For more than 25 years, Gary Elzerman of Lake Orion has made his living being a self-employed chainsaw sculptor – creating thousands of commissioned pieces.
Elzerman, who lives on Baldwin Road bordering Oxford, has donated more than 400 carvings to different charities. He also wrote the children’s book “Connor the Carver Carves the Michigan State Symbols,” inspired by his son Connor. He has spoken at schools to help kids with disabilities and students who are being bullied. He also received the Citizen of the Year award in 2010 for saving the life of an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy.
Now, after spending his life helping others, Elzerman is in need of the community’s help.
Last spring, Elzerman was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve, ascending aortic root aneurysm and coarctation of the aorta. This was a birth defect that he was never aware of previously. He found out about it after a fluke cold had him coughing so bad that he cracked his sternum. The test that followed found the extent of the challenges he now faces.
Doctors informed Elzerman that, when blood flows through his valve, it is so rapid that his heart has become larger. Because it’s so aggressive, the walls of his heart have thinned over time. Without life saving surgery, the walls of Elzerman’s heart could tear or burst, leaving him to bleed out in minutes.
On Jan. 27, Elzerman and his family will travel to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where he will undergo open heart surgery by Doctor Patrick Vargo. He will remain at the Cleveland Clinic until Feb. 10.
Elzerman’s friend, Neal Searle, “If you ever had the pleasure to meet Gary, everyone can agree he is one of the most courageous, strong and giving individuals you have ever met.”
“Due to Gary’s heart condition, it has been very difficult to make ends meet. Between healthcare, prescription drugs and out of pocket cost, the strain has already been significant – and the surgery hasn’t even begun. … Please help the guy with the big heart get well and return to helping others again.”
To donate to Elzerman’s medical costs and recovery, visit the fundraiser page, set up by Searle, at bit.ly/garyelzerman.