Each year, Mayo Clinic's In the Loop blog looks back and shares some favorite stories of the year gone by. Here is the third of 17 stories from 2017. Be sure to check back each week for the next story.
Andy Romaniuk Is a One-Man Walking Polka Party
Andy Romaniuk got some troubling news at his first appointment at Mayo Clinic. His blood pressure and cholesterol were high. "I was heading for a big heart attack or big stroke," he says. His doctor told him the cure lay not in a prescription or procedure, but in his own hands. Or rather, in his own feet. "The doctor told me I needed to exercise and suggested that I start walking," Andy says. So he did, lacing up his shoes and walking a half-mile the very next day.
That was 33 years ago. Since then, Andy has logged thousands (and thousands) of miles, sometimes walking 20 miles or more a day. And at 89, he's still very much on the move. He walks for exercise, of course. But also to buy groceries, visit friends, and get to doctor appointments at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. "I ride in my two-wheel cart," he tells us, grinning mischievously as he slaps the right and left "wheels" that power him through all of those miles.
Recently, Andy started traveling with another cart: a small luggage cart that he pulls behind him, outfitted with a cassette player. And now, wherever he walks, the bright sounds of polka music follow. Andy tells us the music reminds him of his sweetheart, Mary. They were married for 50 years before she passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2009. Andy cared for her throughout her illness, a dedication that was profiled by the Dodge County Independent.
All that walking has been good for Andy as well. His healthy habits have helped him survive several big hits over the past 14 years, including a heart attack and stomach cancer. In spite of those health challenges, he takes no medication and recently received a glowing report from his doctor. "He told me," Andy says, "that I'm the healthiest patient he has."