“I’m blessed with a lot of very good friends and supporters,” sums up Rev. Randy Mackenzie.
The minister of pastoral care at St. Andrew’s United Church on Darling Street is reflecting on the support he has received from the community after losing most of his left leg due to a medical emergency.
Now, the 70-year-old is working on physiotherapy, trying out prosthetic legs and feeling grateful for the outpouring of love from a community he’s sought to help for 43 years.
“It’s incredible how many people have come forward.”
After his amputation, Mackenzie ended up in a wheelchair and spent a five-week stint recovering in Charlotte Villa, a Darling Street retirement home.
“All of a sudden I was a resident,” he said. “It was fascinating and I really think all clergy should spend a couple of weeks in a facility. It’s one thing to visit but another thing entirely when you’re there.”
Mackenzie’s ordeal began with what was supposed to be a Florida vacation with his wife, Penny, a retired school teacher.
“Penny was already in Florida and I flew down on Feb. 10 to join her. It was a tough flight and I knew there was something not quite right. My legs were sore.”
Mackenzie had aneurysms — a bugle in the artery — in both legs. At first, doctors didn’t think his problem was serious. But, after a few days, he was rushed to the local emergency department where he was told the aneurysm behind his left knee had ruptured and required immediate surgery.
“It was all really scary and really expensive.”
Once back in Canada, he was treated in Hamilton. Friends offered a nearby house as he consulted with vascular surgeons.
“I still had the leg and they were hopeful they could save it but I had a strong feeling things were not right. I had two major wounds from the surgery and a ‘wound-vac’ that took the fluid pressure off.
“There were a couple of emergencies when the bleeding didn’t seem to stop.”
When Mackenzie’s leg became badly infected, it signalled the fight to save it was over.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but it was necessary.”
Adding to the medical issues was an aneurysm in Mackenzie’s right leg. Surgery in June on that leg worked well, and that limb is getting stronger each day.
The Mackenzies began planning to sell their two-storey Lincoln Avenue home, recognizing how inaccessible it was for a man in a wheelchair.
But a neighbour, who is a contractor, insisted on helping renovate the Mackenzie home to create an accessible entry with a lift, main-floor bedroom and full bathroom.
“What a gift that was,” said Penny Mackenzie.
“We’re really been supported by neighbours, our church family and our kids.”
The hospital bill for the minister’s Florida hospital stay was $2 million.
“It was a terrifying bill and if we didn’t have insurance we’d be living in a dumpster under the Lorne Bridge,” said Penny Mackenzie.
Now, friends and supporters are working to help raise $35,000 to help pay for a “smart” prosthetic leg that is only partially covered by the provincial health plan and private insurance.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started, raising more than $15,000 by Thursday. It can be found at //ca.gofundme.com/f/give-the-rev-a-leg-to-stand-on.
A potluck dinner that’s part fundraiser and part celebration for the minister’s recovery will be held at Sydenham Heritage United Church, 120 Sydenham St., on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m.
The minister said he thinks of others who are worse off than himself.
“The thought of losing a leg was terrifying and it still is but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. I’ve seen people close up who have done incredible things with their lives,” he said.
“We all have challenges. It’s how you respond to the challenge that counts. I’ve seen people give up and crawl into their metaphoric corner but also people who have risen to the occasion. That the lesson I’m learning through all this.”
Then the minister chuckles.
“Sorry, I got into preacher mode.”
At a glance
What: A potluck dinner and fundraiser for Rev. Randy Mackenzie
When: Sept. 20, 6 p.m.
Where: Sydenham Heritage United Church, 120 Sydenham St.
Why: To celebrate the Mackenzie’s recovery and raise funds for a prosthetic leg
More information: Call 519-753-9887 or visit ca.gofundme.com/f/give-the-rev-a-leg-to-stand-on