Thirty-seven-year-old Craig MacDonald is no stranger to giving back to patients in need - over the last decade, Craig has raised more than $100,000 through New Year’s Eve parties and Halifax events to send terminally ill children and their families on vacation. But last July, Craig found himself on the other side of the coin as friends and family raised funds to bring him home for medical treatment at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
The Halifax-native was working as an elementary school teacher in Enoch, Alberta when he experienced a severe muscle attack which landed him in the local hospital for two months.
When struck by a medical crisis of his own, the same families whose causes he had championed rallied together to help cover his expenses to return home to Halifax.
“The entire experience was so touching,” says Craig. “With their support, I was able to come back home for specialized, neurological care at the QEII under the physician who has treated me for the last 19 years.”
Craig has been battling a rare form of a neuromuscular disease since he was 17 years old. The genetic condition, which has advanced in recent years, affects and severely impacts muscle function and everyday life.
According to Craig, resuming care with the same neurologist who has worked with him since he was a teenager was imperative to his recovery.
“When you talk about heroes, he’s mine,” Craig says of Dr. Tim Benstead, a neurologist at the QEII who started treating Craig following his first muscle attack in 1996. “After my hospitalization in Alberta and I returned home, Dr. Benstead and the neuroscience team went above and beyond to help me manage my disease.”
Craig says his recent health challenges and experience with the entire neuroscience unit inspired him to create the Craig Mac Comfort Initiative; a fund providing comfort to neuroscience patients being treated at the QEII.
The initiative came as no surprise to Dr. Benstead, who describes Craig as an incredibly giving and motivated individual.
“I’ve known Craig for many years and despite having his own issues, he is constantly thinking of others and ways he can help those experiencing similar challenges,” says Dr. Benstead.
As the specialized care centre for neurosurgery and neurological care in Atlantic Canada, the QEII treats some of the most complex, neurological patient cases in the region.
This team of experts provides world-class neurological care to a broad spectrum of patients, including those living with conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord and neuromuscular system.
According to Dr. Benstead, the QEII’s Division of Neurology routinely treats patients from out of province, many of whom require extended stays or regular visits for reassessments and recommendations on disease management.
“These patients can experience a number of challenges that a fund like Craig’s can be very supportive for,” says Dr. Benstead.
In addition to purchasing items that provide added comfort for those requiring hospitalization, the Craig Mac Comfort Initiative aims to ease some of the financial burden placed on neuroscience patients and their families.
“To say the cause hits close to home is an understatement as I know firsthand how much these disorders can impact families and disrupt everyday life,” says Craig. “I’m so grateful for the care I receive and will do anything to ensure it’s available for other neuroscience patients in our region – and to help those who need a little extra support.”
The Craig Mac Comfort Initiative is made possible through a series of fundraisers hosted by Craig throughout Halifax with an event slated for Spring 2016.