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Mark Chapman

(Chemistry 1987-92 and 1995-97)
Mark tells his inspiring story of courage and strength

I was an undergraduate at Imperial from 1987 to 1990 studying chemistry. I went on to do a PhD under Dr Ed Smith.

In 1992, my final year, I was in a cycle accident while I was on my way to work, when a lorry jumped two sets of red traffic lights. It left me with a very severe head injury resulting in two years hospitalisation and many years of rehabilitation.

Imagine having to relearn everything again. From simple tasks to complex cognitive ones. It was not easy having to learn to read and write again!

I needed support to slowly rebuild my memory and confidence. I had this from Dr Smith and my college friends who visited me regularly in Southampton General Hospital. They even helped with my physiotherapy because my legs had strongly contracted and needed to straighten before I could walk again. At the time it was not certain that I would ever be able to do that.

A letter from the then Rector Professor Sir Eric Ash gave me encouragement. My parents tell me I determined early on to return to Imperial.

Luckily I had written two reports about my work and Dr Smith felt that if, and when, I could write it up I might gain an MPhil. I was keen to do this although at that time it was probably an unrealistic hope.

After a year in hospital and still in a wheelchair, I visited the college. Meeting up with colleagues members of staff triggered off memories. It appeared that I had an understanding of my work and recognised the lab, so I hoped I would be able to make the best use of my work.

During the next year I began weekly visits to Dr Smith in college to attend group meetings. This motivated me to return if possible.

I owe a great debt to Dr Smith and the College because in 1995 I was able to return with the support of Professor McClellan, my consultant at Southampton General Hospital, as part of my ongoing rehabilitation.

I was given tremendous support especially from Loretto O'Callaghan, the College's Disabilities Officer who did her utmost to ensure I had the best accommodation and help when I needed it.

Looking back I realise it was extremely challenging because of my poor short term memory, mobility difficulties and emotional problems. Nevertheless with constant understanding and support from Dr Smith, and College, (who even waived my fees in the second year) 1997 saw me able to achieve an MPhil.

The Judge at the High Court where my compensation claim was heard, highly praised Dr Smith and Imperial College for their support.

Mark in Iceland in August 2007Despite help from experienced physiotherapists in the Queen’s Square Hospital, and even now in Hampshire where I live, progress to better walking is still slow. Dr Smith continues to support me from time to time when I visit the College.
Photo right: Mark in Iceland, August 2007.

My family and I are so grateful to Imperial for helping me in my rehabilitation and that is why I wanted to tell my story.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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