BAXTER -- Mark MacLeod's Christmas lighting display at his Baxter home was more than a hobby this winter; it helped him heal his mending heart.
MacLeod has always enjoyed decorating his home for the holidays, said his wife, Gladyce.
The couple moved to Baxter last year from Truth or Consequences, N.M., and Meredith, Colo., where they used to live. When they lived 8,300 feet up the side of a mountain in Colorado, Gladyce MacLeod said they could watch cars stop a mile down below just to admire their Christmas lighting display. They once came in second place in a lighting contest in New Mexico.
MacLeod uses a computer to synchronize his holiday display, a planning process that he has sometimes worked on a year in advance. A control board allows him to control the speed and frequency of the lights. Visitors to the MacLeod home at 990 Wedgewood Drive S. in Baxter will notice the bursts of colorful lights on the side of their home, along with a lighted waterfall, animated reindeer, a singing Santa Claus and a nativity scene, along with many other lighted attractions.
This fall while MacLeod was busy planning for his Christmas display, he nearly lost his life. He was born with a heart defect. He learned this when a heart murmur was detected when he was 20, but despite this, MacLeod has always tried to stay healthy and physically fit.
At 61, he has already outlived many of the men in his family. His father died at 38, an early death that may have been heart-related, he said.
In October, MacLeod developed kidney stones, but area doctors wouldn't operate because of his heart condition, which was growing worse. He was sent down to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis where on Oct. 3 a shunt was placed in his kidney and where on Oct. 7 doctors performed open heart surgery, replacing his defective aortic valve with a mechanical valve. He also had a bypass and an aneurysm was repaired in his heart.
A waterfall of lights cascaded down the Mark and Gladyce MacLeod home in Baxter.
A few days later, MacLeod's left lung collapsed and he experienced a partial collapse of his right lung. His wife, Gladyce, who also has a heart murmur, was hospitalized Oct. 25 in the same hospital as her husband for complications related to her heart medications. On Oct. 27, both were released from Abbott.
"God seems to take care of us," said Mark MacLeod.
Since his sternum is still weak and sore from being cut open for the surgery, doctors told MacLeod he could only lift 10 pounds of weight at a time the first month and 20 pounds of weight the second month as he heals. He was told his chest would only be 80 percent healed by Jan. 7, three months after his surgery.
Two weeks after arriving home, MacLeod went to work hanging lights around his Baxter home. His mending heart was not going to halt his efforts to decorate for Christmas.
While he could only lift a small amount of lights at a time, MacLeod took his time and did everything himself. He rented a cherry picker and hired a driver to carry him around in the bucket so he could hang lights high along the side of his house and in the trees.
The most difficult part of his recovery is dealing with the pain. When he lies down, he now gets excruciating headaches. One night when he couldn't sleep because of pain he figured out he had 50,000 Christmas lights in his lighting display. He said planning for the holiday lighting season has helped him make it through a lot of his pain.
"I think it was a big thing for him to look forward to," Gladyce said. "It really helped him in the healing process. I think it gave him the incentive to get up and move. I have had to hold him back."
MacLeod is now enjoying the fruits of his labor. He and his wife like to watch the many cars that stop in front of their home to see his lighting display. He said that even if he would have had to hire someone, he would have made sure his Christmas lights were out this holiday season.
"I like to see people enjoy it," said MacLeod with a smile. "I certainly enjoy it."
MacLeod said he was thrilled to learn his Christmas display was the winner in The Dispatch's Area Wide Lighting Contest this season.
Gladyce MacLeod is a co-founder of Clow Stamping in Merrifield, a company that is now run by her sons, Reggie and Ric Clow. Mark MacLeod is a retired Corian dealer and fabricator in Colorado. The couple has been married for 10 years and together share seven children with their 18th grandchild on the way.
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