At 80, Pilot Rock Man Ready to Celebrate New Lease on Life

Rod and Robbie Anderson pose with Good Shepherd Medical Center staff on Tuesday, March 12, Rod’s final day of rehab therapy after receiving five stents to open up his coronary arteries. Standing with them, from the left is Tom Hunsaker, respiratory therapist; Tammy Ontiveros, ward clerk; Paula Hagel, assistant manager for Good Shepherd’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation wing; and Tony Garberg, respiratory therapist and director of Cardiopulmonary Services. (All photos courtesy of Kimberly Rae Photography)

Rod Anderson turns 80 on Saturday and he’s inviting several dozen friends and family to help celebrate.

The purpose of the celebration isn’t his 80th birthday milestone. The fact that he’s alive at all is the reason for the party.

Last fall, the Pilot Rock businessman began experiencing fatigue throughout the day for no apparent reason.

“I could only work for about 45 minutes before I got too tired,” Anderson said. He finally convinced himself to see a cardiologist at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland. It was probably in the nick of time, too.

Rod Anderson does some work on a stationary bike on his final day of rehabilitation therapy on Tuesday, March 12 at Good Shepherd Medical Center.

It turned out that one of his coronary arteries was 100 percent blocked and another was 80 percent blocked. Then he heard something no one wants to hear when a hospital staff member said, “This guy is holding on by a thread.”

He had five stents put in to open up his arteries. A stent is a tiny, expandable metal mesh coil. It is put into the newly opened area of the artery to help keep the artery from narrowing or closing again.

Then came the hard part. To regain his strength, Anderson spent nearly three months of rehab therapy at Good Shepherd Health Care System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation wing. His rehab initially consisted of lifting one-pound weights and riding a stationary bicycle among other exercises. He’s now up to 10-pound weights.

On Tuesday, March 12, with Robbie, his wife of 57 years at his side, Anderson completed his rehabilitation sooner than expected.

“I didn’t think I’d be where I am at this point,” he said. “The staff at Good Shepherd was wonderful. I owe a lot to them.”

Anderson had 25 rehab sessions, going to Good Shepherd twice a week and spending between 90 minutes and two hours in therapy.

“It would usually take about 90 minutes to get through a session – unless I started visiting,” he said with a laugh. “At first, I was kind of timid, but now I’m going to miss everyone here.”

Photos of Anderson putting on a 50-pound saddle on his horse, Ty. He set that as his goal upon completing rehab. The goal was achieved a month before completing his therapy.

Anderson has ridden horses nearly all his life. One of his goals upon completing rehab was to be able to lift a 50-pound saddle on his horse, Ty. He accomplished that goal in early February.

Anderson began ranching on the family farm as a young boy. At age 40, he got into the construction business. Rod Anderson Construction in Pendleton has worked on numerous buildings in Umatilla County including Good Shepherd.

Anderson, who calls himself “an old cowboy,” credits his busy lifestyle to his longevity.

“When you get up every morning and you’ve got a project to work on, you don’t have time to get old,” he said.

Anderson is grateful for the care he received at Good Shepherd and Kadlec and appreciates his new lease on life.

“That’s why I’m celebrating – I’m still here.”


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