Andrew Mackenzie, an SSCG member let us know that he has been raising money for the HAREFIELD TRANSPLANT HOSPITAL I asked him ‘Why’ and he came back with the most moving response:
So, why do we make the reindeer and snowmen?
The journey started when I was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease – cause unknown but men over 50 are prone to it.
A bit of a shock as you can no doubt imagine especially as I’d never really been ill apart from the odd cold. I’d kept reasonably fit running
regularly, playing league table tennis, refereeing at semi pro football level and playing squash against my son (30 years younger).
My GP thought I must have a chest infection but as four sets of antibiotics made no difference my wife told me to ask for a hospital check up.
Various check-ups later I was told what I had. Unfortunately, Sandra wasn’t with me on that occasion. I got home and Googled it and the first
thing that came up was “Life expectancy following diagnosis, 2 – 4 years.” Telling her was, to say the least extremely difficult and later our two sons, even harder.
Regular check-ups at the Royal Surrey and on one visit I was seen by a different consultant who said he’d refer me to The Harefield Hospital –
the other one I’d been seeing before had said I was too old to be referred at 61. Anyway, I received an appointment from The Harefield. Underwent numerous tests
including 16 vials of blood taken on my first visit – reminded me of “The Blood Donor” sketch by Tony Hancock. A CAT scan showed I need not have worried about the terminal lung disease as I was in desperate need of 3 stents which they did a day later. On reflection I was rather pleased about the lung issue or I’d not have made the 2 – 4 years!
Once the stents had been allowed 3 months to settle in, they called me in and asked if I’d like to be added to the Transplant List. I think I laughed and said “Now let me have a think about that!” The Consultant cracked up as did the nurses. Unsurprisingly, I said Yes please. By this time, I’d been on oxygen 24/7, scuba tank during the day line fed in bed at night.
Every night taking the home phone upstairs just in case I got the call.
I was incredibly lucky. I’d been on the list for just 17 days (seriously!) and had a call midmorning. I cried. Sandra had to take the rest of the call. She rang our eldest son who came over and drove us to the hospital. Within 4 hours I was down to the Operating Theatre. The donors lung proved to be viable and 5.5 hours later I was in ICU with a new lung. A long spell in ICU followed; 2.5 weeks, a rejection that they resolved, the loss of 2.5 stone (I’m 6ft and only weighed 14 stone before) and lots of tubes.
My Consultant apologised later for only being able to get me the one lung but apparently, I was down to 3 months and that was the best he could manage. “Oh, and by the way it’s too large for your chest cavity Andrew but don’t worry as it’ll just shove your heart across a bit more to the left!”
Eventually back home, a year to get back to some degree of normality – weight increased, mobility increased, learnt how to breathe properly again rather than shallow little gulps. Most transplant beneficiaries recover in a few weeks but my extended spell in ICU put me back a lot. But hey! What a gift I’ve been given. I focus on what I can do not what I can’t.
I take 15 pills a day. It’s just a part of my daily routine like having food and red wine.
I took up log production prior to the lung issue after 34 years in a bank and continued with my son and wifes help. It was a great form of therapy and a fitness regime.
The second year I was well enough to organise a Charity Night at our local club – “Casino & Cabaret Night”. Took 9 weeks to set up and we raised £4250 on the night for the hospital. Did that again the following year in tandem with another charity. Then one day a log customer had a large snowman and large reindeer in her porch and suggested I make some and that’s where it all began.
I can’t possibly repay them for the gift of life but our fund raising helps them procure new equipment and us to feel we’re doing something to say thank you.
The wood, materials and tools have been a bit of an interesting journey but I think we’ve got it pretty much sorted now. Sweet Chestnut is no good as the bark peels of and goes fluffy – not a good look. Ash, birch, sycamore, Hazel, oak and beech are good for our needs. Biggest problem is sourcing enough in the 2″ – 4″ diameter range. We can work with larger but weight becomes an issue when posting out.
Materials such as pipe cleaners, Christmas style ribbons, red noses from China (tried to source them in UK but 10 times the price sadly if I could get someone to set up the jig) googly eyes etc are expensive in the quantities we need. To produce 1000 reindeer requires 5000 pipe cleaners, 500 meters of ribbon, 1000 googly eyes, 1000ft of wood,
4000 legs, 1000 necks, 2000 ears and 9000 drill holes. There’s probably more but you get the picture. Then there’s the drills, drill bits, mitre saws, glue, wooden dowels …..
A big outlay each year which we do recoup from sales. I don’t get paid. We have to buy in wood sometimes and occasional help. Last year in spite of Covid issues we raised over £9000 for the hospital. Almost 6 times the previous year and obviously a record. No idea how we’ll fair this Christmas – how much money will people have to spend, will Christmas happen? Fingers are crossed though and time will tell.
Bob, I do realise that this is far longer than the small article but I thought you might be interested in my families journey. I know it was far harder for them than me as all I had to do was die! So here’s a really brief version and please feel free to adapt as you think fit.
We raise money for The Harefield Transplant Hospital following my life saving lung transplant seven and a half years ago.
We ran a couple of vents raising money then saw some wooden Reindeer & Snowmen outside a log customers home. We borrowed them, copied them in a scaled down size and started selling them.
They are all wooden, handmade by us in Surrey. Most woods are good. Some we can fell ourselves, some is donated and some bought in. Materials we buy in such as ribbons, googly eyes and pipe cleaners. We have purchased a few small electrical machines to cut the wood to size and drill the holes.
My wife Sandra (unofficial Chief Elf around Christmas time) and I produce most of the reindeer and snowmen aided by our son Alex.
Last year someone very kindly set us a small website at no charge and as a result we managed to raise an amazing £9000.
Please support Andrew in his efforts to raise even more money for the Harefield Hospital, or if you can offer help or materials in any way please contact him at his website https://andrewmackenzie333.wixsite.com/snowmen I’ll ask Andrew how he’s getting on nearer to Christmas and give you an update.