Eugene man recovering after barbed wire lodges in his heart
EUGENE, Ore. - It turned out to be an unusual Sunday morning on Wayne Wiser's filbert farm.
On July 15, Wiser was using a tractor to mow his 15-acre orchard in north Eugene when something caught his eye. He got off the tractor, with the rear-mounted mower still running, to take a closer look.
"I saw a piece of metal, which happened to be barbed wire, and I bent over to pick it up," Wiser, 62, said. "Next thing I know, it exploded in my hand."
Wiser believes that the wire had been close to the so-called flail mower, which uses T- or Y-shaped pieces of metal attached to a rotating drum to cut everything that comes into its path. Wiser thinks that when he picked up the wire, it was inadvertently pulled into the mower and instantly chopped.
An 1-inch length piece of the barbed wire became a projectile that went into his rib cage, moved through one of his lungs and embedded in the center of his heart.
"I thought I just got hit with rocks," Wiser said.
So he hopped back on his tractor and continued mowing.
Twenty minutes later, however, Wiser looked down to see his shirt was soaked with blood. He walked back to his home, which sits on 30-acres along Prairie Road. Wiser lives with his wife and two children, as well as his 84-year-old mother.
Despite having trouble breathing at that point, Wiser said, "I didn't want to go to the hospital. I thought I just had a cracked rib."
But his family insisted, so Wiser drove himself to McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in his pickup truck. What happened next was a blur, he said.
"I walked right in and the next thing I know I am in the X-ray room," Wiser said. "I heard them say, 'He has a wire in the middle of his heart.' Then people were rushing in, ripping my clothes off, putting IVs in."
Wiser was taken by ambulance to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. There he was seen by astonished heart and lung surgeon Dr. Ashok Venkataraman.
"I've never seen anything like it," Venkataraman said. "And will I ever see anything like this again? Probably not."
Venkataraman said it was clear on Wiser's X-rays that he had a piece of metal shrapnel lodged in the center of his heart.
"When he got here, he was somewhat stable. We weren't sure what this thing was in his heart," Venkataraman said. "But the only way to get it out was emergency open heart surgery."
The surgery, which took about 2½ hours, involved opening Wiser's chest, stopping his heart, and opening its chambers. Once the piece of metal was removed, Venkataraman said it was clear it was a piece of barbed wire.
"It was right in the center. If it had been a centimeter this way or that way, he would have died before he got to the hospital," Venkataraman said.
The surgeon also located a small tear in Wiser's lung, which was pierced by the metal as it moved toward the heart. No repairs to the lung were required.
When he was told what the doctor was going to have to do to remove the piece of metal, Wiser said that he didn't think he was going to survive the surgery.
"I know they can do some amazing things nowadays, but I didn't think they could do that," he said. "I put a lot of faith in those ladies, the nurses, and the doctor. It's amazing I am standing here talking to you."
It's been six weeks since Wiser's surgery. Last week, he was cleared to resume his normal activities, Venkataraman said.
Wiser said he has mowed his orchard again.