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Heaven doesn't need a harmonica player yet.
May 1, 2009 6:34 PM   Subscribe

After his ninth heart surgery, Mackie's doctors had him on 15 different medicines. But the side effects made life miserable. So one day he quit taking all 15 and decided to spend his final days doing something he always wanted to do. He used the money he would have spent on the prescriptions to give away 300 harmonicas, with lessons included. "I really thought it was the last thing I could ever do," he says.

"To keep the kids interested in music as they get older, Mackie now spends the bulk of his Social Security check making them beginner string instruments. He also buys store-made instruments for kids that show a special interest. He provides free lessons to everyone by getting the older kids to teach the younger kids."

Some picks on flickr, including some showing his homemade "strum sticks".

Andy Mackie Music Foundation

A couple videos:interview, The Rose of Allandale sung by Andy Mackie.

posted by 445supermag (26 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

This man is my new hero.
posted by lekvar at 6:58 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

That guy is really cool!
posted by 6550 at 7:06 PM on May 1, 2009

Man. There's best of the web, and then there's best of the world.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:15 PM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]

I'd love to know what those 15 medications were. Given he has lived 11 years without taking them you gotta believe most were completely unnecessary. He might just be damn lucky if he stopped taking one or even two vital medications, but 15? It defies reason.
posted by Justinian at 7:19 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

"I can't explain the joy," Mackie says. "I don't think Bill Gates feels any richer inside than I do." He believes he's still living today because of the kids and the music.

This kindly man is rich in spirit indeed. What an inspiration!

Thank you so much for posting this, 445supermag. I've had a rough day, and this kind of uplifting story is like healing balm for my weary soul. Now I'm all choked up (in a good way, of course).
posted by velvet winter at 7:33 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. This sort of thing makes me smile. Especially on a day like today. Stupid doctors. Stupid unnecessary but seemingly important drugs.

Wonderful smiling old men and the children they make smile even more.
posted by strixus at 7:38 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not religious, but I've read the gospels more than once and this is exactly what I think Jesus was talking about. What does it take to enter the kingdom of heaven? Not much. Just everything you have.

What a man this is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:38 PM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]

If his medical claims are true, he would have a photo opportunity nine times better than Lyndon Johnson's.
posted by Tube at 7:59 PM on May 1, 2009

"Given he has lived 11 years without taking them you gotta believe most were completely unnecessary. He might just be damn lucky if he stopped taking one or even two vital medications, but 15? It defies reason."

Could be that the doctors had him on a couple drugs they thought he needed and then the others are to control side effects. For a while there my father was on three drugs to control things and five others to control the side effects of the first three.
posted by Mitheral at 8:13 PM on May 1, 2009

Give a man a fish, you've fed him for a day; give a man a harmonica, and you'll end up with a Washington county filled with kids who have an unexpected love for fiddle music.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:19 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Wow, this is fantastic. I'm gonna write a check to his foundation. If anyone wants to pitch in, you can paypal to the email address in my profile.
posted by signalnine at 8:43 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

My what a beautiful face. This is good.
posted by jcworth at 9:03 PM on May 1, 2009

Given he has lived 11 years without taking them you gotta believe most were completely unnecessary.

Depends on how you define necessary. There are actually very few medicines that keep you alive, as in "you will die quickly without them." Maybe insulin if you're on a high dose. An antibiotic for a severe infection. The cardiac cocktail given after heart surgery contains a bunch of medications that reduce the future risk of recurrent heart problems. For example: out of a hundred cardiac patients maybe 50 will have a second heart attack in 10 years, but if you give those hundred medication X, then maybe only 30 will have a second heart attack. This guy's meds were making him miserable so he decided to play the steeper odds and now he's winning. And more power to him, this is a completely awesome story.

How you face death is at least as important as how you face life, wouldn't you agree Captain?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:14 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh thank you, 445supermag. I love stories like this. I am so very glad there are people like Mr. Mackie in the world.
posted by dogmom at 9:50 PM on May 1, 2009

...He’s hanging on to life and to see him that happy was a turning point for me....
posted by zenon at 10:33 PM on May 1, 2009

This is fantastic. This may sound terribly cliche, but it's true: while looking through the pictures, I wanted to cry. Beautiful.
posted by Xere at 12:01 AM on May 2, 2009

My wife is from Jefferson county, and both our parents live there. I'm going to match signalnine's initiative and send Andy's foundation a check.
posted by maxwelton at 1:41 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think what Andy Mackie is doing is fantastic, and he's the closest thing to a saint I've seen in a while. (Seriously.)

That being said, I don't want to harsh the good feeling here, but I have to say that I find it a little obscene that one month of medication cost enough to buy three hundred harmonicas. The country needs universal health care, and needs it yesterday.

Sorry. I'll get off my soapbox now. Carry on.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:16 AM on May 2, 2009

Wow. What a cheering story. Thanks.
posted by miss tea at 4:40 AM on May 2, 2009

first introduction to strumsticks. How awesome they are!
posted by leotrotsky at 7:34 AM on May 2, 2009

445supermag, THANK YOU for posting this! What a wonderful story. :)
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on May 2, 2009

This guy should be a CNN hero.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:55 AM on May 2, 2009

Thank you so much 445supermag - this is excellent. Look at that face!
posted by grippycat at 10:30 AM on May 2, 2009

Heaven doesn't need this harmonica player, who well enough built his own here.

Awesome story, thanks.
posted by _dario at 10:39 AM on May 2, 2009

CBS finally posted the video to go along with the story in the first link, it's worth watching. Among other things, it shows him teaching an elementary class their first lesson on the harmonica.
posted by 445supermag at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2009

The cockles of my heart, they are warmed.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:44 PM on May 3, 2009

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