Using The Tools You Have

As a child, Kirk Cooper learned the value of using tools and taking time. His father was a sheet metal worker and took great pride in his work. He passed that pride in craftsmanship on to his son, who recalls being caught double-checking his father’s measurements as he built cabinets for the family’s home. Like his father, Kirk enjoys solving a problem using materials and tools he has on hand – which sometimes means redesigning and starting again.

Today, the mechanical engineer has found a hobby suited to a changing pace.

It began with an old brass chandelier his daughter wanted to use for her outdoor wedding. Kirk rewired and redesigned it to be easily hung. After the wedding, Kirk reworked the chandelier once more, adding a globe wrapped with small LED’s to create a unique memento. A hobby was born, one he proudly shares with Memory & Movement Charlotte physician, Dr. Sanjay Iyer.

“When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 9 years ago, my doctor referred me to a different neurologist. He didn’t listen to my questions or explain things clearly. A friend recommended Dr. Iyer and I’ve been his patient for eight years,” Kirk recalls. His wife Melanie adds, “Dr. Iyer wants to know us - what we like to do and how he can help Kirk keep doing those things.”

That’s part of the Memory & Movement Charlotte approach to care. “My most successful patients stay engaged, both mentally and physically, in things they enjoy. Kirk’s lamp-making hobby is a perfect example and he’s able to problem-solve and slow down to accommodate his changing condition,” explains Dr. Iyer.

Kirk has created several lamps from salvaged items – old telephones, black iron pipe, bird cages, cameras, anything he finds – and gifts them to friends and families. No two are the same. “I use pliers, vises, green tape and other tools more often now, to compensate for lost strength and control and to thread wires. Everything takes longer than it used to. But I don’t mind – time isn’t a stressor because I’m doing this for myself. There are no deadlines.”

Melanie notes that Kirk’s imagination never stops – and their home is full of his handiwork. “He’s always looking at things in new ways. If I just mention it, he figures out how to make it happen.” One of their favorite projects was inspired by a visit to Biltmore House. “I noticed a bench on the grounds and remembered some pretty spindles we’d saved from an old deck. Kirk used them to make our bench, and we love it.”

Kirk smiles. “Just because something isn’t what it once was, doesn’t mean it isn’t still useful and beautiful.”