Ralph Munro's heart getting deserved rest

January 2, 2011 

I’ve been eager to report the following news for more than two weeks. Finally, the timing is right.

Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro is on the road to recovery after open-heart surgery Dec. 14 at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.

The heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve and fix an irregular heartbeat was followed by additional surgeries to stem post-surgical bleeding, repair a collapsed lung and readjust a wire in his chest.

We’re all breathing a little easier now that Munro, 67, is out of the critical care unit and nearing return to the beloved Triple Creek Farm he shares with his wife, Karen, near the base of Eld Inlet.

“I’m sitting here, waiting for a hospital bed to arrive,” Karen said late last week from the farm.

With her permission, I called Munro at the hospital. Although his voice wasn’t as booming and boisterous as usual, it was music to my ears.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” Munro said in a somber tone that mirrored his comment.

Munro’s medical setbacks and steady signs of progress have been shared with thousands of friends and associates all over the world through postings by Karen on the CaringBridge website.

Created in 1997, the charitable nonprofit CaringBridge allows a family in the midst of a medical crisis to post messages to a wide circle of family members and friends who sign in to the website. In turn, the visitors can post messages of love and encouragement, share stories and poems and even crack a joke or two. It keeps the lines of communication open in a timely, but not time-consuming, way.

“CaringBridge takes all the pressure off your family,” Munro said.

In 2009, CaringBridge reached a milestone of 1 billion visits from caring family and friends at more than 185,000 customized websites.

The Munro portal alone has received more than 3,800 visits since it went live in early December with the news of Munro’s pending open-heart surgery.

As for the 800 messages Munro had received by midday Thursday?

“I’ve read every one of them,” he said.

So have I. And I’ve written a couple, too. Together they tell the story of a man who has touched many lives through his political career, including serving as an assistant to then-Gov. Dan Evans in the tumultuous 1960s to statewide elected office – secretary of state from 1980 to 2001.

Then there’s his wide range of civic and community work: He’s the driving force behind the success of the Capitol Land Trust. He’s a member of the board of trustees at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he graduated despite a short expulsion from school his freshman year. He’s a member of the Rotary International team that goes to Africa each year to vaccinate children against polio in Ethiopia and Uganda. He’s a strong, long-standing voice in the quest to save the Puget Sound orcas from extinction.

And with that lengthy paragraph, I just scratched the surface of his many missions.

Here’s a sample of some my favorite postings on the Munro CaringBridge site, which is www.caringbridge.org/visit/ralphmunro.

From Moses Oneu, past president of the Gulu Rotary Club in Uganda:

“My fiancée Auma is seven months pregnant and the scans show it is a boy. I shall therefore name him Ralph, in your honour because of all the good work you are doing in Gulu.”

And this from his mentor, Evans, the three-term governor who collected a lot of like-minded, progressive Republicans around him, including Munro.

“Ralph: You have given too much of your heart and now it’s time to get some back. We need you on the front line so get out of that embarrassing hospital gown, put your pants (or kilt) on and keep doing the great things you do for everyone.”

Amen.

One quick footnote: Munro needs time and space on this journey back to health, so hold off on the visits and phone calls. He already has received enough flowers to start a nursery, so a gift in his name to the Providence St. Peter Foundation is what family members recommend as a worthwhile option.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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