• Walden Pond on High Revisited
  • Last month you may remember reading "Walden Pond on High" by Dr. Tom Petty and Ron Peterson. The accomplishments and goals of Ron, a lung transplant patient, are so extraordinary that we asked him to write for our readers a little more about how he achieved such remarkable success.
  • Healing and Exercise
  • by Ron Peterson
  • I have been receiving the PERF Newsletter since 1995 and have an unusual story to relate which illustrates another benefit for those of us with lung disease who exercise regularly. Perhaps this story will encourage others to begin to exercise today, as it is never too late to start...
  • When I quit smoking on January 9, 1996 (2,632 days ago by my count, and I have counted every day), I replaced the negative habit of smoking with the positive habit of exercise.
  • I very quickly made fast friends with Dr. Thomas Petty, Dr. Richard Casaburi and Mary Burns and they all taught me many things about exercise. Mary Burns, however, gave me the best lesson when she suggested that it might be a good goal to walk 60 minutes a day, 7 days a week. In 1997, I was accepted into a lung transplant program and began waiting for a lung transplant.
  • I immediately accepted Mary's suggestion as my goal and slowly started to increase my exercise times. The day I quit smoking, I could only walk one minute, at a very slow pace, around the living room.
  • It took about a year but I made it to the 60 minute a day goal and I very seldom missed even one day. I continued this pattern until the day of my transplant, December 12, 2000 at Barnes Hospital in St Louis.
  • I experienced many benefits from this practice of exercise. The most important benefit was to be able to survive until a donor lung became available. At the time of my transplant, my lung function, FEV1 was measured at 9% of predicted. It took 6 liters of supplemental oxygen for me to maintain my oxygen saturation level at 90% as I walked on a home treadmill at a breakneck speed of 1/2 mile per hour for an hour. I generally walked as soon as I woke each day.
  • On the day of my transplant, I walked an hour as usual and was called to the hospital at 10 pm that night. The transplant was over by 3 in the morning and I went to ICU but was able to walk 15 minutes four times that day so that I did not miss even one day of walking.
  • The first few days I walked with lots of tubes, dragging an IV bottle up and down the halls of the hospital. After two days, the doctors told me I was doing so well I could go home if I wished. I opted to stay two more days so I could learn as much as possible from the transplant team before leaving the hospital.
  • I was pleasantly surprised when the doctors came in on rounds on the 4th day after my transplant and told me I had healed faster than any of the previous 552 transplants in their lung transplant program.
  • Barnes St Louis is associated with Washington University and has the largest lung transplant program in the world. I was the 553rd person to be transplanted there, and the last one of the millennium.
  • I asked the doctors to explain why they thought I had healed so quickly and they said it was because I was in such good physical shape from all the walking I did before transplant. They likened it to the way a professional ballplayer in tiptop shape heals so quickly after an injury that would sideline a normal person for 6 weeks.
  • We all know that those of us with lung disease are a long way from professional caliber physical shape, especially just before transplant with only 9% of normal lung function. However, I am certain that the reason that I was in such good physical shape was because I was fortunate enough to meet up with Mary and God gave me the wisdom to follow thru on her exercise advice. After all, Mary should know what she is doing with exercise and lung disease patients as she has been doing it for 25 years now and was one of the first health professionals to promote daily endurance exercise in a rehabilitation environment. She has been lecturing internationally on this subject for many years and is recognized as one of the world's authorities on pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • Thanks to you, Mary, for your long-standing exercise advice! Also thanks for your many years of helping those of us with lung disease. I am now 849 days post transplant and doing well.
  • These days, for maximum exercise I jog up mountains of 9,000 feet, still for an hour a day, every day of the week. I am working up to climbing 14,000-foot mountains. Since there are 52 of them in Colorado, this should take me a couple of years or so and keep me off the streets. Even when I am traveling, I still exercise for an hour a day every day; currently I do a combination of walking, and jogging, and wind sprinting and I feel good every day.
  • Please understand that there is nothing special about me and all of us have the opportunity to attempt to meet Mary's suggested goal of an hour a day-7 days a week. I can assure you that it is a very worthwhile goal.
  • Now my goal is to live well for another 92 years-to age 150. And why not? I understand that the average life expectancy is now increasing at a rate of 7 hours every day.
  • Ron Peterson
    April 29, 2003, Kerrville, Texas

  • Wow! What a story! Would anyone like to try to top that? Please note that Ron's extraordinary exercise achievements started by walking only one minute at a time. Even when he walked an hour a day he was not able walk any faster on the treadmill than 1/2 mile an hour.
  • Editorial comments to Ron's testimony
  • Ron asked that we not change any of his story but we would like to make a few editorial comments.
  • FEV1 stands for the forced expiratory volume of air that you blow out of you lungs in one second. It is a measure of your lung health. As you may know, Dr. Petty wants every one of you to "Test your lungs, know your numbers". FEV1 is the number Dr. Petty is referring to. Do you know what your FEV1 is? Better than Ron's was, we hope, because his FEV1 of only 9% of predicted was barely compatible with life. He was very, very sick which makes his efforts to continue exercising so very remarkable. Please put the stress on the word "his", because Ron gives undue credit to some of the editors of the Second Wind. Mary in particular is very uncomfortable with all the credit given her. Praise such as his is sincerely appreciated, but it is Ron, and Ron alone, who deserves the credit for his amazing achievements!
  • It is easy to give advice but not so easy to act on it! And we do understand and sympathize with all you on how very difficult it is to follow through with an exercise program.
  • Ron's story is unique, as is he. We hope you are as impressed and as inspired by his history as we are.
  • You do not need to walk as much as an hour a day to improve yourself. Ron was aiming for the ultimate. You do not need to be an Olympic sprinter to achieve success! That being said, however, we are sure that no Olympian ever worked any harder, or had more true grit, than Ron Peterson. Ron, we salute you. It is an honor to be considered one of your friends.

  • Do you have a question about respiratory disease that has been bothering you? If so, feel free to write and ask us, either through our web site or by mail. We answer all of your letters.