While the thought of major surgery would be daunting for many, the operating table was no big deal for 104-year-old Len Darr.
Just three week’s post surgery and the centenarian is back to his old tricks.
Walking up and down stairs without puffing, looking after himself, driving his car and chasing his cat off a pile of important documents are among the things the Howick local hasn’t let the surgery stop him from doing.
While Darr has become well-known for his fitness and impeccable health, for more than 20 years he’s been living with what’s called a Zenker’s diverticulum.
It’s a pouch that forms at the junction of the lower part of the throat and the oesophagus, Darr says, which made it difficult for him to swallow and constantly regurgitate undigested food.
But until now, his doctors have deemed the surgery to repair it too dangerous.
“There is only one surgeon in the country that is qualified to do the surgery, and they hadn’t a lot of information about what the outcome would be. And given my age they said it was too risky.
“I’ve always told them to just go for it, I knew I’d be fine,” he says with a big ‘I told them so’ grin on his face.
When his doctors finally gave the go-ahead for the surgery, Darr jumped at the chance, despite his surgeon’s warning that there was no guarantee he would make it out alive.
“I wanted them to do the surgery not only for myself, but so that the surgeon could learn more about the surgery and use that to help other people, so they don’t have to live with it like I did,” he says.
Darr, who is deeply spiritual, says he trusted the Holy Spirit to protect him and guide him through.
When he woke up from the anaesthetic; the doctors were shocked at how well he bounced back.
And even after taking a tumble at the hospital post-surgery and suffering severe bruising, he was home within a few days and looking after himself.
“Well first they sent me to an old age home to recover for three days. That definitely wasn’t where I wanted to be. I’m too young for that,” he says.
But you’d never guess Darr’s age, let alone know that he’d undergone major surgery.
His mind is sharp and he moves around with ease.
He says in the last year his body has slowed down, but he still feels “fit as a fiddle”.
“I think my purpose is to be of service to others, and keeping fit and healthy allows me to keep serving the community.”
And serve the community he has.
Len has volunteered for St John’s Ambulance services since he was a teenager and served in the Royal Air Force medical corps in Egypt during World War II.
He went on to run Darr’s Health Clinic in Takapuna until he retired at age 70.
Sports have always been a huge part of his life, and just two years ago he made headlines after signing up to a gym membership at Lloyd Elsmore Park Pool and Leisure Centre.
“My mind is sharp and active and I’ve never let my physical age slow me down. I don’t plan on starting now.”