The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jul. 30, 2021

Staying fit saves retired city worker’s life

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Retired city worker Jake Trisel credits the fact that he has been an active walker and biker over more than two decades for his miraculous recovery from serious heart problems that nearly killed him in 2020.

“I’m just thankful that I made it through and I’m here,” he said during a recent interview. “It’s just amazing that you get a second chance.”

In Trisel’s case, however, the fact that he has been active for most of this life — including walking and biking more than 38,000 miles over the past 23 years — no doubt played a big part in his recovery.

Trisel, who retired from the Van Wert City Street Department 17 years ago, was having kidney stone surgery in June 2020 when doctors diagnosed him with atrial defibrillation — a condition that results in an irregular heart rhythm and often leads to heart attacks.

Doctors scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist for July 21, 2020, but, two weeks prior to that appointment, Trisel had two heart attacks.

“I was struggling to breathe and my heart was racing, so I went to the Van Wert hospital’s ER,” he said.

Because of the seriousness of Trisel’s condition, the Van Wert ER doctor had Trisel life-flighted to Lima Memorial Hospital, where cardiologists there, consulting with other cardiologists at Ohio State University Medical Center, first tried putting in stents in his heart, but couldn’t do so because his heart was so weak. With one artery blocked 100 percent and another blocked 80 percent, Trisel’s heart was only functioning at 10-15 percent of its capacity.

In fact, Trisel nearly died that day as his heart went into cardiac arrest twice, once before the stent surgery and the second time during surgery. Doctors revived him both times and then used medication to clear the blockages.

Trisel was taken off a ventilator that was helping him breathe on Thursday, two days after surgery, and, after physical and occupational therapists came in on Friday and had him up and walking, he was released from the hospital that Saturday.

On that Monday, he was fitted with a “life vest” that monitored his vital functions and sent the results to doctors. It also had a defibrillator built in to give his heart shocks if it malfunctioned.

However, the Jake Trisel who went home that Saturday in 2020 was not the man who had walked and biked 38,000 miles. He was incredibly weak and fearful that he would never be able to do the things he once had. Sitting in his recliner and looking out the window, he saw a man mowing his lawn, and, remembering that he had regularly mowed 25 lawns weekly before his heart attacks, wondered if he ever would again.

“I started feeling sorry for myself, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do any of that again,” he said. “Then I said to myself, ‘wait a minute, that’s not my way of thinking; I have two choices: feel sorry for myself or get up and start moving’.”

Trisel said that that first walk was more like the shuffling of Tim Conway in the “Carol Burnett Show” –incredibly slow.

“It took me forever to get to the bathroom,” he said of that first walk.

He then began walking further: to the bedroom, the kitchen, the end of the driveway, the end of the street, to church and back, and kept increasing the distance each week.

Home health nurses also had come to his house twice a week for several weeks, while physical and occupational therapists also did home visits and had Trisel do a variety of exercises and moves. After a couple of weeks, the therapists and nurses said they didn’t need to come back. He was doing well.

Just after his surgery, cardiologists said that they wanted his heart function back up to 35-40 percent before they could put in a pacemaker, while adding they felt that was asking a lot, considering the condition his heart was in.

However, when Trisel next went for a check-up a few weeks later, the doctor looked at him strangely and asked: “what have you been doing?”

Thinking he was in trouble, he told them of the exercise and the walks he had been taking to strengthen his heart.

“That’s amazing!” he said the doctor told him, while adding that Trisel’s heart function had increased to 45-50 percent in those few weeks.

With his heart strong again, Trisel had the pacemaker implanted on September 16, 2020, and today walks or bikes 8 miles daily to keep in shape, along with a return to mowing those lawns.

“It’s amazing that, when I do go somewhere and someone sees me, they comment on how good and healthy I look,” the retired city worker said. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to even comprehend that I had two heart attacks.”

While thanking the doctors and nurses for his care, and noting he still has ongoing kidney stone issues, although now largely controlled through medication, Trisel also said is thankful to God for giving him a second chance and allowing him to help others to always believe that miracles do happen.

“I thank all those who helped me through this challenging time: my doctors, friends, family — especially my wife, Lisa — and, most importantly, God,” he said.

Trisel said he feels being active all his life played a big role in his speedy recovery, adding that it is so important for people to keep active and go to the doctor — especially as they age.

“Your body is just like a machine; Trisel said, “you have to take care of it.”

As someone who is unusually fit for his 78 years, Trisel is a living testament to that advice.

POSTED: 06/13/21 at 11:29 pm. FILED UNDER: News