Age no barrier for Medina man, 73, pursuing lifelong dream to become a registered nurse

Max Walton in the nursing program at Stark State

MEDINA, Ohio - Reinventing himself is nothing new for Max Walton of Medina. The married father of five, and self-proclaimed education nut, has degrees in speech and hearing therapy and fine arts from the University of Kentucky.

He worked in the business world as a management consultant and found another love, calling for 35 years as an auctioneer.

While Walton has certainly led a full life, he always felt like something was missing-- a burning desire to work in the medical field.

Proving that dreams are not age-related, Walton, 73, enrolled in the nursing program at Stark State College.

When he graduates in two years at the age of 75,  he could become the oldest graduate in the school's history.

"I'm going to be 75 either way, whether I do this or just lay around the housing watching TV, and frankly, my wife probably prefers that I do this," Walton said.

Walton is aware that some people question whether he should be pursuing such a demanding job as a great-grandfather, but he is not deterred by the doubters.

"There's an old saying that says, 'What other people think of me is none of my business,'" Walton said with a smile.

Walton admits that his memory isn't as sharp as it once once, and he can't move as fast as some of his younger classmates, but strongly believes there's a place in the nursing field for him.

"Nursing affords me the opportunity of fulfilling a personal lifelong dream of serving patients with the best of myself, whether with nursing skills in action or as a caring heart for other whole patient needs."

His instructor at Stark State, Kim Kunkle, said Walton stays focused on his goals and is a pleasure to have in her class.

"He's always asking great questions. It's a pleasure to work with somebody who really just wants to learn for the pleasure of learning," Kunkle said.

In 2012, Walton dealt with his own health scare related to his heart. He suffered a mitral valve prolapse, meaning his heart was working twice as hard due to the valve not closing completely.

As a result, he wasn't sleeping well and his heart was racing.

"Finally, it got so bad one night that I just decided this is enough. I went into Medina Hospital," Walton explained.

He eventually had successful surgery at Cleveland Clinic's main campus and the words he would later hear from the surgeon only reinforced his desire to chase his dream.

"He told me, had I not had it (surgery), and just went on the way it was going, I would be dead within probably a year."

Walton participated in the Cardiac Rehab Program at Medina Hospital for almost four months and then graduated.

Brenda Disbrow, a registered nurse in the program, said the staff was surprised when Walton revealed he was pursing a nursing degree.

"He was a great inspiration to us, a new chapter in his life, a new journey. We were glad to be part of that, but it was inspiring he choose nursing," Disbrow said.

Walton isn't sure where he'll work once he graduates from Stark State College, but he expects to land a job working with the elderly.

In the meantime, he'll continue to spread his message that dreams shouldn't die as you grow older.

"There's no time that you can't reinvent yourself no matter what your age is."

 

 

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