You Think 2020 Was a Rough Year? Let Me Tell You About it.

Krk Dorn stands in a suit with his hands in his pockets

Man plans. God laughs. I think in 2020 we all understand what that biblical proverb means.


A lot of us saw our plans blown up this year, although my reason may be slightly different than yours.


On February 26th I went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for an outpatient procedure to deal with heart rhythm issues. I intended to return to work the following Monday. Unfortunately, the procedure was not successful. My heart was not as sound as doctors (and I) thought.


I went home – to a hotel in Baltimore, actually – but after about a day or so I wasn’t feeling right, so my wife took me back to the hospital. A few days after that, I suffered a major heart event.


When I awoke, I was attached to something called an ECMO machine, which basically kept me alive. Three weeks later I underwent a heart transplant. Yes, a frigging heart transplant!


While all this was happening to me, COVID World was happening to everybody else. In fact, the day I got my COVID test in March (required for the transplant), happened to be the same day the hospital banned all visitors.


So in many ways my 2020 – although maybe a little more painful – has been a lot like yours. Only, I have been relegated to observing rather than participating in the madness that has defined this year.


I have watched as many of our clients, like so many businesses, worked to figure out ways to adjust and maintain their essential missions. I especially think about organizations we represent and that work within healthcare, education, and low-income housing. I thought about them constantly while I was sick and how much I wished I could help them work through their communications challenges. Fortunately, we have skilled people at Ceisler, and the firm did not skip a beat in providing the services and counsel those clients needed.


I watched as the high-quality nursing homes we work with struggled to help families understand why they could not see their elderly loved ones in person. The schools we represent, from elementary to college, had to find a balance between in-class and virtual education, and communicate to families the reasoning behind those decisions. And although we helped clients advocate and articulate the need for more low-income housing for years, the need took on a new and urgent profile this year with yet more people unable to find a home they could afford. It has been heart-rending to see so many people on the verge of eviction or foreclosure.


Maybe this is just my perception, but it also seems that more people are giving to charitable causes this year and helping folks who have been economically affected by the pandemic, particularly when it comes to food. But there have also been the degenerates like the cyber thieves who stole more than $900,000 from the Philadelphia area’s largest hunger-relief organization and the scammers who take advantage of vulnerable or lonely people.


It wasn’t just the serious stuff I had lots of time to think about while sidelined. Being without sports for all those months while the leagues were shut down was rough on us fans – although in Philadelphia it has been almost as bad with sports back. Our teams have been underwhelming, to put it kindly. The Phillies collapsed down the stretch – again. The 76ers crumpled – again. The Eagles were so disappointing that I considered cheering for the Steelers as a fallback. Penn State football lost their first five games before regaining some footing.


In fact, the most entertaining sports viewing for me this year was not even a game, but the TV miniseries about Michael Jordan, which helped take my mind away from the fact that I was watching from a hospital bed.


I of course am indescribably grateful to my heart donor’s family, my family, my work family, and the amazing doctors and nurses who took care of me. I experienced numerous setbacks – from pneumonia to infections to other complications, but I never considered the possibility that I wouldn’t get well. (I left the worrying to my wife.) If I had let my mind go there, I don’t think I could have handled the constant disappointments.


It takes about a year to fully recover from a heart transplant, which for me means March 25, 2021. It’s a long process but I feel stronger every day. Like many of you, I am eagerly waiting for the vaccine so I can extend my travels beyond CVS and the supermarket.


I hope you have a similar attitude about this pandemic. We still have to manage our way through more of our masked-up lifestyle in the coming months, but doesn’t knowing we will get past this experience make it easier to put up with the inconveniences and disruptions – for at least a little while longer?


I think I can safely predict 2021 will at some point become a whole lot better year for all of us. I look forward to being a participant instead of an observer.


Kirk Dorn is the Senior Director in Ceisler Media’s Philadelphia office.

More Posts

Why your company should hire former journalists

Why your company should hire former journalists

Journalists have plenty of skills beyond burning curiosity that will help you take your team’s performance to the next level.

Nine Ceisler Media staff go on the record to share why journalism skills are still worthy of headlines post-industry.

Read more >
Graphic that reads "for Philadelphia, this moment feels different" with an illustration of Philadelphia's City Hall with an illustration of a sun behind it, with a blue sky.

Larry Ceisler: For Philadelphia, This Moment Feels Different 

In the poorest large city in America, optimism can be in short supply.

Even in a business where my colleagues and I have the privilege of telling the stories of incredible clients doing sometimes literally lifesaving work, the forest and the trees can sometimes blend together.

But, once in a while, forces in the city converge that can change almost anyone’s perspective.

Read more >