Cut short, but not knocked down

September 5, 2013 | 4 p.m.

Mark Mann, Bethel alumnus, perseveres after a life-changing accident

Culture | Jenny Hudalla for The Clarion

Cut short, but not knocked down

Friends and family of Mark Mann, all of who were present at the scene of the accident, support him at his benefit, "Mann of the Hour." | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Mark Mann

A little over two months after being struck by a boat on East Balsam Lake in an accident that cost him both of his legs, 2010 Bethel graduate Mark Mann is alive, healthy and happy.

Having been discharged from Regions Hospital only two weeks after his accident, Mann’s doctors, nurses and physical therapists are amazed by his recovery. Although he may be healing at an astounding rate, Mann is even quicker to tell people what God did for him that day.

It was June 16 – Father’s Day – when Mann was enjoying the water with his sister and her friends while his wife relaxed on shore. While his sister’s friends took turns wakesurfing behind his parents’ boat, Mann was jumping the boat’s wake on his stand-up jet ski.

Mann, a Maple Grove native who grew up on the water, still can’t figure out how he ended up in the boat’s path after falling into the water.

“I know never to go in front of a boat,” he said. “Maybe it took a sharp turn or something. Either way, I looked over my shoulder and realized I needed to get out of the way.”

Mann swam back to his jet ski, but gave it a little too much gas in his haste and watched as his watercraft shot out from beneath him. As the roar of the engine grew louder, Mann knew the boat’s raised hull would prevent the driver from seeing him. He began swimming away as fast as he could.

When the boat was nearly on top of him, Mann attempted to dive deeper into the water, but his life preserver prevented his escape. After feeling his feet hit the drive shaft, Mann knew what came next – the propeller.

“It was the most excruciating moment of my life,” he said. “It was like meat going through a meat grinder, and that’s exactly what it looked like when I glanced at my lower legs.”

After realizing he had hit Mann, the boat’s driver jumped into the water and helped Mann onto the back platform of the boat.
“The scariest moment was when I saw how much blood was shooting out of my legs,” Mann said. “That was my main concern. I knew if I lost too much blood, it would be the end of me.”

For the next 47 minutes, Mann not only managed to remain conscious, but also put on an incredible display of sharp thinking. Upon entering the boat, he asked several people to use the wakeboard tow rope to tie tourniquets around both of his legs to staunch the bleeding. He also told his sister to call 911 and an emergency helicopter.

“I don’t remember telling her to call the helicopter,” Mann said. “I’m a strong Christian, and I believe that God spoke through me and played a very active role in saving my life that day.”

After the boat arrived at the cabin, one of Mann’s neighbors – a retired ER nurse – told her daughter to call the dispatcher and make sure the ambulance had the correct coordinates.

What seemed like a precautionary measure turned out to be one of many miracles that helped save Mann’s life. The ambulance was headed to a destination about seven minutes away from Mann’s cabin, and after losing three-fourths of his blood, he isn’t sure if he would have made it much longer.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Mann said his blood pressure had dropped to “something like 60 over 20,” and first responders later told him he had sustained some of the worst injuries they had ever seen.

“I was in the most critical moment of my life, and I had a vision,” Mann said. “I found myself at the foot of the cross, looking up at Christ and seeing how much pain he was in. In that moment, I realized I had nothing to complain about.”

When he awoke, Mann said he experienced “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” Despite the physical pain, Mann said the hardest part was leaving his wife, Rachael, when the emergency helicopter arrived.

“I told her I loved her and I would fight hard,” Mann said. “It was hard to watch her walk away and wonder if it was the last time I would ever see her in this life.”

Having blacked out in the helicopter, Mann doesn’t remember anything until he woke up in Regions after undergoing emergency surgery. When he looked down the length of the bed and didn’t see the familiar bump of his feet under the covers, he realized his legs had been amputated below the knee.

“That was hard to swallow,” Mann said. “But I knew there was still a lot left to do in life, and I wasn’t going to let this deter me.”
Mann expects to be walking on prosthetic legs in a month or two, and doctors estimate that he will regain 87 percent of his mobility. Having played basketball through high school and college, Mann is hopeful that he’ll be back on the court one day.

“The accident was a life-changing moment,” Mann said. “There have been tough days when I wake up and realize it’s not just a nightmare, but a lot of cool things have happened as well. My family has grown much closer, and I was able to experience God in a way I’ll never forget.”

On August 9th, the Manns hosted a fundraiser where there was music, a live and silent auction and other opportunities for the many friends and family in attendance to bless Mark and Rachael financially. All of the donations from that night went towards funding home modifications, medical bills and Mann’s prosthetic legs. Online donations on Mann’s Youcare have already breached $23,000 since the accident.

Through everything, Mann has acquired a greater appreciation for life and maintained a positive attitude that has allowed him to focus on what he has gained, not what he has lost. In fact, Mann said that if he was given the choice to take it all back, he would probably refuse the offer.

“I’ve had such a cool experience with God since then,” Mann said. “I like to think of it this way: on June 16, I lost something physically that I’ll never get back. But I gained something spiritually that I’ll never lose.”

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