Road to recovery begins for former athlete
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Just over five months ago former standout football player and wrestler Mark Detoro’s life was turned upside-down. The 26-year-old former Clay High athlete was blindsided by a vehicle on a dark rural country road in Marion County somewhere near Reddick, FL, the only problem was Detoro was not in an automobile, the strapping athlete had begun a 100-mile quest on his bicycle in preparation for entrance into the National Guard.
The impact of the car knocked Detoro off his bike and onto the side of the road where he laid for an unconfirmed amount of time. One can only imagine how much blood he loss and how close death may have knocked on his door.
“I really don’t know how long I was on the side of the road,” said Detoro. “But I was told I lost so much blood that I was close to death. However, I’m happy to be here and still look forward to doing the things I had planned.”
Prior to the unfortunate accident Detoro had been vigorously training for boot camp with the National Guard, but training was nothing new for the former 2001 Co-Athlete of the Year at Clay High along with four-time wrestling champ P.J. Cobbert.
Detoro had always been a so-called workout warrior throughout his high school and collegiate career, and that may have been his saving grace while laying in a coma Shands Gainesville. “Some of the doctors and their staff were amazed at my recovery considering how they first saw me,” said Detoro. “I’ve also been told that being in the shape I was in helped speed up my recovery time and may have saved my life. I have always been a quick healer and thank God for that.”
Following the accident, Detoro’s right leg had to be amputated, but the prospect of not training or the thought of discontinuing his pursuit into the National Guard never entered his mind. “I have always been on the fast track in life; many people may have wondered why I was out riding my bike? But I am a fun and adventurous person with a very high-energy level. It may appear that doors have closed since the accident, however, my belief is that other doors have been opened.”
Currently, the motivated athlete rehabs every Monday for 45 minutes in Gainesville, he recently walked 3 ½ miles and he is still capable of bench pressing 300-pounds, which was good enough to beat a good friend during a friendly competition.
Although the picture appears clearer with each passing day, the beginning of the healing process looked bleak.
Upon entering the hospital, Detoro weighed in at a muscular 215 pounds, but when he was released after 31 days at Shands Gainesville, his weight dropped to an unbelievable low of 145. “I really did not have much of an appetite while in the hospital; I guess I was dealing with everything else that was going on. But now I’m up to 195 pounds and I’m expecting to get my prosthesis in the next two or three months, so I’m very excited about that.”
Detoro’s father who has been with him every step of the way during the recovery period added, “Healing powers, modern meds and countless prayers have helped Mark come through of all this. The people at Clay High have been great.”
Blood donations to Detoro went over the 540 mark of individual donations to the blood bank and a little over seven thousand dollars was donated to the family that led him to say, “Principal McCabe, the coaches and the community at large have all been great. Not only have they donated blood and money, but Coaches Jones, McKinney and Mitchell have also built a ramp outside of the house to help me get around. I can’t tell you how much it all has meant.”
Although the concern and donations have been great, Detoro said he is not after sympathy and still has his sights set on the things he had planned to do prior to the accident. “I really don’t want people feeling sorry for me; my goal is to become an inspiration for other amputees. People have seen me at my weakest point, actually so close to death, but with the strides I make I can encourage others not to give up. The Lord has given me another chance and I want to seize the opportunity He has given me.”
The ultimate goal for this former athlete is to still reach the 17 week boot camp at the National Guard but he realizes more work will be necessary to reach that point. “I really understand the mental aspect could be the toughest to overcome, but the goal is to get to boot camp and I would be the first amputee to do that. It would mean a lot for so many people. However, I’m not afraid of failing.”
So what helps to keep this motivated athlete forging forward? “My good friend Rudy Valentine who lives in California gave me some advice that simply said, don’t spend your time asking why me, until you realize that this is your life and truly accept it, you can move forward. I don’t want to let anything to hold me back.” The near future for Detoro is constant rehab, learning the use of the prosthesis and trying to get a sense of normalcy back, but those plans also include, “Once I get my prosthesis I’m looking to setup a walk/run charity event or something further to bring more awareness to the plight of some people in my position or worse. I also look forward to training young people as a teacher or coach or possibly studying human anatomy, that’s always been very interesting to me. But I must fully heal first and that can take up to one year.”