Trojan spirit: Mark Walters


Harley LaRue, Student Writer and Editor

Spirit is not only made up of characteristics that one may openly express, but it is the emotions within a person as well. Spirit is conveyed by many GNA students every year. This year, a Junior, Mark Walters, tackled the odds quite literally. Mark was born nine weeks earlier than expected. The doctors and nurses informed his parents that he would never walk, but nearly eighteen years later, he is part of the school’s football team.

Throughout his life, Mark looked up to many football players and his family who supported him through thick and thin. In school, many students and peers knew that he was born prematurely, and everyone he met seemed to support him wholeheartedly. People always were drawn to him because of his uplifting personality. Mark never doubted his ability to be able to join the football team with all of the support everyone gave him. Joining the team only helped make Mark stronger. This whole experience made him realize that “you should always chase your dreams no matter what obstacles lie ahead.”

On September 16th, Mark was featured in the Citizen’s Voice’s “Gameface.” Mark stated, “I felt honored to be featured in this section after everything I went through.” Mark expressed how he truly appreciates all the support he has been given by everyone he’s met. In the article, Mark and his parents opened up about the struggles he overcame in his early life. The article was written by Steve Bennett and can be found below

From The Citizen’s Voice:

Trying to talk to Sharon Walters during a Nanticoke Area football game is pointless. She’s not trying to ignore anyone. It’s just that her attention is focused solely on her son Mark Walters, who is a Junior defensive back, returns kicks and gets some reps at running back for the Trojans (2-1). The fact that she is sitting in the stands watching her son play is a blessing and a miracle. Mark wasn’t supposed to play football. In fact, he wasn’t even supposed to walk.

“I was born a couple months premature,” he said. “I had a lot of problems. One of the first things the doctors and nurses said was that I would never walk.” Despite what they were told, Mark’s parents were determined to make sure he walked. Walters was born nine weeks early on July 24, 1999 at CMC in Scranton. He was supposed to be born in October. He weighed 3 pounds, 9.5 ounces and his weight dropped to two pounds, eight ounces while in the hospital. Walters spent about two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He was hooked up to a ventilator for the first few days of his life because he wasn’t able to breath on his own. He was on feeding tubes and had an IV hooked up to his head. Needless to say it was a terrifying experience for all involved.

“They told us he was going to have setbacks,” Sharon said. “They said there will be delays but they would be minor. When he got out of the hospital he had to see a cardiologist, neurologist, audiologist and ophthalmologist.”

It was when the family visited the neurologist that they received the devastating news. The muscle tone in Mark’s legs was weak, if there was any at all.

“The doctor was very blunt,” Sharon said. “The first thing that came to my mind was that I’m not going to let this happen and I will do anything I can to help him along.”

The first thing Sharon did when she returned home from the appointment was call the family pediatrician. From there, she received tips and resources on how to attack the situation.

“We had a physical therapist come to the house,” Sharon said. “He (John McGurk) came in and examined him and told us he would try his hardest to get Mark walking. He said it will be hardcore, and that if Mark is a fighter he would get him walking.”

There was no timetable, just a lot of work ahead. When the physical therapist wasn’t at the house, Mark’s mother and father would work with him.

“It was the most “It was the most terrifying time in my life,” Sharon said. “My pregnancy was going normal. There was nothing wrong. I can remember one day going into the hospital and walking into the NIC Unit and seeing tubes and needles that were not previously there. I just lost it.”

While in the hospital, Mark developed an infection in his intestines because of the feeding tubes. He developed jaundice from being under the lights, and when he was home from the hospital for just two days, he had to return because he turned blue. He underwent tests and it was discovered he would stop breathing in his sleep. He was placed on a heart monitor until he was one and saw a physical therapist until he was in eighth grade. Through all the hard work and dedication, Mark made improvements.

Everyone could see it. Mark was getting stronger and was showing hints that he was going to start walking. At first, he would pull himself up with the help of a couch and walk along it. “I cried,” Sharon said seeing it. “It was like he never gave up. Nobody ever gave up on him. He’s not big, but he is a fighter. He’s determined to do what he wants to do and he’s going to do it.”

After those first steps, the magical day arrived in the kitchen.

“He got himself up by a chair and turned,” Sharon recalled as if it happened yesterday. “He turned and when he turned he fell down. He pulled himself back up on the chair and took two steps. He fell down again, but that was when he actually walked without holding on.”

Now, Mark, who is 5-foot-6, 155 pounds, is moving all over the place.

He’s just a great kid with a great work ethic,” Nanticoke Area coach Ron Bruza said of Walters. “He’s the spark on the team. When we are down in the trenches and things aren’t going our way, he gives us a spark. All the kids take to him.”

Mark said he plans on going out for the track and field team in the spring.

“It’s purely a miracle for me,” Mark said. “I don’t know where I would be if I couldn’t walk. I wouldn’t be playing football or hanging out with my friends.”