It was an ideal end to a relaxing Easter weekend for Ron Kiser.
He was in Chicago visiting his daughter and son-in-law. He ventured out to the tennis courts to play a match with his son-in-law, Michael.
Michael won the first set, Kiser recalled, but the longtime Muscatine tennis coach had a lead in the second set. Then, in the blink of an eye, his priorities changed.
“One moment I was having fun,” Kiser said, “and all of the sudden I was passed out with no heartbeat and pulse.”
Two months later, Kiser continues his rehab in the hospital at Muscatine with his coaching days officially behind him.
According to the June 10 Muscatine School Board of Education meeting, Kiser is resigning from his position as the varsity boys tennis coach. Kiser led the program in three different stints that spanned 47 years and began in 1969.
“I need to have a different perspective as far as exercise, coaching and driving kids around,” Kiser said. “The pressure that I put on my assistant coach Mary (Goedken), she had to take over a bunch of boys. That is always difficult.
“I really didn’t want to face another year thinking about the bad possibilities that could happen. I don’t want to put anybody else through what we went through this year.”
Goedken is resigning from her assistant coach position, announced at the June 10 board meeting. She coached the Muskie boys for the final three weeks of the season after Kiser’s heart attack.
Neither Kiser nor his son-in-law was carrying a cell phone on that sunny afternoon in Chicago. But, a park worker nearby had his phone and immediately called 911. Otherwise, the worst could have very well happened to Kiser.
“That’s what saved me,” Kiser said. “The ambulance got there and revived me.”
Kiser had his aortic valve replaced and a pacemaker installed in April after his heart attack. Even so, he did all of that with tennis in mind.
The doctor told Kiser the pacemaker would be inserted through the left side and was surprised when the longtime Muskie coach took issue with that.
“The doctor said, 'Why is that? I usually make the decisions,’” Kiser recalls. “I told him, 'I would still like to play tennis and if you put it on my left side it’s going to bother my serve.
“He put it on my right side so I’ll still be able to halfway serve.”
However, the road back to the tennis courts — or even a normal life for that matter — isn’t going to be easy.
It was tough to stand when he returned to Muscatine weeks after his surgeries. The surgeries bothered both his legs and torso. Recovering from the intravenous therapy (IV) wasn’t easy, either. Now, he’s battling through cardiac rehab to get back to full strength.
“They’re working me out pretty good,” Kiser said. “It takes quite some time I’m finding out.”
Since getting his pacemaker — which is an artificial device for stimulating the heart muscle and regulating its contractions — Kiser had an aversion to set his heart with his pacemaker.
“Now that that’s done I’m really getting along pretty good,” he said. “I would like to get back to (the tennis courts) and run around a little bit. It’s going to be a little difficult because you go back to what put you there in the first place.
“Now you’re back running around doing the same thing that got you there and wondering if the valve is going to work.”
Even if he is able to work his way back to the tennis courts, there’s no doubt the longtime Muscatine tennis coach will miss leading the tennis program next spring.
“I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the kids,” Kiser said. “I’m going to miss the other coaches too because they were a good bunch.”