Triumph Through Adversity: A Tale of Perseverance, Hope and Giving Back

In a life filled with entrepreneurial successes and a legacy of community service, Robert “Bob” and Ruthie Harrell’s journey took an unexpected turn when faced with a severe health crisis.

Their strength through Bob's battle with pancreatitis reveals a story of triumph and the profound impact of exceptional medical care. Bob, a native of Orlando born at Orange Memorial in 1947, ventured into business at a young age, starting with a glass company and finishing with a flourishing development business. Bob and Ruthie’s dedication to the business was unwavering. Every penny earned was reinvested, paving the way for further growth and expansion. Bob's career later transitioned to public service, where he served as Orange County Commissioner and chairman of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority while maintaining his business interests.

However, Bob's life took a dramatic turn when he developed pancreatitis after being injured in a motorcycle accident. The excruciating pain led him to Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, marking the beginning of a challenging journey.

His long battle with pancreatitis demanded extensive medical attention, including an airlift to the Level One Trauma Center at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) at the recommendation of a friend and hospital advocate, Kirsten Carter, MD. He endured multiple surgeries and induced comas, leading to 48 nights in the hospital and a lengthy recovery period. Throughout this tumultuous time, Bob and Ruthie found solace in the exceptional care provided at Orlando Health, most notably by Michael Cheatham, MD.


Their experience highlighted the significance of family, faith and resilience amidst adversity. Orlando Health became a sanctuary where skilled medical professionals not only treated Bob’s condition but also offered unwavering support to the family.


Now, healed and healthy, they love spending time with their family, especially their grandchildren. They enjoy attending Orlando Magic basketball games and traveling to North Carolina. Bob likes to hunt and fish, while Ruthie is part of the Pine Castle Women’s Club.

Giving Back

While Ruthie and Bob have always demonstrated their dedication to community service, this experience led them to make a philanthropic gift to Orlando Health in honor of the caregivers who helped save Bob’s life.

To learn more about supporting Orlando Health, contact:

Janet Morrow at (321) 841-1466 or [email protected]

Jordan Shackelford at (321) 843-2477 or [email protected]

Related Articles