My Story

Hi, I’m Dr. Mark McDonough. Glad you stopped by. My passion is for anyone needing to restore, maintain, and improve the body, mind, and spirit—especially as a result of personal tragedy, but for any other reason as well. I have been identified, like many others, as a survivor. Overcoming some challenges has included a long bout with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a debilitating neurological disease, as a child. Later I survived a house fire that claimed the lives of several family members and left me with extensive burns over 60% of my body.  As an adult I also suffered a stroke, in addition to heart valve disease along with other mental and emotional challenges. As a former patient, physical therapist, and now a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, I have a unique personal perspective on the journey that is recovery.  In the last few years, I have stepped back from full-time practice after additional medical battles, although I still volunteer my services at local clinics. My focus has turned to helping others facing life-changing disease or trauma through the pain or anguish, as they find the healing they need today and the hope to pursue a brighter tomorrow.


The view to life’s rewards may be blurred by the effects of our struggles which often feel like an uphill battle with insurmountable obstacles. Our struggles may blur the view to its rewards.  I know; my life has been filled with its seemingly unfair share of pain, at times.  But I’ve also been blessed with the rewards of survival. I overcame Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath (conductive insulator) around peripheral nerves, causing progressive pain and weakness in the extremities, sometimes fatally affecting the muscles of respiration. The syndrome weakened my respiratory muscles, requiring me to be placed in an “iron lung” to prevent fatal respiratory failure—at the age of 5. I endured prolonged and painful therapy on the road to what would eventually be a full recovery. Because I had missed so much school, I did have to repeat kindergarten. Yet my experience with pain and suffering was only just beginning. The summer before my 17th birthday, I awoke in the middle of the night to find my family’s two-story home engulfed in flames. After helping three of my younger brothers escape to safety, I tried in vain to save my mother and youngest brother. I nearly lost my own life in the process. I was unconscious from smoke inhalation and pain when firefighters found me with extensive burns over 60% of my body.

What happened next made me wish God had just let me die.

During the first surgery to remove burned tissue (debridement), I suffered severe bleeding from a gastric ulcer, arrested on the table, and had a near-death experience (NDE). As a result, surgeons were forced to remove more than half of my stomach to save my life. I survived that day to ultimately endure more than 30 agonizing skin grafting and reconstructive surgical procedures. I persevered through grueling physical therapy sessions learning to walk again. I labored through countless hours of occupational therapy until I could use my reconstructed hands. They had been rendered nearly useless by fire damage. Constant physical and emotional anguish caused me to think about quitting almost every day. But I did not let these painful experiences define me. Instead, I began to reconnect with my core values and belief systems. The NDE reinforced my faith in God, empowering me to reach beyond those tragedies—and the many life challenges that would follow—eventually restoring harmony to body, mind, and spirit. I first became a physical therapist, helping with—not surprisingly—the rehabilitation of burn and trauma survivors among other diseases and physical handicaps. After completing undergraduate studies at Ohio University and The Ohio State University, I entered and graduated from physical therapy school at Cleveland State University. As a physical therapist, I began working with—not surprisingly—the rehabilitation of burn and trauma survivors among other diseases and physical handicaps. Eight years practicing rehabilitation inspired me with the desire to further my training.  I was accepted into medical school, earning my M.D. from the prestigious Case Western Reserve University, one of the premier medical schools in the nation. My clerkships and residencies included training and fellowships in five different burn units, including the Shriner Burns Institute. In addition, I spent a year in the research lab at CWRU studying microsurgery and electrical burn injuries. Upon completion of residency in general surgery at the University of South Florida, followed by residency in plastic surgery at Vanderbilt University, I began practice as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Orlando, Florida, where I live now. My focus has been with reconstruction of trauma and burn patients, as well as breast and gynecological cancer and bariatric surgery.  I have had work presented at medical conferences and have authored or co-authored numerous articles with publications in peer review journals.

My Family

One of God’s blessings in my life has included marriage to a wonderful woman named Joan. We live in Central Florida. Together we’ve been blessed with three amazing, bright, and talented sons—Connor, Riley, and Toby. We couldn’t be more proud of them. Together they form the pop rock band Before You Exit. They’ve performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, have millions of fans, and signed with RCA Records in 2015, among others.  They have toured North and South America, Europe, and have played

alongside such artists as Taylor Swift, One Direction, and many more. They write and produce their own music as well as for other artists.Their latest release is their LP Love, Pain, & Retrospect for which they produced a music video. You can check out their website here. I also thoroughly enjoy sailing and try to get out on the water as much as possible. I sold my first boat before beginning medical school.  My search for the next vessel is underway, and it will be christened “The Phoenix.”  Sailing for me has always been the ideal metaphor depicting my journey in life.  It’s symbolic of navigating an unpredictable course, often through inclement weather, to new and adventurous destinations for exploration.

My Content

Over the years I have been speaking at medical conferences around the United States during and following my training. I have been fortunate to  author and co-author articles in peer-reviewed medical journals as well as professional publications. I will provide practical guidance for survivors and their families, facing tragedy or disease while trying to navigate the complex and chaotic world of the United States medical system. I will share tips for physical healing, as well as inspiration and encouragement for spiritual and emotional well being within,  for  both the survivors of tragedy and supportive network of family and friends.  This site is for you if…

  • You are hurting – physically, emotionally, or spiritually – and don’t know what to do next.
  • You need advice and guidance on how to make the medical system work for you as a survivor of any of life’s challenges.
  • You are at the point of hopelessness, wondering where God is in all of life, yet believing that every life is worthy of healing and hope.
  • Instead of feeling like a victim, you want to feel victorious, turning that which feels like a mess into a message for others.
  • You want to choose a better life, turning a trial to a triumph.

    If you think I can be a help to you, drop me a note here. To find out more about my speaking at your event, click here.

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