March 28, 2014

Wild Heart…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:30 pm


Cause and effect, chain of events,
All of the chaos makes perfect sense.
When you’re spinning round, things come undone,
Welcome to Earth, third rock from the Sun.

Joe Diffie, lyrics

I’m sure stranger stuff has happened to me. Had to have, somewhere way back there. But right now, I just can’t remember when.

I’ve been going through some real crap, lately. Turned out to be pretty intense stuff. Mostly self-inflicted, of course, as is usually the case with me. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to work out of a cave I chose to walk into. Anyway, that’s how it was the last few weeks. I went to work, as usual, every day. And wrote at night. Brooded in deep and intense shame. And wrote and drank and wrote.

And then, on Wednesday night last week, I don’t know where it happened. Soon after I left the gym, I think. Somehow, I hurt my eye. The left one. Or maybe it just happened on its own. I remember rubbing it and thinking how it itches. Otherwise, I thought little of it. That little moment right there was the trigger for the huge chain of events that would come roaring down over the next few days.

The next morning, I got up, as usual. Went to take my shower. Grabbed my good old battery shaver, and leaned in toward the mirror over the sink. And just gaped. Except for the pupil, my left eye was completely blood red. I’m talking completely. And I’m talking blood red. I could see, though, with it. If I hadn’t seen myself in the mirror, I would never have known. I recoiled, horrified. What in the world was this? Ah, come on. One more bit of crap to deal with. Had I only known. I hadn’t seen nothing yet.

From work, right at eight, I called the Wellness Center I use on those rare occasions when I need a doctor. Better go get this checked out. I told the nice lady what was going on. My left eye was bloody. She poked around on her computer and told me someone would see me at two.

And right here, I’ll just say this, because it applies a whole lot down the road. My heart flutters. Just goes off, on wild beating binges. It’s done that for years. And yes, I’ve had checkups from doctors over the years, and they never mentioned anything. So I never thought it was that big a deal. I’ve never felt a thing from the flutter. Never even felt it beating in my chest. No tightness, nothing. It’s like my blood eye I saw in the mirror. I would have never known about the heart thing, except once, years back, I just happened to check my own pulse. It was running crazy wild. And since then, that’s the only way I ever knew I had a fluttering heart. When I’d check my own pulse. Which I did, now and then, especially after I discovered how my heart acts. Sometimes it was calm, when I checked it. And sometimes it was wild. It was never smooth beating, though. It was always erratic, soft or wild. But it was always strong.

I walked into the Wellness Center and checked in. Sat and waited a while. Then the nurse called my name and led me to a room. Checked my blood pressure. Took my heart count. Blood pressure was just OK. My heart beat was a little high. 140. What’s normal? I asked. “60 to 100,” she said. She left then, and said the doctor would be in soon. I sat and waited. And yeah, I was a little tense. I had a bloody eye, here. And I wasn’t feeling all that good about life in general otherwise.

He walked in before long. A nice young man. I’d seen him once before, about a year ago. He’d taken good care of me. We talked as he examined my eye. Shone a little light in. I lay down on the table, and he had me do the whole eye coordination thing. Everything worked fine. “It just burst vessels,” he said. It’ll heal on its own. We talked a bit then, about things. I told him I’d been feeling down lately. He was a good guy. We just sat there and talked.

Then he mentioned my heart rate. He wanted to do an EKG test, or some such thing. Sure, I said. So the nurse came back in, and I lay down on the table. She stuck all kinds of sticky things on me, and attached some wires. Then she did the test, and a printout popped out of the machine. “Let me just go show these to the doctor, before I unwire you” she said. “To see if this is clear enough. I always check, in case he wants me to do them again.” She walked out. It was the last quiet moment I would see for the next forty-six hours or so.

The door burst open a minute later, and nurse and doctor rushed in. The nurse quietly but hastily started removing wires and sticky things from me. I sat there at the edge of the table as she did this. The doctor stood there and faced me. Looked at me. Looked down at his paper. I’ll never forget the expression on his face. And then he spoke. Concisely. Carefully.

“Mr. Wagler, from what I’m reading on this chart, you are about to go into a massive heart attack,” he said. I stared at him. What the heck was he talking about? He showed me the paper, a bunch of gibberish. “Your heart rate is exceeding 150 and accelerating,” he continued. “I strongly recommend that you be admitted to an emergency room immediately.”

I can’t remember exactly how I reacted. It was nothing dramatic. Probably just gaped at him. I was pretty exhausted emotionally already, from other things. And now I was having a heart attack? It was all just surreal, looking back. I finally asked him. And how am I going to get there? “I would like to call an ambulance,” he said. Meanwhile, the nurse rushed about and poured four aspirins into a little cup. “Take those aspirins,” the doctor said, looking at me strangely. “Are you feeling any pain in your chest at all? Any tightness? Any sweating?” No, I said. I don’t feel anything other than usual. No pain, no tightness. He wouldn’t believe me, though. “I strongly recommend that you get to an emergency room, right now, the closest one,” he repeated. “Do I have your permission to call an ambulance?”

Well, what are you going to do in a moment like that? I couldn’t think straight. I sure didn’t feel like any heart attack was coming on. But those charts wouldn’t lie. And the stress of it all made my heart flutter straight up. All right, I said. Call the ambulance. Someone rushed off to do that. I sat there. “Don’t move at all,” the doctor said. “Just stay sitting right there.” You mean I can’t even walk out? I asked in disbelief. “No, they’ll bring the stretcher in for you,” he answered. The doctor left the room, then. The nurse stayed right there, looking at me intently. I’m sure she was expecting me to collapse, clutching my chest, at any second.

Within minutes, you could hear the sirens. Coming closer and closer, then turning in. You always hear those in the distance, and wonder what poor soul is going down now. This time, it was me. The door opened down the hall, and I could hear them clumping in. It was all very surreal, but I’m trying to tell it just as I remember. And then two men appeared, a lady behind them. The men dragged a gurney. They clanked it around and set it up and jacked it up and moved it over to where I sat. I couldn’t believe this. I could just as well have walked out. They finally nudged it close, and I shifted over. They took to strapping me in. Of course, my heart was going crazy like a trip hammer, by now. Fluttering way out there, into the ether.

And then we trundled out. I sat there, totally alert, and totally not having a heart attack, as we approached the ambulance. “There will be a little bump, here, now,” one of the men said. And they yanked me up. They were really good at what they do, I’ll give them that. My left arm was immediately stabbed by a large needle of some sort. The man on my left hung some sort of little bag up on a hook. And connected the hose to the needle. And that started the continuous, ominous flow of drugs that would assault my body for the next two full days. He also clipped a little metal wash pin to one of my fingers. That took my heart count, and showed it on a screen above and to the front. The man on the right talked to me. Name. Address. Age. Birth date. I spoke to him clearly. I live just down the road, here. And then I told them, told it for the first time to anyone involved in this drama. It was the first time I thought of it.

I’m not having a heart attack. My heart does this all the time. It flutters. It’s done this for years. They absolutely did not believe me. “What’s the rate now?” one of the men asked. “180 and going up,” the other said. “We need to get it settled down.” I’m telling you, it’s not a heart attack, I said again. It was no use.

It took a long time, to get ready to go. Probably at least ten minutes or more. They had to make sure I wouldn’t pass out on their watch. Stabilize me. It was just crazy. At long last they had everything secured, and the woman went up front to drive. The ambulance backed up with a lot of beeping, and shifted around. And then pulled out and headed west for Lancaster General Hospital. The two guys stayed in back with me. They stayed busy, checking things. I sure admire people like that, for all the training they have. And as we bumped along, they tried to keep me talking, to keep me there, alert. That wasn’t any problem at all.

This is my first ambulance ride, ever, I said conversationally. And then we came up to a light. Sadly, the ambulance stopped, just like a normal vehicle. What’s up with that? I asked. Can’t we have sirens, and running red lights, and all? By this time, the guys were lightening up. They’d figured out that I wouldn’t pass out on them, at least not likely. We chatted. I asked what station they were from. I’m going to write this, I told them. I really am. They were from New Holland, of course. And we stopped at another light. I complained again, about there being no sirens and running red lights. The slim guy to the right chuckled. “Look,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to be in the shape you’d have to be for us to do that.” OK, I said. I’ll buy that.

In the meantime, I was making calls. Calling the office. Calling my boss. Calling my brother, Steve. By the time I got hold of Steve, I was pretty convinced of what was going on. They’re taking me in an ambulance, I told him. My heart was fluttering, and the doctor thought it was a heart attack. It’s not. My heart has fluttered like this for years. Steve seemed pretty shocked. I mean, who wouldn’t be, to get a call like that? He said he’d come in and see me as soon as he could.

Somewhere along the way, the slim guy on my right asked what I write. Oh, I wrote a book, I told him. A New York Times bestseller. And I spoke the title. Y’all need to go buy that, I said. “I think my wife might actually have that,” he said. “I’ll check when I get home.” And then we were in Lancaster, and at the hospital that would be my world for the next two days. They pulled up. Opened the doors. Apologized for the bump of unloading. And I was trundled right in. And into a little side room. A team of people waited there.

I wasn’t allowed to get up, or anything. Oh, no. They had to shift me over to the table, like I was a helpless invalid. The doctor stepped up. Nurses swarmed around and stuck in another needle or two, and hooked them to bags hanging from hooks. What in the heck were these people shooting into me? I’m not having a heart attack, I told the doctor. My heart has fluttered like this, off and on, for years. He chuckled. “It couldn’t be beating this fast for very long without being an attack,” he said. It’s done it for years, I said. Meanwhile the nurses were prodding and poking about. “Oh, I like your shoes,” one of them said from the far end of the table. They’re Borns, I said. I walked all over Europe with them last year.

And they took my temperature, blood pressure, the whole works. After a while, an Xray guy popped in. The place was like a zoo. He took Xrays of my chest, from front and back, I think. And soon everyone drifted out. I was all alone, pretty much strapped to a table in the LGH emergency room. Probably the last place I ever could have dreamed of being when I got up that morning. It was just surreal. All of it was. But still, I wasn’t sure. Maybe I was having a real heart attack. I couldn’t see it, though, the more time that passed.

About an hour later, a very distinguished man in suit and tie stepped in, followed by two interns. A real heart doctor. I forget his name. He had reviewed the Xrays. He shook my hand. And he told me what I already knew. “You’re not having a heart attack,” he said. “You have a very strong heart.” And then he pointed out the little details to his interns. This and this and that. You’ll notice such and such. I lay there quietly, like a piece of meat.

Meanwhile, Steve called. I had my cell phone on me. He had my IPad and he was coming in. Where was I? Still in the emergency room, I told him. I’m still sitting here, waiting on a room. If they move me before you come, I’ll call you. About an hour or so later, he showed up. I was still there, on that table. He gave me a hug, and sat down and we just talked. What in the world do you say to your brother, when you’re lying in the emergency room of a hospital like that? Hooked to all kinds of hoses with drugs shooting into you. And right while we were chatting, the orderlies came. A room had finally opened up.

And right here, I’ll say this. The people at LGH are fine, fine people. Courteous. Professional. Friendly. And totally competent. If you ever need your heart worked on, go there. I’ll vouch for them, all the way. I was trundled down the halls and here and there. In and out of elevators. I just laid back and half closed my eyes. By now, the shame of it all was diminishing. I was here. Didn’t want to be here. But I was. This was happening. Might as well try to drink it all in.

And I was settled into a private room at the 1200 level. Steve tagged along, with a little bag holding my IPad and keys. And a few other things. And soon enough, Ben, the nurse, came in to check me in. They were a little befuddled. I had no medical records, anywhere. No family doctor. No nothing. I do have a doctor that has my records. Problem was, I hadn’t been to see him for, oh, at least six, maybe seven years. So my mind just blanked on that. I don’t go to doctors, unless I need to, I told Ben. I try to stay as far away from them as I can. “That’s fine,” he replied. “But we’ll have to go through a few questions, here, to get some information on you.” Ah, good grief. Will it stay private? I asked. “Of course,” Ben said. But those records could still be hacked, I said. But he was patient. And quite humorous and good-natured. And we went right down through the list. It took a few minutes.

Steve decided to leave, soon. We shook hands, and he walked out. The next day, he and Wilma were planning on flying out to Kansas for a wedding. My sister Rachel’s daughter Ida Rose was marrying Jacob Nisly. I had planned to go, but decided not to. Good thing I didn’t, I guess. That would have been a wasted ticket. I told Steve to pass on my greetings to everyone and to congratulate the bride and groom for me. He said he would.

And I settled in for my first night at any hospital. I’ve never ever been admitted before. It’s a brutal place, like a prison. Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s for your own good, at least if you really need to be there. But that doesn’t make it any less a prison. They brought me a tray of food. It was OK, but bland. Of course, I was hooked up to at least two bags of drugs with two different needles stuck into my right arm. That’s how you’re trapped, in a hospital. With those freakin’ intravenous feeding tubes of whatever it is they’re pumping into you. And don’t even pretend you know what all that is.

I settled in, with my IPad. A friend stopped by, for an hour or so. Attendants kept popping in and doing all kinds of things to me. Before anyone did anything, they’d always ask. “What’s your birthdate?” I always told them. And they took my blood pressure and temperature. Stuck the little metal wash pin on a finger, to take my heart rate. And a nice lady stopped by, strapped a long rubber band on my left arm, and stabbed me with a needle. They needed to test my blood. It just went on and on, stuff like this.

My friend left around nine, then. And I was alone. I leaned back on the bed (hospital beds are really cool, that’s one thing I can say. You can contort them to almost any configuration.) and tried to take stock of what the heck had happened and why I was where I was. I could hardly think straight, probably because of all the drugs they were shooting into me. That, and just flat out exhaustion.

Ben the nurse had told me. Tomorrow morning they’d come around. In a hospital, there are two kinds of healers for the heart. The plumbers and the electricians. Plumbers open up your veins. Electricians look to the wiring. Tomorrow they would both come, I was told. And they would consult with me, about what was going on inside me. And decide the best course of action to take. My problem was obviously electrical. I’m sure the plumbers figured I had plenty of problems for them, too.

I dozed off, now and then, as the night came and passed. It’s impossible to sleep in a hospital. Flat out impossible. If the monitor in my room wasn’t beeping wildly, there was another one beeping somewhere real close. And just when you’re finally dozing off, the door opens and someone comes in and does the whole blood pressure/heart rate/temperature thing again.

It wasn’t even fitful sleep. It was just intermittent dozing. The next morning, there was no food. And there had been no water, either, since midnight. Today they planned to probe up a vein in my groin to fix the problem in my heart. I couldn’t have anything in me. The whole morning is just a groggy memory. The electrical people showed up. A doctor and his assistant. Both totally professional and polite. The doctor chuckled a bit. “So you went to check out your red eye, and landed up in the emergency room. Heh, heh.” Yeah, I said ruefully. That’s exactly what happened. I kept trying to tell them. No one would believe me.

And he told me. I had what was called “atrial flutter.” Where the top part of the heart just ran wild, on its own. The bottom couldn’t keep up, which made a real good scenario for a blood clot stroke. And no, my blood-red left eye had nothing to do with any of that. They told me what they wanted to do. And they really felt there would be no problem, fixing my heart. It was a pretty simple procedure, I was assured. They would go up a vein in my groin, and do an ablation, whatever that is. Tweak what needed tweaking. And it would happen that afternoon. Maybe I’d be able to get out that evening. Strangely, no plumbers ever arrived. I guess they found very little to no plaque in my veins. So there was no need for them.

They needed some more inside data, so I was trundled off again, soon. An echo-gram, I think they call it. The guy bastes you with some sort of schmutz, and takes all kinds of detailed pics. All throughout, I hated to think of what all this was costing anyone. Sure, I have insurance. With a pretty high deductible, I forget how high. I’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Anyway, this new scan was downstairs, close to the operating room. So after it was done, they rolled me over to the holding area. It was probably eleven o’clock. And the operation would come at two. So there were three hours to kill. And there I lay, on a stretcher table. Hooked to a monitor that kept beeping loud warnings, because my heart kept jumping way up beyond safe measures. I couldn’t eat anything. And I couldn’t even have a drop of water for my parched throat. There was no way to sleep. There was no way to do anything but just lay there.

I stirred, finally. Rang the bell. The nurse arrived promptly. I’m thinking I should make some phone calls before heading into surgery, I told her. Is there any way that someone could fetch my IPhone from my room? She never hesitated. “Of course,” she said. “I’ll go get it myself.” I hate to make you do that, I said. Can’t you just call up there and have someone bring it down? “No, it’s no problem,” she said. And off she went.

Meanwhile, the anaesthetist arrived, a nice friendly man. Everyone was nice and friendly. He needed information. Everyone needed information. He had a clipboard, and he told me of all the possible risks involved. It’s not near as dangerous as it used to be, to go under like that. But still. You never know. Once in a while, someone doesn’t come back. He was quite jocular and witty. And totally professional. All LGH people are, from what I can tell. He had me read through a form then, and sign off. I did so wearily.

The nurse returned soon, with my phone. Before I could call anyone, the phone rang. It was Titus. He’d heard. I told him what was going on, and we talked for a few minutes. We hung up. And Steve called, too, right then, to touch base. Then Marvin Yutzy called, from Kansas. And we talked. I told him what was coming, and he said his Dad had had the same thing done to him. The people were gathering at his place tonight, he said. The guests for the wedding tomorrow. He wished me well, said they’d be praying for me, and we hung up.

And it felt good, that they called. I hadn’t thought about it much. I don’t like to bother people, when I’m in a place like that. Never have. I never even bothered to call my pastor, Mark Potter. Not that I wouldn’t have. I just didn’t think of it. It’s always a serious thing, when your heart gets operated on, when any outside foreign object touches it. You never know what could go wrong. And I thought of it, of course, that I might not return. But the odds were pretty slim, and it didn’t bother me all that much. I’ve always been alone, all my life, in such situations. I don’t know any other way. And here I was, alone again, going into surgery. They had asked me. “Will anyone be coming to be with you?” And I told them. No.

Sure, there was a sliver of fear down there, way down deep. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. I very much wanted to live. Still, if something happened, I was pretty calm, thinking about it. I knew who I was, and I knew I was my Father’s son. Nothing would ever take that bond away. Nothing. That comes out of my own experiences. And it comes right out of Pastor Mark Potter’s preaching. And it was a beautiful thing, in that moment, to hold on to. A strong and beautiful thing. Even so, I was just too exhausted to think about it much.

And just before two, just like she’d promised, the operating room nurse came to fetch me. She was all cheerful. As she pushed me out, she proclaimed, “I hear you’re a famous author.” Who told you that? I asked. I sure never told anyone in this place. It was another nurse, who happened to attend the same church as my brother, Steve. Somehow, that nurse had seen my name and told this nurse. Well, yeah, I wrote a bestseller, I said. But it was a miracle, the way it happened.

It wasn’t far, to the operating room. A big old cold place. A large team of people awaited me. They were all smiling and cheerful. They slid me over onto the table, and took to placing all kinds of pillows and cushions everywhere, to position my body the way they wanted it. “We hear you’re a famous author,” they said, smiling. “You wrote a bestseller.” Yeah, I grunted. I did. “He said it was a miracle,” the nurse told them. And then the anaesthetist’s assistant stepped up. Swabbed a spot on my right leg. Earlier, back in the holding area, the main man had told me I’d feel a slight sting. The assistant scrubbed around a bit, then she dropped something on the floor. They had to go over to their supplies and get the replacement of what she’d dropped. I lay there, just trying to be aware of everything. Then I saw her, holding the hose. And then I felt a slight sting on my leg. It happened just like I’d been told. My last memory was of her standing there, holding something to my leg. And feeling that little sting. There was no fading out. It just went dark. Instantly. There is no other way to describe that.

I woke up, I don’t know how long later, in the recovery room. I wasn’t startled, or anything, about where I was. All kinds of patches were taped to my chest, hooked by wires to a small pocket monitor beside me on the bed. They noticed soon enough that I was back, and came to return me to my room. As we trundled along, I reached over and felt my right pulse. For the first time in years, my heart was beating in steady, evenly-spaced thumps. They had done it. The electricians had done it.

Back in my room, they brought me food. And water. I drank and drank glass after glass. I was on strict bed rest for four hours, until 8:30. What if I need to use the bathroom? I asked the nurse. “We’ll bring you a bed pan,” she said. Then I’ll wait, I said. A friend stopped by for a while that evening. And right about then, I got a text from my tenant. He wondered if I was OK. He hadn’t seen me around, and the truck hadn’t moved in a few days. Drat, I thought. I forgot to let him know. So I called him right away.

I told him where I was and what had happened. He was all sympathetic. “Hate to tell you this, but you got problems with your water system again,” he said. “It’s all muddy, coming out from anywhere. I think your softener system is shot. I can’t tell for sure, because I can’t get into the basement. You better call your plumber buddy back.” I groaned. Then I said I would, thanked him, and hung up.

Come on, Lord, can’t you give me a break, here? I thought. What is this, my freakin’ “Job” moment? Haven’t I been through enough of those in my life already? Or is it just me, banging my head against the walls? But come on. I mean, I’m about shot here, in the hospital. I’ve had some real rough days, lately. I’m laid out here, flat on my back, all strung out and helpless on a hospital bed, with a heart that needed some tweaking, to get to working right. And now, right this moment, my water system goes bad? What’s next? Is my truck gonna collapse for no reason, too? Can’t you just see fit to not pour it on so strong? And no, I didn’t feel one bit guilty, either, talking to God like that. I mean, if you can’t be honest with Him, if you can’t tell Him when you’re all pissed off and hurting and scared, what kind of relationship is that?

And right there, from my hospital bed, I called my buddy, the plumber, Dwylin Flaud. Left a voicemail. He texted back that he was at his daughter’s softball game, and that he’d call me as soon as he could. An hour or so later, he did. And I told him where I was and what had happened with my heart. I know you’re totally busy tomorrow, but is there any way you could go out and at least patch things up so they work for now? I asked. He was all sympathetic that I was in the hospital like that. “Yeah, I’d promised someone else I’d stop by, but this is more important,” he said. “I’ll try to push that one back and stop by. I’ll get the tenant to help me.” I told him where the key was to get in, thanked him profusely and hung up. And the next day he did what he’d promised. Went out and bypassed the softener system. He called me when he was done. He’d had to go through the whole house and drain all the pipes from the dirty softener sediment. And he would stop by within a week or so, and replace the whole thing. I sagged with relief. Thank you so much, thank you, I said. Just send me the bill. And I thought to myself, as we hung up. He’s a good man. It pays to have good connections.

The second night was a little less stressful than the first. I was hooked up to only one bag of drugs, and I could move about the room pretty freely. Still, it was hard to get to sleep, because something was always beeping somewhere. Plus, I’d had a good two-plus hour nap that day, when they put me under. So I took my IPad and started writing this blog. And people popped in at all odd hours to poke and prod and take my blood pressure and draw more blood and such. Dawn finally arrived. Today I would get back home, one way or the other. If they wouldn’t release me, I would walk out. I was pretty determined about that.

My friend Gloria came by around 9:00. She would take me home. And I told her I wanted her to be there, when they explained the drugs they were giving me. Especially Coumadin. The blood thinner they claimed I needed. I understand little about such stuff, except I don’t like the sound of it. I was too groggy to grasp instructions. (All I know is I can’t take my Superfood. I’ve taken that stuff twice a day for ten years, and now I can’t, because it counteracts the Coumadin. And now my body’s screaming for it. It makes me crazy.) And soon enough, my buddy Ben the nurse popped in. The guy who had checked me in would check me out. I grumbled pretty savagely at him. This place is a freakin’ prison. He took it all good-naturedly enough. The doctor stopped by, and went over things with me.

At around ten, Ben released me from all intravenous tubes. I was free to get up and walk around. Can I go for a walk around the halls? I asked him. “Yes, I want you to,” he said. So I went, and just walked. And walked and walked. I never ever figured it could feel so free, to just walk around a hospital. Of course, I promptly got lost. After much meandering, I stopped at some station. I’m lost, I said. I don’t even remember my room number for sure, except it’s in the low 1200s. The ladies laughed and laughed, and made a few phone calls. One of them led me back to the general vicinity of my room, and pointed me the right way.

Around 11:30, Ben unhooked all the heart monitor valves from my chest, and tore off all the little tapes they connect to. I was free to change back to my real clothes. I wasted no time, doing that. And right at 12, Gloria and I walked from the hospital into a beautiful sunny day. I kept exclaiming as we drove along Rt. 23 toward home. It’s all so simple and all so beautiful. And then we pulled into my drive. I walked into my home. I have never been happier to walk through those doors. If they ever drag me back to any hospital again, I think I’ll have to be unconscious.

Maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe they don’t. From here, I think of a few things. My cousin, Elmo Stoll, a prolific Amish/Seeker writer and leader, passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack at age fifty-four. Just a couple of years older than me. Maybe I was living on borrowed time, with my flutter heart. Who knows? Maybe I needed all that drama to nudge me down the right path, to get my heart taken care of. At this point, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good, fretting about any of it. It all happened as it did. But still, I wonder.

What are the chances that it all was supposed to happen this way? That I would bust my eye, for whatever reason. And when I went to check it out, my flutter heart randomly shot up and way out of control. Thus the frantic call to the ambulance, the brutal two-day stay at LGH, and the people there who fixed my heart. There are a whole lot of other ways of looking at it all, sure. But that’s one way. Of course, my heart could give out tomorrow. There is no promise of any future on this earth. I have a better grasp of that than I’ve ever had before, believe me.

I’m in a new place, now. And not because I want to be. Seems like I always have to be dragged kicking and screaming through the next door. It’s a strange place I’ve never seen before, a world of little pink and blue and white pills. And yeah, it’s a little scary. More than a little. I’m just kind of moving around real slow, feeling my way through the fog, trying to get my bearings, trying to clear my head, to figure out where I am, who to believe, and what’s going on. Right now, I trust nothing that anyone tells me without first sifting it through some serious filters of my own.

But I’ll keep walking. I always have. All in all, I’m just grateful that my flutter heart held out for as long as it did on its own. And I am grateful for all of life. For the beauty and the madness and the pain of it. But especially for the beauty.

And today, I am grateful for my new heart.



  1. Coumadin is rat poison. Really, it is. Just a low dose.

    Glad you’re okay, Ira. Got lost and forgot your room number; that’s a good chuckle.

    Comment by LeRoy — March 28, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

  2. Good one Wags. I’m an RN, I used to work in the OR. This one really spoke to me.

    Comment by Cori — March 28, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

  3. I just downed an entire cocktail of laughter and tears.

    Comment by Rhonda — March 28, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

  4. Ira-God makes NO mistakes!!!!We are so greatful that you are feeling better, after experiencing all that you had to go through. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.Blessings-Barry and June.

    Comment by June Kinsey — March 28, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

  5. “Right now, I trust nothing that anyone tells me without first sifting it through some serious filters of my own.”

    Boy, I resonate with that.

    Also … if God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” I’m sure all things happen for a reason. But as to what that reason is? I don’t think we generally have the foggiest notion.

    Last thought … I bet Dr. Schulze is praying for you too. His revenue stream wants you back on that SuperFood!

    Blessings, brother.

    Comment by Jay — March 28, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

  6. That was quite a story – very engrossing, thought provoking, sad and happy. I like all your writing but this was a life and death story that captured my attention immediately.

    Comment by carol — March 28, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

  7. Wow! I followed on Facebook, the snippets you shared, but had no idea of the bigger picture. It’s a captivating read, in every way, but above all I am so thankful you are okay. I have a hunch you are right, that it all needed to happen and was most likely God’s way of extending your life. And welcome to the world of little pills. I remember how daunting it was, after I survived the Widow Maker heart attack. Numb and scared hardly describes it. (Especially since I really hate pills!) But I was just thinking this week that it’s been over 7 years now, and it’s just routine now, with no thought given to it any more. Be encouraged. :)

    Comment by Trudy Metzger — March 28, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  8. I saw one of my best friends in the hospital with tubes and needles and beeps and buzzers. It looked like he may not make it. He didn’t. I swore right then and there that I would never take another day of life for granted. That was 12 years ago and I don’t think I’ve missed a day of thanking the Lord for another day of life. Every day is a gift. (My friend was hit by a car as he rode his bicycle to Kidron.)

    Almost forgot: Great blog, Ira! I’m glad your heart is better than ever!

    Comment by John Schmid — March 28, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

  9. Ira, I can relate to most of your experience, in 2008 I got tire easy, went to the Doctor and he gave a EKG, came up good. Couple weeks later I complain again, another EKG, that one turn out good. I kept complaining and at last I was sent for a stress test and fail it. Long story short, still have a good heart, due to no heart attack, but had to have a tripple bypass. As to your statement about a purpose, here is something that I came across shortly after I came home from the hospital.
    “There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own HEART.”
    In Gods world everything has a Purpose! Take Care, Thank God everything turn out all Right for you.

    Comment by Warren — March 28, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

  10. The things that God puts us through just so we can have a little heart to heart talk with Him and make us realize how much we appreciate our lives are awesome. You were in His hands and in our prayers. You are so blessed to have so many people who care about you, and now you know. God bless you Ira Wagler, and whatever was making you sad is all in the past.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — March 28, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

  11. I love stories that show how God uses the mundane to accomplish the massive. And His interweaving of the emotional, mental, and physical aspects of our lives with the spiritual. Your post documents that beautifully. Powerful stuff.

    “….and I knew I was my Father’s son.” – sheer beauty.

    Comment by Ava — March 28, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

  12. You are a lucky man. Thanks for sharing this, cause we were really worried for you.

    Comment by pizzalady — March 29, 2014 @ 12:51 am

  13. What a powerful story, Ira. Thank God you are on the road to recovery. He gave you that blood shot eye so you would get your heart taken care of. Your mission on earth is not yet complete. It is amazing how God touches us when we least expect it. Welcome to the world of little pills every day. You will get used to it. Take care of yourself and I hope you find peace within you. God loves you. You are in my prayers.

    Comment by Rosanna — March 29, 2014 @ 12:59 am

  14. Glad to hear you’re doing okay! In this age of reality shows I think that two day show could have been quite successful! Then again who would want to be a successful author and actor… :)

    Comment by Dave — March 29, 2014 @ 3:44 am

  15. I was wondering why you hadn’t written on your blog and now I know why. You did have quite a story to tell. You mentioned that you hadn’t really been around to a dr. for at least 7 yrs and as far as you were concerned you were going to keep it that way. You were used to your heart like it was. I have a younger brother that had the same things with his heart and he doesn’t feel anything wrong or won’t feel it. He has been living on borrowed time for sometime and still worries about who will pay for everything, it is an inconvenience and who knows what all he comes up with to stay away from drs. By the way, I enjoy your PA dutch words that show up sometimes. I hope your recovery will go well and be open to going to a dr. when needed.

    Comment by marye maarsen — March 29, 2014 @ 5:11 am

  16. And I thought you were just taking a break. You have described the hospital experience and the ambulance ride very well. My ambulance ride felt like being on a log wagon, terrible. Life does take some unexpected and surprising turns when you see the Lord’s work up close. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Linda Ault — March 29, 2014 @ 9:37 am

  17. I’m so glad you are doing better! I had a similar experience three years ago. Please be checked for sleep apnea.

    Comment by Margaret — March 29, 2014 @ 11:15 am

  18. I agree with your readers! You are a great story-teller! I thoroughly enjoy all your writings! May our Lord give you many healthy years ahead.

    Comment by Jane Goforth — March 29, 2014 @ 11:15 am

  19. Oh, my. I was wondering where you’ve been. With Ben, it seems, and the other doctors and nurses on your team. What a story teller. I was sure you would succeed in talking and walking your way out of there, stubborn man that you are sometimes, and I was also sure it would not be in your best interest to do that. However, I am also married to a stubborn man who knows everything and he is about to go several rounds at Johns Hopkins–I can only wish him and his doctors the best. Ira, you scared me. Now be good! I guess this means no scrapple.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — March 29, 2014 @ 11:47 am

  20. Ira, I just finished your book last week. It was great; thanks for sharing your story! Yesterday I discovered your blog. Wow…. what a wild ride you have just been on! I don’t believe that your eye was a coincidence, but rather a GODincidence. Fortunately you are still here to write about your experience! I believe your heart has been weary in more ways than one. May this be a turning point and may you feel the “Peace that passes all understanding.”

    Comment by Terri Haven — March 29, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

  21. FYI- As a nurse, Vitamin K counteracts the Coumadin.

    You can have your superfood which has a lot of vitamin K, as long as you eat the same amount of vitamin K in your foods (including superfood) every day. The physician will be able to regulate the coumadin to compensate for the routine vitamin K.

    However, coumadin regulation is very difficult when you change the amount of vitamin K that you eat in your food in a day. The physician cannot regulate the coumadin for varying amounts of vitamin K, only for routine amounts of vitamin K.

    Bleeding or clots that can kill/destroy are the consequences of poor Coumadin regulation. So the stakes are high related to non-compliance.

    Some practitioners try to simplify it, and say avoid high vitamin K foods. But vitamin K is an essentional vitamin, and we are all healthier when we include enough vitamin K in our diet.

    Regarding the Blog- I love the transparency, humor, and fearlessness with which you write. As a sister in Christ, consider laying off the booze for a year, and see if you prefer a life lived fully. I don’t want you to miss a thing!

    Comment by Kathy Dean — March 30, 2014 @ 12:10 am

  22. Ira, I’m so glad you are home now! As we get older, problems with the “ticker” are nothing to be swept under the carpet. I’m so glad you got the help you needed. Recently, I had an experience where I (and my insurance company’s nurse) thought I may be having a heart attack. Turned out it was probably just a panic attack, but at the same time, they discovered that I did indeed have some kind of “event” years ago. I remember that “event,” but at the time I had no insurance and I was scared to even call a doctor, so I ignored it.

    I spent 24 hours in the hospital and got lots of checks and tests, and plenty of needle pokes and sticky monitors placed on me. Later, I went to a cardiac center where they did an ultrasound examination of my heart and a treadmill stress test. Fortunately, nothing was wrong and they pronounced me healthy. Not only was that a relief in and of itself, it also was valuable information that I can use to monitor my anxiety levels.

    Anyway, I’m delighted that you are home and safe, and that your good friend the plumber took care of your tenant’s water system. Oy, vey iz mir…just what you needed while you were stuck in the hospital! When it rains, it pours, as you so aptly pointed out in your conversation with God. Angels are all around us, even those who come in the form of a man with skills regarding water softening equipment!

    Comment by Selah Gitlin — March 30, 2014 @ 4:14 am

  23. Ira, bless your little heart. Literally.

    Most of the stuff I was going to write has already been mentioned: booze, excellent description of the hospital, needles, no sleep, it being a God thing, what a great writer and story teller you are.

    Well, there’s this, “I’ve always been alone, all my life, in such situations.” “And here I was, alone again, going into surgery.” Ouch! I hated reading that. I know what that feels like. But as I continued to read I saw a great support system set up. Gloria picked you up and took you home, your brother, Steve, came to you and hugged you, your tenant…well, I could clobber him. No, to be fair he’s brought much good into your life, even if his timing does stink. Your readers were concerned for you. (Man, you got us trained). I would say there are a lot of people that love you and are there for you. And just so you know, when you reach out to people when your hurting either emotionally or physically, you’re blessing them. When one of my friends calls and needs to let loose I feel so privileged that they chose me to see what’s in their heart. It’s very fulfilling.

    Why were you brooding so, my friend? For weeks even! Deep shame you said. What have you done that the rest of us have not? We’ve all done shameful things, stupid things, mean things. We’ve all been selfish and self-centered, said things we wished we had not. If you’re able to, apologize if that’s what’s required. And always keep your nose in The Word. It will fill you up and keep your eyes on truth and peace and Love.

    The car just missing you a few weeks back and the bloody eye incident…I’ll tell you what it means. This is what God is saying to you: “Ira, my beloved child with the sensitive and compassionate heart…how I love you. Oh, how I love you. I want you to know I’m with you, every moment of the day, every second of the night. I’m with you when you’re lonely, I’m holding you when you forget how wonderful and special you are to me and to others. You are mine. I know the number of hairs on your head. I created you in your mother’s womb. By the way, I’m with her too. Loving her. I’m protecting you, my amazing child. Nothing will ever come between the love I have for you. I will never abandon you though many have. Never will I. I love it when you’re honest with me, when you come to me. You are a beautiful work created by my hand and together we are still creating. I love you, Ira. I always have and I always will.”

    I love this song- “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. Maybe you will, too.

    Comment by Francine — March 31, 2014 @ 2:02 am

  24. A story of fear and survival, hope and understanding. It brought back the days of working that med-surg unit at Sarasota Memorial on the 7th floor in the early 80’s. Back when I was in my help save the world phase and it was good. Some of the first end stage HIV positive people were showing up and it freaked us out, there were so many unknowns. An isolation room, me donning gloves, mask and gown as I went in to hang I V piggy back meds, keeping a wary eye out lest some of them in their dementia would try to spit or scratch. The bleach spray bottle was always at the ready in the corner. I have done my time in hospitals and institutions, have seen the suffering and fears and have met a lot of good people and a share of jack asses too.It all became some what wearying and fearful, tiring, the thots of having seen it all.

    There was an 11 year break with a new career with a very large trucking company here in Phoenix, a brief over the road and a decade at the terminal, driving mostly, local and yard. When it ended, a refresher course for the license and back into healthcare. And that’s where it’s at today, home health, a good job. That Class A CDL is still in my pocket, still valid just in case. Sometimes I miss sitting in front of something 65 feet long, about 40 tons, rolling down the road. Thanks IRA, for saying it well. I relate to Neil Young when he sings about that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger in the end and I believe that’s where most of us are today. Machts gute.

    Comment by lenny — March 31, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  25. Came down here to say the exact same thing that Kathy Dean said about Greens/Vitamin K and Coumadin. A supplement like that is fine, because you can take the exact same amount every day. Actually, as this article explains, a regular dose of Vitamin K makes managing Coumadin dose easier, not harder.
    Take care and do be aware that there are alternatives to Coumadin for long term therapy. Rosanna, an herbalist.

    Comment by Rosanna — April 2, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

  26. Just wanted to say that I am the Rosanna in #13 and not the Rosanna in #25.

    Comment by Rosanna — April 2, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

  27. thanks for clarifying Rosanna #13.
    I enjoy meeting up with other Rosanna’s though it can get confusing at times when you’re in the same church etc. I’m from Lancaster Co. Pa. how about you?
    Rosanna #25

    Comment by rosanna — April 2, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  28. All comments are welcome from all perspectives, whether your name is Rosanna or not :)

    Comment by admin — April 2, 2014 @ 8:18 pm

  29. :)

    Comment by rosanna — April 2, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

  30. To Rosanna #25 from Lancaster, I am from Georgia and I will be known as Rosanna F. from now on. Good to meet you.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — April 4, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

  31. Ira, you have been given “advice” about the vitamin K in your drink from some posters here, but I strongly hope you’ll check with the doctor before you change anything in your diet. Get yourself on an even keel before asking about changes, huh? Glad to know you are well.

    Comment by Erin — April 7, 2014 @ 11:14 am

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