheelchair first, into a river.
- He started two successful businesses and still works to this day.
- He is Chairman of the Board of the Utah Independent Living Center.
- He has three biological children ... a rarity.
- He recently had his first grandchild.
- He eats right, exercises, and remains in good health.
- He's an active member of the LDS church (mormon).
- He's intelligent, witty, generous, and has a great sense of humor.
Mark has done all this-and yet he can't feed himself. He can't wipe his own nose. He can't scratch an itch. He can't go to the bathroom alone.
Mark's problems will make yours seem pale ... But his is not a story of tragedy. It is a story of faith, hope, heartache, adversity, love, family, and overcoming. Help us tell the story of Mark Christiansen: one in ten billion.
Mark - The star of the show. We're telling Mark's story and we need his time.
Nate - Mark's son and project visionary. Nate realized how amazing Mark's life is and that it needed to be shared. He is also a creative thinker and amazing story teller. Additionally, Mark relies more and more on Nate for his day-to-day care. Nate can help Mark with his basic needs while we spend time with him and write his story.
Kate - The writer.
Nate met Kate soon after she moved to Salt Lake City from Vermont. Kate's brother Bill made the same mistake as Mark and dove into shallow water. He cracked his skull, recovered, and went on to win a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics. Kate felt a connection to Mark after contemplating the differences between his life and her brother's. Nate pled his case to team up and write Mark's story. She fell for it–in more ways than one–and is now wholeheartedly committed. Kate has the writing experience and the outside perspective necessary.
Kate is a professional writer with a background in journalism, editing, and marketing. She has a degree in English Writing from St. Lawrence University, and a Master's in Creative Writing from Goddard College.
What do we need the money for?
While writing a book is free (aside from the time all three of us need to commit), publishing a book is expensive. Money will go towards estimated production costs including: developmental editing ($3,000) and copy editing ($2,000), cover art, design, and photography ($2,500), book marketing and publicity ($4,000), campaign video and promotion ($2,500), campaign shipping and fulfillment ($1,000), and printing costs for the first run of the book ($10,000).
Total funds needed: $25,000.
Risks and challenges
If we raise the funds we need, the challenges we face are personal. Mark is more dependent than he used to be and just meeting his daily needs can be very time consuming. Our challenge is to get him comfortable–physically and emotionally–so he can tell his story. It will be difficult for Mark to explore personal topics such as:
• What's it like to believe you'll never walk again?
• How do you brush your teeth?
• What kind of stress does paralysis place on a marriage?
• How do you eat?
• What is it like to rely on friends and family for basic needs?
• How do you bathe?
• How do you stay sane?
• Do you believe in God and Jesus Christ? Has it helped?
• How do you go to the bathroom?
• How do you feel about your son leaving the church?
• What effect has your paralysis had on relationships with friends and family?
Some thoughtful people have pointed out that we have said very little about Mark Christiansen's ex-wife and my mom, Sharen De Haan Christiansen. She married Mark in her mid twenties, had 3 kids and took care of all 4 of us for many, many years.
They went through an ugly divorce after about 17 years of marriage and their relationship was bad for a long time. It was painful for all of us. Years have softened the hard feelings and I'm happy to say that Mark and Sharen now have a cordial relationship. Sharen isn't on facebook and she hasn't received the attention she deserves. Some would argue that raising 3 kids while being married to a quad is an accomplishment greater than Mark's.
She is an amazing woman and she will be a huge part of the book. In fact I think she's looking forward to knocking Mark down a peg or two. Looking back I can't imagine how difficult her life must have been when we were young. I love my mom so much and I'm grateful for all she's done. Thank you friends for reminding us that we should be including Sharen even though she isn't a facebooker.
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