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April 18, 2013
An Able Attitude

Tooele man keeps a positive outlook on life despite many physical hindrances 

Quick to make a joke about himself, Bob White has a positive attitude in spite of health problems that have hindered his physical capabilities throughout his life. The 43-year-old is a lifelong Tooele resident. He was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, and a congenital heart defect.

“We knew he had a heart defect, but didn’t find out about the hydrocephalus until he was a year old,” said Mary Jo White, Bob’s mother.

At the same time, Bob also got a staph infection that caused him to lose his sight.

“Bobby was walking and talking but the staph infection caused him to go blind and then he couldn’t walk,” Mary Jo said. “He had the staph infection for six weeks before they realized what it was. The staph infection is what has caused most of his problems. We found out about the hydrocephalus at the same time he was diagnosed with the staph infection.”

The vision in his right eye improved and he was able to walk again, but the sight in his left eye never came all the way back. Some of the paralysis caused by the staph infection also affected the left side of his body, which has given him a slight limp. Although his eyesight isn’t up to par, Bob said he’s been able to make up for it.

“My hearing is heightened, making up for the loss of sight,” he said.

Throughout his life, Bob said his older brother, Billy, has helped him by always pushing him to do things that he didn’t think he could do.

“From the time we were real young, my brother would tell me, ‘It’s not you can’t, it’s you will,’” Bob said.

An example of this is when Billy taught him to ride a bike. Their mother didn’t want Bob riding a bike because she was concerned that he would be injured.

“One day, Billy told me that I was going to learn to ride a bike and I wasn’t going in the house until I learned,” Bob said. “Billy took me over to the school grounds and kept showing me how to ride the bike until I was able to ride. It took two or three hours. When we went home, Billy called my mom out to watch me ride. She about passed out.”

Having his older brother around to teach him things he didn’t think he could do inspired Bob to try other things on his own. Bev White, Bob’s aunt, said she remembers Bob running a race down Middle Canyon when he about 10- or 11-years-old. She said he practiced constantly to get ready for the race.

Whoever was facilitating the race had a loud speaker and announced the runners’ names as they crossed the finish line. Finally everyone but Bobby had crossed the finish line, so someone drove up to check on him. He was still running the race, determined to cross the finish line. When he crossed the finish line, the crowd erupted in cheers for him.

“There was a large crowd of people and almost everyone stayed to watch Bobby cross that finish line,” Bev said. “How many people would enter a race, knowing they would come in last? It took a long time for him to finish — I think an hour or more.”

As Bob grew up, he thought that one rite of passage most teenagers have — learning to drive — wouldn’t be possible for him, even though he’d overcome a lot of physical barriers as a child.

“I didn’t think I would ever learn to drive, but friends of mine and Billy’s that lived in Rush Valley told me to come out there where there was room for me to learn safely,” Bob said. “I was 22 before I got my license.”

Although Bob enjoyed the freedoms of having a license, he decided to quit driving after just a few years because of seizures he’d been having since he was about 14.

“I was beat up when I was 14 years old,” he said. “I started having seizures after that, but they’ve gotten worse since I’ve been an adult. I didn’t want to endanger my daughters, so I gave up my license and I depend on someone else to drive me around.”

Bob said he enjoys writing poetry as a way to cope with his physical disabilities and project the positive attitude he’s tried to keep throughout his life. He has a loose-leaf book of poetry with 35 to 45 hand-written poems in sheet protectors.

He has written poems about many people he worked with in the Tooele County building, where he worked in the maintenance department for 20 years before being laid off. He calls these poems his “portraits.” However, one of Bob’s favorite poems that he’s written is simply about having a positive attitude (see sidebar).

“I don’t know where I’d be without my poetry,” he said. “It helps me get my mind off of my problems and helps me focus on other things. No matter what happens, you can’t give up on your plans and goals. If you do, you go backward and it becomes easier and easier to go back.”

‘Having a Positive Attitude’

Having a good attitude comes from inside.

Others around you are just along for the ride.

If you smile, be

courteous and kind.

Others will dig down

deep and find.

Do the best that you can each and every day.

Get rid of your bad

attitude and throw it away.

In the long run it may

take a while.

But you’ll find a positive way of thinking will

Make your life worthwhile.

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