WATCH: Adrenaline junkie stands up straight again after life-changing surgery

Mark Tuck

Mark Tuck, from Gorleston, has hailed surgeons in Norwich for mending his spine and helping him to stand up straight and live a normal life again. - Credit: Mark Tuck

Nothing was off-limits for self-confessed adrenaline junkie Mark Tuck, whose quest for thrill-seeking sports took him across the globe.

A keen and competitive motocross rider, he also enjoyed the thrill of skydiving, snowboarding, surfing and bungee jumping - honing his physique so he could chase the rush.

But fast-forward several decades and he was hunched and unable to shuffle to his front gate after chronic back problems meant he could do little more that lie on the sofa and watch daytime TV.

At 49, having just completed a move to the coast he hoped would usher in a new world of outdoor activity, he was a pain-ridden "zombie", he said, locked in by lockdown and his own body's response to all he had put it through.

A bulging disc in his back had rebelled - agitated by the renovation works to do up his new house in Victoria Road, Gorleston.

It had been bothering him for about a year but the last six to eight weeks were agony, during which even strong painkillers bought little relief and he could not even stand up straight or sleep lying down.

"There was not an awful lot of joy in my life," he said.

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"There was lockdown and we had moved to the coast so we could do nice long walks and I could not even walk to the end of the drive.

"I was pretty much a zombie.

"There wasn't anything to look forward to."

Now, thanks to life-changing surgery at the London Norwich Spine Clinic, carried out at the Spire Hospital in Norwich, he is back on his feet and keen to spread the word about how it has transformed his life.

Mark Tuck

Mark Tuck, a huge fan of thrilling sports including motocross, has had life-changing surgery on his back which means he can stand tall again after being hunched over. - Credit: Mark Tuck

The procedure, although risky because of a history of blood clots, took just an hour and delivered immediate results.

"Other than feeling a bit groggy I was able to swing my legs out of the bed and stand perfectly upright and go to the toilet without any pain," he said.

Five weeks later the project manager for offshore windfarms is walking six miles a day, exploring the coast, and trying out clay pigeon shooting.

"It has given me the opportunity to get on and be active again, although in slightly different ways.

"There is a bit of me now that I just have to be more careful with, but there's nothing to stop me."

Mr Tuck's condition, spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that places extra pressure on the spinal cord and nerves – is commonly caused by gradual wear-and-tear. 

It mostly occurs in those aged over 50.

He was seen by spinal consultant Am Rai, who heads up the London Norwich Spine Clinic. The keyhole spinal surgery required only a tiny cut, but proved life changing.

Mr Rai said: “It is amazing to see that Mark has made such a remarkable recovery.

"You usually see people much older than Mark presenting in this manner whereby as they walk their legs feel weak or numb.

"Mark is also a good example of how the body adapts itself by bending forward in an attempt to take pressure off the nerves.

"With an ageing population we are seeing more patients with this condition.

"In many cases, early intervention is critical. Back pain is common but professional attention is always recommended for any backache that is persistent.”

Across the world, millions of elective surgeries were cancelled at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in May.

A modelling study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, estimates that 516,000 surgeries may have been cancelled as a result, leading to fears that those waiting a long time may take longer to recover.

In this case early intervention was able to make all the difference, the surgery being paid for by private medical insurance through Mr Tuck's employer.