Inside his Elizabethtown home – and in between his weekly truck runs to Tennessee, David Albertson takes a seat at his desk, ready to navigate next steps for growing his farm and carriage business.
For the past 51 years, David has been a truck driver, logging more than five million, accident-free miles. It’s the job that pays the bills and one he takes pride in doing well.
But there’s no place the he would rather be than with his horses, preparing to escort a bride and groom on their special day or to take nursing home residents out for a breath of fresh air in one of his luxurious carriages.
“My horses are never mean, and they’re always glad to see you,” said David, who operates the horse and carriage business with his wife, Sharon. “They’re like my babies. When the foals are born, I breathe my breath into their nostrils so they will imprint on me.
This is what brings joy – and purpose – to David’s life.
He’s got a lot in common with the horses he breeds, he says – both love the countryside and the open road, and both love to work hard.
David’s unrelenting work ethic, partially honed during his Navy years, has kept him on the go all his life. He never let his diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol stop him – until last summer.
It was his third road trip of the week, but not even that could account for the weakness he felt as he could barely hoist himself up into his truck. On the 530-mile trek home from Knoxville, Tenn., he vomited eight times. His wife met him at the truck terminal and whisked him to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Emergency Department.
Kidney failure was the culprit as David’s kidneys were shutting down. “I was very nervous and shaken. I’ve worked hard for many years and I never get sick, even at age 75,” said the Vietnam veteran. “I couldn’t even grasp what was happening to me.” His doctor, Dr. John Cugini, carefully explained the need for emergency dialysis to save his life.
But when the discussion later turned to permanent dialysis three times a week, David balked – he had nine horses, eight trailers, 11 very expensive carriages, 15 acres and 12,000 feet of fence to look after, not to mention 14,000 miles of highway to cover every month.
David’s providers, including Dr. Eric Messner, associate director of Family Medicine Inpatient Services, visited his hospital room daily for lively discussions about how best to preserve his health and his heart’s passion. Thankfully, David’s condition turned around, and his kidney function improved on its own.
David is back to driving his truck and driving forward his plans for Albertson’s Carriage Co. and spring breeding of his beloved horses. Not so different, he says, than the bond he formed with doctors and nurses who cared deeply and worked tirelessly to keep him at the wheel – and the reins.
This is the health David needs to live the way he wants.