Walk Backwards — Forge Ahead


<I grew up in the 40’s and 50’s in Chisholm, Minnesota, a small town about 90 miles south of the Canadian border. Winters were cold, windy and snowy. Cars did not start unless you took the battery in the house every night and even that was no assurance of success. Getting a ride to school was unheard of because like most families we had one car and if it started dad took it to work, so – we walked everywhere (about a mile to school, uphill both ways ).

We learned early that when a blizzard was really howling you pulled up your hood, covered your face, put your head down and pushed forward. Sometimes, when extreme winds left us breathless, we would turn around and walk backwards. They did not cancel school in those days and there was no reward in going home, so we just kept moving. Not much could stop us from getting to where we needed to go.
My reminder of this great life lesson came on November 21 this year. Three months post heart transplant and feeling great, I was walking on the treadmill for an hour a day, doing all the grocery shopping, some light housekeeping and even considering resuming my career. Then, ”Bang,” I was hit with one of those breathtaking blizzard winds, I got pneumonia and was hospitalized the night before Thanksgiving 2008.
I had been told several times that because the anti-rejection drugs left me with a suppressed immune system, contracting a “bug” was very likely, but I thought, “I’m doing well, it won’t happen to me.” Well, the something that couldn’t happen, did and my energy level was affected immediately.
If you have ever seen snow blowing off the roof of a house, then you know how I felt. All my newfound energy was slowly but steadily drifting away. When I left the hospital after five days, I was almost as weak as I was after my transplant. I don’t know where I would have been if not for my previous three months of cardiac rehab; at least I had some strength to lose.
In the face of this storm, I knew that if I gave in to it, I would jeopardize my new heart. Medicine and technology by themselves cannot make for successful transplants; exercise is a crucial element and must continue regardless of the obstacles.
My earlier life experience with snowstorms became relevant again, “Walk backwards if necessary but keep forging ahead.” I’m doing that. Now a couple of weeks after being released from the hospital my breathing is much better and while I’m still recovering from pneumonia I know that turning back is simply not an option.
I’m not perfect and yes, I get discouraged, but thanks to the medical and rehab professionals, my wonderful caregiver wife Robin and my own optimistic attitude I will make it through this storm even if I have to walk backwards to do it.
The lesson for transplant patients is that you will have setbacks but they should be temporary and maybe even motivational. We can’t afford to lose site of the fact that new organs saved our lives. Now, we have an obligation to take care of them. To do anything else is not only self-defeating and deadly, it is an insult to the wonderful donors and their families who gave us a second chance.
You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Please view our new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transtation issues. When you leave this site go to our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative and join. The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

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About Bob Aronson

Bob Aronson is a former journalist, a Minnesota Governor's Press Secretary and talk show host. For nearly a quarter of a century, he led the Aronson Partnership, a Minnesota-based communications consultancy that prepared corporate and government executives for crisis situations, regulatory testimony, media interviews and Presentations. Among his clients were all three U.S. Mayo Clinic locations, 3M, general Mills, CH2M Hill, the U.S. Department of Energy and scores more. In 2007 bob had a heart transplant after suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy for 12 years. Shortly after he got his new heart he founded the now 4,300 member Facebook support group, Organ Transplant Initiative. At the same time, he established the Bob's Newheart blog where he has posted nearly 300 columns on organ donation, transplantation and other health related issues. The Viewpoint blog was started in late 2016 and bears the name of the Radio Talk show Bob did from 1966 until 1974, when he resigned to become Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich first Press secretary. Bob and his artist wife Robin, live in Jacksonville, Florida with their two dogs, Reilly and Ziggy. Bob is also a woodworker and makes all of the furnishings for Robin's art festival booth. He also makes one of a kind jewelry or "memories" boxes that he donates to select transplant patients, caregivers, donor families and others who have somehow contributed to making life easier for the ill, the elderly and the less fortunate. Bob is in the final stages of editing two full-length novels that will be available on Kindle when ready for release sometime in early 2017. One is a sci fi novel about an amazing discovery near Roswell, New Mexico and you will be surprised to find it has nothing to do with the Roswell story everyone knows. It features a woman scientist who investigates impact craters for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Dr. Rita Sylvester and her female student intern. The other book is a political thriller that introduces a new hero to the genre, Fargo Dennison.

Posted on December 3, 2007, in journaling. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I just read the Mayo Clinic “Renewal” with your website address. I had a heart and kidney transplant at Mayo in Rochester in June of 2005. I am doing GREAT. I find that I love to hear from other tranplant patients who have preceded me. I enjoyed reading about your “adventure” and hope you continue to improve.

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  2. Bob —

    Keep these pieces coming. They are helping more people than you know, not just transplant patients. Would love to hear them as NPR commentaries.
    From one who was raised in northern Wisconsin, I, too, can relate to the winter storm analogy. The height of our snowbanks was legendary. Hope you have a better holiday upcoming..and thanks for all your insights over the years.

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  3. Great thoughts, Bob. We had the same motto in southern Minnesota. And just this weekend we’ve started experiencing the same kind of weather that makes you have to walk backwards.

    You’re right – if you don’t keep pushing forward (even if it means walking backward), you don’t just stand still. You lose ground. I’m glad to hear you’re doing better physically, but more importantly that you’ve got the right attitude and determination to persevere.

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