Brown: Man’s recovery from heart disease provides a Thanksgiving lesson

November 27, 2013 

At this time of year everyone starts reecting on how thankful they are for various reasons. So I started pondering what I am thankful for: family, health and friends.

Then I started to wonder what other people are thankful for. I asked my friend Chip Malone, a former Warner Robins High School boys basketball coach. Malone said he was thankful for his wife, family, friends, life, his heart donor and donor family.

Malone had a heart transplant Nov. 3, 2010, after learning that a virus attacked both ventricles of his heart. It all began in 1997. He went to a physical exam and found out he was diabetic and had some heart concerns. After being placed on medication, he was still able to coach and teach. Then, he retired in 2009 and continued to work.

In June 2010, he started having severe shortness of breath and exhaustion. During that week, he was preparing to help his oldest daughter relocate to Atlanta when his shortness of breath started to worsen. He went to the emergency room and was admitted June 23, 2010. He was not able to help his daughter move. He spent three days in the hospital and was transported to another one that provided specialty care for cardiac conditions.

After Malone saw his cardiologist, Dr. Mark Deogogy of Central Georgia Heart Center, and several other physicians, Deogogy referred him to a transplant facility in Atlanta. In August 2010 when his heart had begun to fail, Malone met with the executive director of the heart failure unit. After a battery of tests were run, he was instructed to come back in two weeks. After returning, he was put on dialysis. Malone said he was on dialysis for five months prior to going to the transplant center in Atlanta. It was determined that he needed a biventricular assist device, which kept him alive for three weeks. You are only allowed four weeks on the device, and when he was going into his fourth week, a donor heart became available.

I asked Malone how he got his heart so fast. He said it was by the “grace of God,” and he was identified as a medical urgency, which is one of the factors involved in receiving a transplant.

Malone received his heart and began his recovery to reach out to others so what happened to him does not happen to anyone else. As a result of his heart transplant, he has been raising awareness about heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States.

He emphasizes in many cases heart disease is preventable with diet and exercise and paying attention to the warning signs that the body gives us. Some of the warning signs are shortness of breath and swelling of the ankles and feet. Malone goes on to say the risk factors of heart disease are inactivity, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, age, gender, family history, poor diet and high stress.

Malone has started a nonprofit organization, called Chip’n Away at Heart Disease. Chip’n Away at Heart Disease develops educational opportunities for the public with a focus on heart disease prevention.

Just recently, Chip’n Away at Heart Disease has organized the second annual Chip’n Away at Heart Disease Cardiac Car Show. Malone is also on high school health tours, where he speaks to health science classes. Malone is in the process of working on future endeavors emphasizing heart disease prevention for the youth.

In the last three years, Malone has educated and impacted more than 5,000 people in the state of Georgia. For more information, visit www.coachchipmalone.com.

Dairlyn Brown is a nurse in Warner Robins.

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