Sydney Adventist Hospital has received numerous letters over
its 111-year history.
But hospital staff never quite saw a letter like the one
dated Feb. 5, 2014.
Addressed simply, “Dear Crane Crew,” the letter came from
the mother of Neville Moss, a 52-year-old Sydney resident who cannot remember
one day from the next after a workplace accident left him with short-term
The mother, Jeanette Moss, wrote to the hospital to express
her gratitude for a 207-foot-high (63-meter-high) construction crane that her
son had been watching from their home about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) away.
Due to Neville’s memory loss, each day offered him a fresh
experience of spotting the crane on the horizon, and each day elicited excited
observations such as, “The crane is working!” or “The crane has moved!”
The letter prompted the hospital and Buildcorp, a
construction company helping it complete a record U.S.$168 million expansion, to
hatch a plan to create an unforgettable experience for Neville.
Or at least as unforgettable as possible.
They invited Neville to watch as the crane was dismantled, and
whisked him up to the top of the crane for a stunning view of Sydney.
“The unexpected thoughtfulness of the Buildcorp people and
the effort they put into making Neville’s day so exciting, coupled with The
San’s cooperation in the recording of the event in words and photographs, is a
highlight in Neville’s life,” Jeanette Moss said Wednesday. “It will remain so
through the photos.”
There are many photos and other reminders of the day. Sydney
Adventist Hospital, known locally as “The San” after its former name, Sydney
Sanitarium, invited a newspaper reporter and a photographer to watch the May 21
proceedings. Neville’s story has now been featured in several Australian
newspapers and on the radio — media coverage that his mother has compiled in a
digital album that she hopes will help Neville remember the day.
Neville Moss didn’t always have trouble with his memory, but
he has struggled with another challenge since childhood. As a baby, he had
cysts in his brain. Even though the cysts were drained as soon as they were
found, they had already killed part of his brain, leaving him intellectually
“He grew up using his wonderful memory to partly compensate
for his lack of intellectual ability,” his mother said.
Neville completed school and was working for a storeowner
when the tragic accident occurred. A forklift driver hit a pallet holding rolls
of fabric that Neville was helping to unload at a warehouse. The rolls broke
loose, tumbling down and knocking him and another worker off the back of a
Neville sustained severe brain trauma that affected that
part of the brain that handles day-to-day and short-term memory. In broad
terms, his mother explained, this means that if you can’t retain what you
learned today, then you can’t build on that learning because by the next day you
have forgotten what you learned the day before.
“In Neville’s case, this injury has been more than severe as
it has destroyed the memory he previously relied on to make up for his lack of
reading and writing skills,” Janette said. “So, with this short-term memory
loss, this explains why he has greeted each viewing of the crane as something
Jeanette Moss decided to write to Sydney Adventist Hospital in
February when she saw that the crane was wrapping up work on a new 12-story
“Every morning the first thing he does is check to see if
the crane is working,” she wrote in the letter.
“It has given him so much pleasure to see the movement of
the crane and what he can see of the building development,” she said. “So
before you do finish, I thought you should know that your work over many months
has not gone unnoticed … and has been much appreciated.”
Hospital staff, surprised and touched by the letter, shared
it with Buildcorp. The builders then discussed it at a weekly staff meeting.
A short time later, Jeanette received a phone call saying
the builders wanted to send Neville a shirt and a pair of shorts sporting a
“That was a lovely surprise,” Jeanette said.
Then in April, Buildcorp project manager Steven Taunton
wrote a letter officially inviting Neville to watch the dismantling of the
crane in May. Taunton followed up the letter with several phone calls to finalize
“Neville was thrilled with the invitation,” Jeanette said.
“Because his ‘memory world’ is so limited, I’m sure the prospect of visiting
the building site and watching the dismantling became the thing uppermost in
The weather couldn’t have been better on May 21, with a blue
sky and no wind, Jeanette said. The day got off to an early start.
Waiting at the hospital were Taunton and Brett Yallop,
Buildcorp’s site manager who was on leave that week but had driven to the
hospital for the event.
Yallop led Neville into a “man box,” a cage dangling from
the giant hook of a second crane that had been brought to the site to help
disassemble the stationary crane that Neville had been watching. Once inside, the
men rode up to a height level with the top of the stationary crane.
“Neville had no fear of going so high,” Jeanette said. “He
really enjoyed that special part of the day, and you can see the enjoyment in
his face when you look at the photos.”
Buildcorp also presented Neville with a model crane to help
him remember the day. The model now occupies a prized spot on a shelf in
Neville’s living quarters.
From morning until late afternoon, Neville watched as the
crane was dismantled from a viewing platform specially set up for him on the
hospital’s new 896-car parking garage.
Taunton said he saw the hand of God in Neville’s crane experience.
“It was certainly inspiring to see the various stakeholders
rally together to assist Neville and Jeanette to minimize the impact to Neville
of having the tower crane removed,” he said by e-mail. “We would not normally
get the opportunity to help someone like Neville due to the nature of the
Sydney Adventist Hospital, the flagship of the Seventh-day
Adventist Church’s health-care system in the South Pacific, said it was
delighted with the unexpected role that its construction work had played in
“The hospital was thrilled that our milestone redevelopment
here had such an unintended and unforeseeable impact and that our partners in
the development, Buildcorp, demonstrated such great compassion and community
spirit to organize the special day for Neville and Jeanette,” said Leisa
O’Connor, corporate communications manager for the hospital’s parent company,
The hospital has more than 2,300 staff and 750 medical
officers who care for more than 230,000 people a year, according to its
website. The hospital’s mission statement is only three words: “Christianity in
The crane is now gone, but Neville remains interested in watching
the activities at the hospital. The new 12-story building dominates the horizon
and is well lit at night, making it a new object of interest for him. Jeanette
said she was not sure what would eventually replace the hospital in his
thoughts but he might turn to jigsaw puzzles, having just completed one that he
got in April.
“So we’ll follow that interest until something else emerges,”
Janette, meanwhile, is trying to help Neville retain some memories
by taking lots of photos. “When he looks at a photo, there seems to be some
realization and association of what it means or where we were when the photo
was taken,” she said. “Hence the photos taken on the day of the dismantling of
the crane are so important. Without them he would now have no memory of having
watched the crane for so long or having been at the dismantling just a month
Whether or not Neville remembers that day, it was a gift
from God, his mother said.
“God’s hand is in everything: strength to keep going when
the going gets tough, as it often is, and guidance in how to deal with daily
challenges,” she said.
Contact Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected].