Kind-hearted local businessmen have rallied round a terminally ill father of five to provide him and his family with a much-needed garden makeover.
Johnnie Meechan, who lives in Tranent, hit the headlines after the Evening News reported he had started a heartbreaking video blog called Johnnie’s Journey on Facebook, describing in detail how cancer had returned after 16 years of remission.
Now the community have pulled out all the stops to provide the Meechans with the garden of their dreams.
Local businessman Matthew Wright, co-founder of M-Pact Building Services in Loanhead, met Johnnie after hearing of his plight and decided to help him.
Amputee Johnnie, said the transformation in the garden which used to be covered in potholes and full of stone chips was “brilliant” and would dramatically improve their quality of family life.
The 39-year-old said: “It only took around four weeks and the transformation is brilliant.
“I couldn’t get out in the garden before – my wife Evelyn maintained it, as far as cutting the grass and doing a bit of weeding, but the grass was all uneven, on a slope and full of potholes.
“There were stone chips and pebbles all through the garden from the last owner of the property. It was dangerous for the kids and was a broken ankle waiting to happen – every time I went out my leg would just buckle under a pothole. That’s if I had my leg on, but even in the wheelchair it was impossible for me to move about.
“It’s brilliant now and we’re looking forward to the summer to use our new garden fully.”
Johnnie, a former post office worker and keen amateur footballer was first diagnosed in the late 1990s with a malignant tumour in his right knee. Eventually after years of pain he was given the choice of amputation, high above the right knee or more surgery – he chose amputation.
Then earlier this year he was diagnosed with a relatively rare form of cancer called a neuroendocrine tumour, commonly known as NET.
He added: “I’m now able to go out with my youngest daughter Mia, sitting on the grass playing with her wee toy house and her big brother just got a trampoline for his birthday so it’s been great. I couldn’t do any of that before, so this has improved our family’s quality of life hugely.
“I’ve never really had much help in that sense, even when I was ill the first time around – because we just never asked for it.
“But this time around, it’s been like a bolt out of the blue.
“At first you, kind of question it – I asked myself, ‘Why do these guys want to do this?’ but then when I met Mattie Wright I realised the guy is completely selfless.
“I don’t know what this would have cost him but we have to be talking a lot.
“There was no ulterior motive or anything, his exact words on the first day I met him that always stick with me were, ‘I heard your story from my mate and if I can’t help you, then I can’t help anybody’ and from there he’s become a friend.”
Mr Wright said: “I went down to meet Johnnie to see if there was anything we could do and after five minutes in his company I saw that he has a young family and had been dealt a bad hand in life in terms of his health – but what really struck me, was how positive he remained about everything.
“I saw he was a nice person and after that first meeting with him I decided we were going to do a bit more than just level his grass.”
Johnnie said he plans to keep things going and to raise awareness of NET cancer.
He added: “There is a complete lack of resources and information around it – people have no idea it exists it hardly gets a mention.”