August 10, 2018
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  • After recovering from a house fire that left him in a coma, Guy F. Ringler is using the guitar as therapy.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    After recovering from a house fire that left him in a coma, Guy F. Ringler is using the guitar as therapy.
  • After recovering from a house fire that left him in a coma, Guy F. Ringler is using the guitar as therapy.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    After recovering from a house fire that left him in a coma, Guy F. Ringler is using the guitar as therapy.
  • When Guy F. Ringler was in the hospital, his sister, Faith Ringler-Stevinson, was one of the family members by his side.
    Photo Provided
    When Guy F. Ringler was in the hospital, his sister, Faith Ringler-Stevinson, was one of the family members by his side.
  • Guy F. Ringler and his sister remember their father Guy Richard “Dick” Ringler as a stubborn but loving father.
    Photo Provided
    Guy F. Ringler and his sister remember their father Guy Richard “Dick” Ringler as a stubborn but loving father.

Music Helps Man Cope After Fatal House Fire

Zach Sparks
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View Bio
July 10, 2018

In his dreams, he battled gangs and was dragged to a parking lot where cinderblocks were piled on his hands. When he woke up, he realized the nightmare was just beginning.

Two months before — on March 10, 2017 — Guy F. Ringler was sleeping when the Sharonville rancher he grew up in was awash in flames.

“I pushed myself off the bed and tried to make my way to the window,” he said, “but I couldn’t do it.”

A friend, Wayne Brumwell, rapped on his window, forcing him awake. Fingerprints in the ash were a testament to his struggle to escape. In the living room, his father, Guy Richard “Dick” Ringler, sat in his chair, unmoved.

Guy headed to the kitchen. That’s where the fire crews found him as he was having cardiac arrest.

“He flat-lined three times: once in the house, once in the ambulance and once in the hospital,” said his sister, Faith Ringler-Stevinson.

Guy was transported to the Burn Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview. That’s when the nightmares started.

“They induced him into a coma and it took about a month to pull him out,” said Melanie Parks, who is Guy’s niece and Faith’s daughter.

MUSIC THERAPY

When Guy finally woke, his sister, niece and other family members were by his side, but doctors prohibited them from telling Guy what happened to his father.

“I knew he died, but I didn’t know how,” Guy said.

He had to weigh that news with his own outlook: severe burns spanning his whole body, chunks of skin peeling off, no mobility or speech.

“I remember I woke up in the hospital and they had tied me to the bed,” Guy said. “I couldn’t put a sentence together. I couldn’t walk. Everything in my body went limp.”

Parks lauded the Johns Hopkins Bayview staff, which called the family with updates multiple times each day. Yet for a time, it was hard to be grateful.

“He had a trach tube,” Parks said. “His hands were completely wrapped for the first three weeks. He had a tube in his mouth and couldn’t communicate. They informed us not to tell him anything … he was asking a lot of questions and we couldn’t tell him.”

What was the hardest admission? He missed his father’s funeral. The family waited three weeks for Guy to come out of his coma. Unable to postpone any longer, they taped the service.

Because Dick was enamored of Native American culture, the Ringlers invited guests to the funeral to perform “Soldier Boy” on drums.

“It was breathtaking,” Faith said. “It was pouring down rain, and when they played, it stopped.”

Five months after the fire, still in severe pain, Guy picked up a guitar. Even with five decades of playing experience, he spent just five minutes playing.

“I knew what I needed to do with my hands but couldn’t,” he said.

The owner of 17 guitars, he said most of them survived the fire because they were in sealed crates, but they had to be methodically wiped down to remove soot.

Slowly, he regained his skills, having his first “jam” in February 2018.

“Moving his hands to different chords was better than the other therapy they had him doing,” Parks said.

Still, the pain makes it hard. “It feels like it’s been microwaved on the inside,” Guy said of his arm.

He also has burns on his feet from walking on the hardwood floor.

Guy tries not to think of that when he plays. After all, he’s reformed his band Life Line. One member is recovering from cancer and another is newly sober.

Ringler will make his return to the stage on August 5 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm at the Brass Rail Pub. All are welcome to attend. He can’t wait to play “Eruption” by Van Halen. “We play a lot of classic rock,” he said. “We’re pretty technical in what we play.”

THE RETURN

Guy is in temporary housing, but he hopes to return to the family home soon.

“The house had to be taken down to the studs,” Faith said.

When he returns, his father will be noticeably absent.

“He was a World War II vet, so he was very strict with house rules — making the bed, scheduled dinners,” Parks said.

The patriarch was also stubborn. Family members had taken his cigars away, but somehow he found one, because the fire department identified that as the cause of the fire.

Despite the tragedy and the pain Guy will forever live with, family members take solace in one thing: It brought them together.

“My uncle has always been close to his music,” Parks said, with Faith adding that he never had a wife or kids. “Since the fire, getting to know my uncle has been the best part,” Parks said. “I’m extremely proud of him because I know this isn’t easy to do.

“My grandfather was bound to make it happen,” she added. “We’ve all gotten a lot closer and have gotten to know each other on a deeper level.”


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