RISK ROUNDUP—It’s February, the “Love Month,” and we have a post for you that includes a lot of love and a lot of heart—two of Valentine’s Day’s traditional themes.
Yes, we are an Independent Risk Management Firm, but we don’t always talk about what we do. Sometimes it’s fun to share some “behind-the-scenes” stories and holiday-themed posts.
So, for our “February LOVE Story,” we requested a special message from one of our Risk Managers—who also happens to be a minister. (He has a couple of other side jobs, too, but we’ll get to those later.)
Walter “Wally” Haney, Jr., is the President and Chief Financial Officer for American Risk Managers. He celebrated his 33rd year as a Risk Manager last October—an anniversary he almost missed due to a major heart attack eight years ago.
“I had a ‘widow-maker’ heart attack,” he explained. “It gets its name because around 92-93% of the men that have them die during the process. And the 7-8% that live usually have extensive damage to their hearts, because the severe blockages create other problems.”
But Mr. Wally received a different diagnosis from the Lord. “I woke up the day after my heart attack and heard the Lord say, “I am going to heal you 100%.”
He also got a warning from God a few minutes before his heart attack, which saved his life. And that wasn’t the only miracle to happen before, during and after his “heartfelt” incident.
“It’s almost like a coincidence—if there were coincidences,” he said. “But there are no such things as coincidences. It’s all in the plan of the Lord.”
Mr. Wally is convinced that he would have died if he hadn’t lost 60 pounds in the eight months prior to his heart attack. He had started a new diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, after a trip to Key West and seeing himself in the post-trip photos. (Perhaps the first Miracle?)
“I looked like a Roly-Poly,” he said. “If I’d gone to New York, they’d have wanted to tie some tethers on me to keep me from floating off.”
Another miraculous life-saving element was the fact that Mr. Wally’s wife happened to be home that day, when she’d had plans to be gone. (Second Miracle.)
“Tonya was instrumental in saving my life on Saturday, August the 21st, which is also her birthday,” he said. “I would have died on our back porch, if she hadn’t been there.”
Mr. Wally had come up to his porch to cool down after burning some brush and limbs in his goat pasture. (Goat pasture? Let’s back up a little bit to learn about one of his side jobs.)
“Around 2004,” he explained, “the Lord said to me, ‘You need to move out to the country and raise goats. Go raise goats.'”
His reply was “I don’t know anything about goats. I don’t know anything about living out in the country. This doesn’t make sense.”
Mr. Wally said the Lord explained to him quite clearly that twice as many people can be fed on goats than on cattle.
“And although people in the United States consume more cattle than goats, the rest of the world prefers goat meat,” he said. “That’s probably because you can raise more goats per acre than cattle. The Lord was telling me to get ready for hard times.”
A Large Part Of Mr. Wally’s Goat Herd Can Be Seen In This Photo From 2018 When He Had 20 Goats. His Largest Herd Numbered 46.
Before his heart attack, Mr. Wally was working on his goat pasture near his first goats—four young females—that he’d just purchased the previous month.
A sweltering hot day (temperatures already hitting 100 degrees at 10 a.m.) was made even hotter, as he was swinging a machete and piling limbs on a fire. After nearly half an hour, he figured he’d better take a break or he’d get too hot.
“I was in pretty good shape, but I wasn’t in that good of shape,” he said. “It was just an overload.”
When Mr. Wally first sat down, he felt overheated and moved to another chair on the porch. Then he felt a little acid indigestion and moved again.
“I didn’t feel good and after I moved again, I really started not feeling good,” he said. “Then I started getting sick at my stomach and my chest started to tighten up a little bit.”
Ms. Tonya noticed her husband’s discomfort and asked if he was alright. He replied that he just didn’t feel good and may have gotten too hot.
But he was beginning to feel unsure and extremely restless, moving chair to chair. And he was remembering a friend’s father who’d felt bad and went inside to lay down, had a heart attack, and never got back up.
“At first, I’d wanted to go inside and lay down on the couch, but I remembered about my friend’s dad and I heard a voice say, ‘If you go inside, you will die.’ And so, I thought, ‘I am not going inside.'” (That still small voice was the Lord’s warning mentioned previously. Miracle.)
Mr. Wally said he moved one more time and then felt like somebody had put a vice around his chest and started cranking it. “And the vice started to tighten down and tighten down,” he said.
Ms. Tonya again asked her husband if he was okay. But this time, his answer was he didn’t know and his chest was hurting a little bit. Upon hearing this, she went inside and came back with an aspirin and a glass of water. (That aspirin goes on the list of life-saving measures—one of the many miracles.)
Pain was his next symptom. “When the vice started to crank down, that’s when it really started hurting,” he said. And that’s when Ms. Tonya—who was not supposed to be home, remember—told him not to get up while she went inside and called 911. (Another miracle.)
“Of course, when the paramedics got there, they loaded me up in the ambulance and took me to the Emergency Room,” he said. “I coded the first time between there and the hospital, although they didn’t tell me that until three weeks later. Until then, I hadn’t even known what the word ‘code’ meant.”
God Performed Many Miracles To Help Mr. Wally Survive His “Widow-Maker” Heart Attack.
Another Code = Another Miracle
During the next couple of hours, Mr. Wally was given four morphine shots for the pain and “a good bit” of the blood thinner, Coumadin.
“They’d gotten me kind of stable,” he said. “Tonya was there and my daughter, Ashton, was on one side of me. The doctor was working on me and then he asked if the family members would please turn around.
“Of course, I was hurting,” he said. “But I was also thinking, ‘This doesn’t sound good'”
He was right. It wasn’t good. It was time for his second code.
“My heart had gone into a fibrillation,” he said. “I was alert and I’d been in so much pain, I didn’t realize what it was doing. About the time my family turned around, I heard one guy say, ‘Clear.’ And BAM, they shocked my heart back into a normal rhythm.” (Miracle.)
Mr. Wally didn’t enjoy his shocking experience. “It feels like you’re standing in a bucket of water and you reach up and grab a 220 electrical wire,” he said. “Or you’re standing there looking into space and somebody walks up behind you with a baseball bat and hits you across the back of the head.
“All I heard was ‘POW’ and I just saw bright white. It literally knocks the stew out of you, but that’s how it’s got to be. And somehow, that shock or something else, blew open that blockage—maybe. I don’t know, but the pain went away and I kind of settled down.”
Soon afterwards, medics and nurses with an air ambulance (helicopter) service came in to prep Mr. Wally for transport to a larger hospital with specialized cardiac units. He was told by one of the nurses that, besides getting him stable, they wouldn’t be able to do much at that time in the cardiac unit, due to all the blood thinners he’d been given.
Again, God had other plans.
A Timely Detour
Mr. Wally said that right before the helicopter started to land at the hospital, his chest started tightening up again. So instead of being taken to ICU, he was taken straight to the hospital’s Cath Lab.
The specialized imaging tests revealed another blockage in the works and, most probably, another heart attack on the way. “So, they put four stents in right away,” he said. (Miracle.)
Mr. Wally explained that having the stents put in, instead of having to have open heart surgery, made a lot of difference in his recovery time. “With stents, they go through the veins,” he said. “With open heart surgery to replace valves, they have to open your chest up.
“So, I actually had a widow-maker heart attack, but I didn’t have to overcome the surgery of it. It was for that reason—and the Lord—that I healed so soon.”
The morning after his heart attack, when he got the message from God that he’d recover 100%, Mr. Wally told everyone who visited him the good news, including his doctor. “Well, okay,” said the doctor.
For his first three days in ICU, Mr. Wally’s heart didn’t have to beat by itself. (Miracle.) The doctor had put a balloon pump in to allow his heart time to heal. Two days after the balloon pump was taken out, he got to go home—after having spent only five days in the hospital.
After six weeks of rehab activities and exercise, Mr. Wally returned for a checkup and an EKG, so the doctor could see how his heart was performing. “When the doctor came into the room, he had the report in his hand and he was just shaking his head,” Mr. Wally said.
“I can’t believe it,” the doctor said. “According to this EKG, you’ve never had a heart attack.” Mr. Wally reminded him of the prognosis he’d gotten from the good Lord. “Yeah, you told me that,” the doctor replied. (Miracle.)
TO Wally; FROM God: “Everything Is About Love”
God Is The Generator Of LOVE
We could have started our tale here, but thought you might enjoy reading about the many miracles that had to happen to keep Mr. Wally alive. And not just alive—but blessed—and able to share these miracles and his story of God’s love.
“When I had my heart attack, I knew my name was in the Lamb’s Book Of Life,” Mr. Wally said. “And I’d known that each day was a gift and we’re not guaranteed another second. And that life is about making a difference for God’s Kingdom.
“But after I nearly died, God placed in my spirit and consciousness a much stronger message that everything is about love. That’s what everything relates back to. No matter what road you are on, or if you get distracted on your path, it’s all back to God and His love. It’s all from Him.
“He is the generator of love.”
“God has a plan for each of us. We can walk that path or reject it. We’re our own boss. But life is a lot smoother when God is in charge and we acknowledge Him to be in charge. We’ve all walked close to the edge and—like with my heart attack—the Lord has brought us back.”
Our ‘Soul’ Purpose
Mr. Wally said he was told that “nothing good ever comes from a widow-maker heart attack.” And he would have agreed with that statement when he was going through his painful ordeal.
“But afterwards,” he said, “it gave me pause to think back on what the meaning of life is. You hear about things like this and people have written books about it and movies have been made about it—about why we’re here.
“We’re here and we were made to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Before we know Him or encounter Him, that’s our sole purpose—to become aware of who He is and what He is.
“And once you meet Him, and you become a child of His—and we are all children of His—but once we become aware of Him, it’s our sole purpose to encourage and introduce other people to Him.
“And that is what the meaning of life is. It’s love. And the way you do that is, you want to treat—not just your friend or your neighbor—but a stranger, somebody you don’t even know—as you would your own children or grandchildren.”
“It doesn’t make sense and you can’t rationalize it in your mind, because that’s what love is. You can’t define it. You can only feel it and experience it.”
Mr. Wally noted that Christ’s love is “unconditional, no strings attached, raw love” and that He loves us all.
“Even the guy or gal that you have no knowledge of what they’ve been through, or their pain or anger at what’s happened in their life,” he said. “He loves them as much as He loves you. He doesn’t love them any more than you, but He certainly doesn’t love them any less.
“We’re hard on ourselves, but we should love ourselves and our neighbors. God made us and God loves us. He made our neighbors and He loves our neighbors. We need to remember that hurting people hurt people. And we need to help hurting people.”
Mr. Wally also explained that all goodness and love come from God, because goodness and love start with Him. And they can only be multiplied.
“The more love you pour out, the more love there is,” he said. “The more love you give away, the more love you’ll have. God wants you to open up and He will fill your cup up. But you also need to turn around and share that love. God just wants us to spread the word and tell everybody we can.”
The More Love You Give – The More Love You’ll Have.
No Culls In God’s Family
Mr. Wally said God wants “all of his babies to be doted upon” and that there are “no culls” in God’s family. He explained that in the farming industry, sometimes there’s a runt in a litter of livestock and it may be sold or culled, because that particular animal doesn’t necessarily fit in with what the farmer is trying to raise or accomplish.
“Well, in the Lord’s Kingdom, there are no culls,” he said. “For an example, let’s use the shepherd boy, David, who killed Goliath and then went on to become king and was known ‘to have a heart after God’s own heart.’
“When God came and He sought Jesse’s sons and He anointed the king, it wasn’t the biggest or the strongest—it was the least,” he noted.
“David was the youngest and he’d already killed bears and lions, so he was pretty much a man. But compared to his brothers, on the outside, he would not have appeared to be the best choice.
“But that was the thing about David and his knowledge of what God had entrusted him. David knew that he could do anything with God. A lot of times we go out here in life and throw our hands up and say, ‘I can’t do it. It’s impossible, it’s too much.’
“And that’s true, if it were just you. But it’s not just you. We are all servants of the Most High and He has a greater plan for us than we do ourselves. When God looks at us, He sees us in our completed form. When we look at each other, we imagine the worst and we see the least.
“We just kind of underestimate each other and ourselves. Whereas, God doesn’t over-estimate us, but He looks at us and sees us in the completed form that we will be in His new Kingdom.”
It IS A Wonderful Life!
Mr. Wally said his favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life,” where a suicidal businessman is shown what the life of those he loves—and his entire community—would have been like without him. Ultimately, the man realizes his positive impacts have made a huge difference in everyone’s lives.
“You need to know that everybody you come in contact with—it’s your responsibility for them to see Christ in you—at whatever point you are at in your journey,” Mr. Wally said. “You cannot pick and choose and there’s going to be some good times on your path, but there will also be some bad times and hard times.”
You Can’t Take Anything With You When You Leave This World, But You Can Leave Lots Of Love Behind.
A Second Chance
Near-death experiences change many people. What if you knew it was your last day on earth? How would you want to spend your time? Mr. Wally thinks most people would just want to be with their family.
“There are very few people who would say, ‘If I could just go back to the office for eight more hours, I’d be happy. Or I’d be successful. Or I could accomplish so much,'” he said.
“No, you want to go be with your loved ones and tell them what you need to tell them to get to where you are going. You want to share as much love as you can.”
Mr. Wally is taking advantage of his second chance at life and trying to get some things right that he doesn’t feel he did the best job at the first time.
He came to the Lord early, being saved at Vacation Bible School when he was in the fourth grade. After hearing about Jesus, Mr. Wally felt he “couldn’t get through another day without Him.” Shortly after he reached adulthood, he felt another call—this time into the world of ministry.
“I always believed in God all my life. And I thought I was special. Not because of who I was—but because of WHOSE I was.”
Mr. Wally said he wasn’t an athletic superstar in high school, but he did have a high-enough profile that he thinks he could have made a difference to one or two other students—if he’d taken a different outlook and attitude.
“I always regretted my high school days. I just didn’t act like the Christian I was,” he said. “And at this point in life, I believe the Lord has given me an opportunity to return to school—as a school bus driver.”
Mr. Wally was driving a church van when the thought of taking a side job as a school bus driver, and being able to minister to children, first came to him. He started out as a substitute driver, eventually moving up to a bus of his own.
As a bonus, God’s plan included him being able to participate in a school-based insurance program that covers himself and his wife—a program the private sector has no hope of competing with. “It’s one of those things the Lord has blessed me with that I had no clue about,” he noted.
“Mr. Wally” Has A Great Mirror View Of His Students From The Driver’s Seat.
Driving Students To Christ
Mr. Wally is glad he can go back to his old school days—somewhat. “I’m not in the classroom, but I am associated with the students—the pupils,” he said. “And I have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. And who He is and what He does. And what He wants. He just wants a relationship.
“Jesus is NOT religion. Everybody wants to go back and call it this or that. And religion is a pretty dirty word this day and time to some people. But Jesus Christ is about relationships. He is the Father who wants His sons and daughters to come home to Him.”
Mr. Wally feels that adults can “speak life or light” into school-aged children or they can do the opposite, which is speak “death or dark” He chooses to speak life and light, sharing God’s love, and being joyful, peaceful, and encouraging at all times.
In his bus seat, he has an eagle eye view of his students four times a day. They each pass by him while loading up in the morning, getting off at school, and then repeating the process every afternoon in reverse. And he can sense if one of “his kids” is in trouble.
“When you’re around somebody 180 days out of the year, you can pretty much tell what’s going on with them,” he said. “When the students are coming up those stairs, or coming down the aisle and I’m looking at them in the mirror, I can see whether they’ve had a good day or a bad day. Or if they’re feeling up or down.”
One Caring Adult
Mr. Wally strives to be a positive role model to his bus riders, not only because he’s a minister, but because he’s aware of studies that prove that one caring adult—whether it be a grandmother, neighbor OR school bus driver—can make a huge difference in the life of an underprivileged child.
He was also inspired by someone who’d ridden his church bus. “They told me about a school bus driver who’d always had a ‘good word’ for them at the end of the day,” he said. “And how it changed their life.”
Addressed as “Mr. Wally” by his students (and this writer), this particular bus driver is adamant that ALL of his passengers are “good kids.”
“Every one of the kids on my bus—they are good kids,” he said. “I’ve never driven a school or church bus that didn’t have all good kids on it. There are kids that have some tough situations that they grow up in, but they’re still good kids.”
Mr. Wally understands that school students have no power over their home lives, and that times have changed dramatically since his school days.
“Most of the students on my bus, I’d say 50% of them, are from single-parent homes or their grandparents are raising them,” he said. “And it’s not a kid’s fault if they have a single parent or if their grandparents are raising them. That’s just the circumstances they’re growing up in.
“Plus, with the internet and all the other stuff they’ve getting exposed to—that we never had to deal with… I remember how hard it was for us and I can’t imagine growing up with what these kids are going through.”
Although Mr. Wally has many happy bus driving experiences, there are a couple of troubling incidences that still stand out in his mind.
One sad memory was seeing a little child running out to the bus barefoot in freezing weather, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. He said the child stopped to pick up his frost-covered shoes in the front yard, got on the bus, dusted off his feet and put on his shoes.
The other situation involved a trip on the church bus, taking home children who’d been dropped off for services. As he pulled the van up into the yard to let the children off, he could see them go into their home. Of course, it didn’t bother him that it was a manufactured home. He just felt bad because the home had no front door. “It was just like a cave,” he said.
Mr. Wally At The Wheel Of His School Bus – Ready To Roll.
It’s Going To Be A Good Day!
Mr. Wally said school systems train their bus drivers in how they wish them to interact with the students, such as morning and afternoon greetings.
He noted, “You follow your school’s training and then develop those guidelines into your own way of doing it. And that’s how the schools want it, too. I mean, some of those kids—you can talk to them from now on—they don’t want any interaction. And you just realize that.
“But some of the students, at least half of them, they’re going to talk to me and they want me to talk to them. Mostly it’s, ‘Have a good day,’ and then they reply, ‘You have a good day, too,’ and so on.”
Mr. Wally takes the safety of each of his riders very seriously and follows a strict routine. Before letting off riders, the bus caution light is flipped to flashing status, then the brakes are applied, and then the doors are opened.
After checking mirrors and looking around, he said nearly the same routine is followed—but in reverse—when the bus starts to pull away. He’s only had one minor slip regarding that routine, but it caused him to doubt himself and question if he was indeed on the path he’d felt led to follow.
“When I first started driving the bus, I had an ‘almost-incident’ on the bus with some kids who were off the bus,” he said. “I had one of the little kids from behind me come walking up the aisle and he asked me a question. I was trying to answer him and I got out of my protocol.
“I started to pull off before my kids had gotten all the way off the road, but I didn’t,” he said. “I got the bus stopped… But still, it was one of those things that just really made me uncomfortable enough to even start second-guessing, ‘Maybe, I don’t need to be doing this?'”
Once again, God provided the direction he needed. After hearing a special speaker at his church, Mr. Wally went up to him after the service and told him about what had happened. His advice? “Well, you just need to be praying over it every day before you come and go,” said the man.
“He told me to pray Hebrews 1:14,” said Mr. Wally. “So, every day, in the morning before I start, when I’m on the bus and in my seat, I pray over the bus and over all the kids. And then I pray again in the afternoon before we start back home. ‘So, the angel of the Lord will set about and look after us and take care of us and make sure no harm comes to anybody.'”
Nothing Can Ever Separate Us From God’s Love.
Favorite Bible Verse
To close out his message for us, Mr. Wally was asked to share his favorite Bible Verse. “It’s Romans 8:28-38,” he said.
The last verse reads, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Mr. Wally noted, “No matter how bad it gets or how low you get. Or how discouraged you are. Or how you think you’ve messed up. And you’ve done this and you didn’t mean to do it. Or you meant to do it, but now it’s got found out. Or whatever…
“These verses say to me that God’s message is not just from the leader of the free world or the developer of this cosmos—this messages is from the Maker of everything that ever was and ever will be.
“HE has sent you a note saying there is nothing—no height, no depth or width—nothing can separate you from His love. He is saying, ‘You are sealed and you are mine.’
“And the only way you will get away is when I’m going to let you go. But I’ve never let anybody go yet, so I’m not going to start with you.”
“You are mine.”
“When you understand that… That’s what everybody wants to hear and to know—that you’re loved and cared for—and there’s nothing you can do to screw it up. It’s unconditional love… From now on.”
And for all of us, that’s the best Valentine EVER—a “BE MINE” from God!
Anyone Who Does Not Love Does Not Know God, Because God Is Love. 1 John 4:8
(Photo Credits: Valentine With Bible & Cross – ChazZ; Goats – Wally Haney; Heart And Stethoscope – Pexels; Scrabble LOVE Letters – Ylanite Koppens/Pexels; Cross Silhouette – Pixabay; Heart Tree And Man – Rakicevic Nenad/Pexels; Mr. Wally In Mirror – ChazZ; Mr. Wally Student POV – ChazZ; and Cross Bookmark – Rawpixel/Pexels.)