Mark Franzman: Literally, A Walking Testimony
By Audra Smith
The 700 Club
“That night we dispatched out to assist the Florida highway patrol on US 19 at a fatality crash,” said policeman, Mark Franzman. “It was a drunk driver coming down 19, another drunk driver pulling out of a restaurant. Myself and probably five other officers responded. As I stood directing traffic around this wreckage, another drunk driver was coming down US 19 (they estimated speeds 45 to 50 mph).”
“I heard a loud bang behind me and I turned around and to my right; and as I did, I saw an officer coming through the air literally at head level and he thumped down at my feet. I was just sure he was dead,” said Police Captain, Al MacKenzie.
Mark Franzman never imagined his childhood dream would come to a screeching halt after just three years on the job. But that's what happened Halloween night in 1981.
“About 1:00 a.m. when the doorbell rang, I sat straight up in bed and said, ‘Something has happened to Mark,’” said Betty Franzman, Mark’s mother. “When I went to the door there stood a policeman. He said, ‘You need to get to the hospital right away.’”
All Mark's parents could do was wait as their son lay in a hospital bed fighting for his life.
“It's horrible. You see your child in there and you feel helpless because there's not anything you can do to make it better,” Betty said.
Doctors told Mark's parents there was little chance he would survive. And if he did, they said he'd never walk again.
“I was a double amputee candidate,” Mark said. “They didn't think that the bones were going to mend. Basically, the doctors said, ‘Hey, I just think that we need to, after three months, I think we just need to take both of the legs, so you can go on with life.’ I got angry. I got angry at God. I got angry at everybody that came in my room. I was a mess. I got angry at the doctors. I remember going back to my room and laying there and just staring out at the rain coming down and just at the lowest point of my life I’ve ever been. And I prayed a prayer that really changed my focus at that point. I said, ‘God, I can't fix this. They want to amputate my legs. I'm going to have to surrender this to you. If you want them, take them. At that point, that's when the peace came over me; and that's when the real healing.”
As he faced the possibility of losing of his legs, Mark encountered another challenge - a nurse told Mark the driver who hit him wanted to see him. Mark agreed to let him in.
“When she left I was in a panic,” Mark said. “’God, what did I just do? I want to kill this man. I'm so angry. I want to hurt this guy, I want to choke him out and now I’ve just invited him into my room. You’re going to have to take that anger away. You’re going to have to speak to him.’ This young man came into my room. It was like a peace came over me. The anger was gone. And the young man scooted a chair next to my bed and never once made eye contact with me. Never apologized. He sat down and looked at the floor and said, ‘I don't think it was my fault. You had no business standing in the roadway.’ And I just told him, ‘Kenneth, I don't hate you. I love you. I hate the decision you made to drink and drive.’ And that was all. He got up and I've not talked to him since. I couldn't believe my mouth was saying that. I just told this guy that changed my life forever, that I didn't hate him, that I loved him. That wasn't Mark. That was God telling him, ‘I still love you.’”
After three months in the hospital, doctors moved Mark to a nursing home. Mark’s legs weren’t healing, so they still wanted to amputate.
“I got tired of the doctors telling me their only solution was to cut my legs off. So I started calling orthopedic surgeons from a nursing home room,” Mark said. “The first three or four doctors I spoke to all referred me to a doctor in Clearwater by the name of Gerard Siek. He said, ‘Mark I want to try something different. I want to get your skin healthy first. Then I can operate and take bone from your hip and transplant it down to your shin.’ That's the first positive I’d heard from a doctor in over a year.
A month after his surgery and just over a year after the accident, Mark stood for the first time. Within a month he was home.
“I drove right to the police department,” he said. “I think my desire was just to show them what God can do. I walked in and said, ‘See, I told you God could heal me.’ From there, I drove to the hospital and I walked up to that doctor that told me I’d never walk again and I said, ‘I want you to see what my God can do. Here I am and I drove.’”
Mark even returned to work five months later.
“I remember just walking up with my doughnuts and it was just the point where people realized, ‘This guy’s faith is real. Just look at this guy. He said he would do this when doctors said it would never happen. It would be impossible. Not only did this guy return to work, but he returned in an upright position using his own legs without any help,’” Mark said.
“It was just wonderful to see him come back,” Captain MacKenzie said. “Mark is an example of take up my cross and follow me. The burdens that Mark has and had are something that most people could not ever, ever overcome - and everybody knows where he gets his strength from.”
Today, after nearly 30 surgeries, Mark still struggles with pain; but he doesn't let that stop him.
“I've had a doctor say they can do plastic surgery and kind of make your legs look normal,” Mark said. “I’ve got different looking legs down there. They’re very skinny and scarring and skin graphs and chunks of my leg missing. Those are my medals God's given me. It’s amazing how it just starts conversation with people. How could I change any of that? I wouldn't dare. This is His story.”
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