Mark Sweatman
Mark Sweatman

By Collin Kelley
INtown Editor

Mark Sweatman believes in embracing adversity. In 2010 at the age of 38, the Midtown resident lost part of his left leg to a little known neurological condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Sweatman broke his foot, but it didn’t heal correctly leading to the condition that could have spread to his entire leg.

While dealing with the pain of RSD, which included swelling, discoloration and loss of mobility, and the eventual amputation, Sweatman had to give up his pursuit of a Ph.D. in sociology, lost his job and his partner left him. The ordeal left him emotionally shattered. In 2011, a year after the amputation, Sweatman tried to take his own life.

“I realized I had to come to grips with my circumstances,” Sweatman said. “I decided to change them and focus on what I did have and find the positive.”

Part of that refocusing was writing a memoir, Amputated Yet Whole: How Adversity Made Me Complete. He’s also undertaking a 120-mile walk from Atlanta to Birmingham beginning Nov. 7 to raise funds and awareness for Limbs for Life, a nonprofit that provides prostheses for amputees who cannot afford them.

Sweatman said he managed to hang on to his healthcare through the turmoil, which was a good thing because his prosthetic leg cost $27,000. He said a growing child might need two or more prostheses in a single year, which could financially ruin a family.

“I’m already on my fourth prosthesis, and I started to think about people who might not be able to afford them,” Sweatman said. “The walk is a way to give back, because I feel like I’ve been blessed and I want to inspire others.”

Sweatman said one his recovery goals was to complete a 5K walk, but the 120-mile walk will test his endurance. His walk will follow the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails through Georgia and Alabama. He plans to walk 12 to 16 miles a day for 10 days and has been training by walking more than 6 miles a day around Midtown and in Piedmont Park.

In addition to training for the walk, Mark finally earned his Ph.D. and is employed conducting data analysis at the Shepherd Center in the heart of Atlanta and teaching at Georgia Gwinnett College. He’s also become a mentor to other RSD sufferers and those who have undergone amputations.

“If I had two legs, I would have never attempted this walk or made the decision to dedicate part of my life to helping others,” Sweatman said. “The walk is just another example of how people can embrace adversity.”

For more information about Sweatman’s walk, how to make a donation and his memoir, visit amputatedyetwhole.com.

 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.