Mending a broken heart: Deb Gleckler still recovering from heart attack in 2000

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

It was Dec. 31, 1999. The world was on the brink of a new millennium, and, like most people, Wauseon residents Deb and Richard Gleckler were celebrating.

They had just returned home from dinner and were preparing to attend a gathering at Richard’s brother’s house when Deb, who grew up east of Morenci, complained that her acid reflux disease was especially bad.heart_lady2

“I’ve always had acid reflux, sometimes with pain I’d call ‘searing,’” she said, “but this was way more intense than usual, to the point where I thought I needed to go to the hospital.”

She collapsed during the car ride to the emergency room.

She awoke a helicopter ride and six days later in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Toledo.

At the age of 44, Deb, who had previously considered herself in good health, suffered a massive heart attack—one so severe that doctors immediately placed her atop the list of people in need of a heart transplant.

“My kids kept telling me when I finally came to that I was not Y2K compliant,” she said.

The heart Deb was born with continues to tick. As the weeks passed, her condition improved and she fell further and further down the list. Currently, she is not on the list at all, but it won’t stay that way forever. Her heart continues to weaken.

Deb suffers from congestive heart failure, which occurs when the heart can’t pump blood out as quickly as it pumps it in. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart failure is a chronic condition that gradually becomes worse, and that by the time it’s diagnosed, the patient’s heart has probably been losing pumping capacity for his or her entire life.

The disease is caused and exacerbated by a variety of factors, such as birth defects, genetic risks, high blood pressure or cholesterol, poor nutrition, and smoking.

Deb smoked at the time of her heart attack, but thinks genetics were the ultimate cause—her father, Arlington Frantz, suffered a heart attack at the relatively young age of 50, but didn’t survive.

Nevertheless, she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since her attack—quitting smoking was just one of the many lifestyle changes she has made since learning of her condition.

REHABILITATION—Rehabilitation began days after she was moved from the intensive care unit, as nurses pulled her to her feet with instructions to climb stairwells and walk up and down hallways.

After her discharge from the hospital, she was assigned to a rehabilitation program at the Fulton County Medical Center. As a mother who had raised four girls and ran her own flower shop, Deb wasn’t used to feeling so feeble. At first, she lasted only two or three minutes on the exercise bike and treadmill.

It was hard to keep from falling into depression, which is something many heart attack survivors experience, she said.

One casualty of the heart attack was Deb’s flower shop, “The Flower Lady,” which the Glecklers closed during the rehabilitation process. As she got better, they made an attempt to reopen but it didn’t work out.

“It became very apparent very quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, for reasons of stress and other things,” she said.

“I lost the whole person I was before,” she said. “I can’t run around and do everything I want to do.”

Doctors have instructed her to stay in during periods of extreme weather, like the cold spell earlier this month. Performing normal yardwork like shoveling snow and lugging mulch is also out of the question.

“It’s almost like a grief at losing someone,” she continued.

“To this day, I can’t walk on the treadmill at an inclined angle.”

DIET—As a country girl raised on beef and mashed potatoes, the switch to more healthful eating habits was also difficult.

She attended classes about maintaining low cholesterol, low blood pressure, and a proper diet, and began eating more fish, chicken and fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Canned and  processed foods contain a lot of preservatives, especially salt,” she said.

The Glecklers don’t put salt on any foods anymore—not even mashed potatoes. Cheese and sour cream are absent from baked potatoes.

The family’s barbecue grill has also seen a lot more action since the attack.

“It’s much more healthy to grill foods than to pan fry them. I don’t eat anything fried at all,” Deb said.

Occasionally, she’ll indulge in a few chips, but will only eat, at most, half the serving size suggested on the back of the package.

EXERCISE—She complements her diet with daily exercise—a mile walk on the treadmill, plus twice-weekly visits to the Fulton County Health Center’s heart rehabilitation center, where she does strength and cardiovascular exercises with a group of men who also suffer from heart health issues.

But where are all the women?

According to an AHA fact sheet, women are more likely to die from their first heart attack than men are. The AHA attributes this to a variety of factors—heart disease is often misdiagnosed in women; women usually suffer attacks later in life, so they’re more likely to have conditions that could mask the attack, such as osteoporosis and arthritis; women are more likely to complain of atypical pains when suffering attacks rather than “classic” chest pains.

EDUCATE—As soon as she was healthy enough to do so, Deb began participating in events aimed to raise consciousness about the risks of heart disease in women, and of the disease’s general risks. It is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, according to the AHA.

The first event she attended, a 2001 5K walk in Toledo, was a milestone for her rehabilitation.

“Not many rehab people participate because they aren’t able to,” she said. “I was glad I could get out there and do the walk.”

At first, she walked alone. Then one of her daughters joined her. Then another. Now a good portion of her extended family—four children and their spouses, along with six grandchildren—participate in walks for heart health all over Ohio. Deb has also spoken to members of her church about her condition.

“We’ll go out and do anything to promote heart health,” she said. “Education is the biggest thing.”

THE FUTURE—Patients who suffer congestive heart failure are typically given  five years to live after the attack episode, Deb said.

Now, in year seven of her rehabilitation, she remains aware, enthusiastic and mobile, well enough to work a part-time job at “Anything Grows” and babysit her six grandchildren.

“Every single day I’m alive and with my family and my church community is a gift from God,” she said. “After all, he is the one in control of when it’s time for me to go.”

She doesn’t plan on ever reaching the level of fitness she enjoyed before the heart attack—her heart only beats with about half the efficiency of a healthy one, and will continue to get worse.

However, she said, it’s important not to live by such numbers and to continue to focus on staying healthy.

“Eventually, my heart will get to a point where I have to go back on the [transplant] list and we will cross that bridge when we come to it,” she said, “but there is nothing I can do about it now except for what I am doing.”

    – Feb. 21, 2007

 

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017