Near-death tragedy won’t stop Holmen man from chasing his dreams

After coming back from the brink of death, Holmen local Walter Van Roo is going after his dreams by auditioning for a national reality show.

“It was a road I would never wish upon anybody. I’ve always had a dream of, not being rich and famous, just having the money to help the community,” Van Roo said.

He led a pretty normal life until one night in 1995.

“It bit me in the calf (while) we were sleeping,” Van Roo said.

Two bites from a brown recluse spider would change his life.

“My legs started turning black, like, right away,” Van Roo said.

He was treated and released from the hospital, and it seemed like everything would be OK.

“It seemed pretty normal, but I was in a lot of pain all the time, and I couldn’t figure out why,” Van Roo said.

A couple of years ago, the pain started getting worse.

“Through this whole time, it was eating the bones, deteriorating the bones and the skin,” Van Roo said.

Doctors had no other choice.

“I lost my first toe, and then it went toe to toe. They tried saving my feet as much as they could, and then the infection just went wild,” Van Roo said.

After 10 amputations in two years, Van Roo lost both of his legs.

“The pain stopped, once the leg was gone,” Van Roo said.

Even though the physical pain stopped, the emotional pain remained, and Van Roo was contemplating suicide.

“I wanted to end it, and I just pulled myself up by my shoulders and said, ‘look you’ve made it this far. Why end it now?” Van Roo said.

The main thing that stopped was music.

“Being able to sing and just being able to express your feelings through that, it helps a great deal,” Van Roo said.

Forced with facing his own death, Van Roo came back with a new appreciation for life.

“It’s really driving me to do things that I never thought I would ever do,” Van Roo said.

That is why he’s going after his dream of singing by auditioning for “The Voice.”

“I’m going to give it my all, and if I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I don’t. But I can at least say that I tried for my dream and I made it as far as I could,” Van Roo said.

Even though he’s faced many obstacles, Van Roo says it’s important to never give up.

“I want people to know if something happens to them, they need to still go for their goals. Nothing’s going to hold them back. Its mind over matter. Go with your heart, go with your gut and don’t let others hold you down,” Van Roo said.

Van Roo will be auditioning for “The Voice” next month in Nashville.

But he doesn’t have enough money to get there, so he’s planning to hitchhike to his audition.

If you would like to donate money to help him, you can find him on Facebook at Walter Van Roo or donate to him through George Street Pub in La Crosse.

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