Rise client Charles Mackey has always used his hands to make things. As a fitter and turner by trade, it’s just something that comes naturally to him.
So 50 years ago when his wife was using matches to light the gas stove, he saw an opportunity.
His wife would save the matchsticks in a tin, and when there was a big enough pile, Charles would make things. Lots of things.
It started with a tray. Then coasters. Cars, and trains. And he creates pieces on a grand scale too, making several coffee table tops in his time and using up to 5000 matchsticks a piece.
He meticulously lines up the matchsticks, creating square patterns on an MDF board. Once the pattern is complete, the matchsticks are sanded, smoothed, varnished and protected. Hours and hours of fiddly work.
His favourite piece is a replica of the childhood house he grew up in.
I grew up in Queensland in an old house on stilts, with stairs out the back and the front. I copied the design from a picture I had.
Enter Parkinson’s Disease
Twenty two years ago, Charles was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. For a bloke in a physical job, tremors were not ideal. He loved his career, working in both the Weetbix and Marmite factories here in Perth after a transfer from the east.
But combined with balance problems it was too dangerous for Charles to continue and he was forced into early retirement at 46 years of age.
Charles persevered with his matchstick creations for a while.
The shaking and involuntary movements got too much and I got frustrated. I had to stop.
Deep brain stimulation
Charles was told by his doctor that he was a prime candidate for deep brain stimulation. Nine years ago a small device was inserted under the skin near his right clavicle. Wires run up his neck into his skull. For Charles, it’s been a life changer.
It pulses at 130 pulses a minute, but you can’t feel it. I have a controller so I can turn it off and on but I leave it on, which is what my doctor told me. It changed everything and the tremors stopped. I could go back to doing everything again, just like before.
Charles was able to continue building things at home. They converted the garage to a fifth bedroom where he and his wife share a craft room. He got back into the shed to enjoy using the wood and metal lathes there. And he returned to making matchstick creations, which he finds relaxing.
There’s been a few bumps along this journey, with flat batteries in the stimulator landing Charles is hospital and seeing a return of the tremors until he could get in for surgery.
Two or three times a year, Charles travels to Milperra Cottage in Mount Helena for a little rest and relaxation. He gets spoilt and looked after by our staff, while his wife gets a mini break too.
Here amongst the leafy surrounds, Charles enjoys the chance to crack on with some matchstick art and reading, while making new friends staying at Milperra.
Life ahead for Charles and his wife holds lots of promise. While they are downsizing and selling the family home and shed, their new house is closer to one of their three children. And their youngest grandchild of seven, who they look after once a week.
Charles has a great hobby he continues using his hands for, and his mind ticking over. All possible thanks to modern medicine.
Rise aged care
Rise provides numerous aged care services, which includes social centres, personal care and home support. For more information click here.