My Story: Coast Guard Officer Offers Hope To Heart Valve Patients

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As a retired U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer, I have long been passionate about the military. Now in retirement, I’m using that passion to help raise awareness about a life-threatening heart condition I had for years without realizing it.

I joined the Coast Guard in 1979 when I was 18, and I learned that I had a benign heart murmur during a boot camp physical. I had no idea what they were talking about, and I didn’t think much of it.

READ: Patient Says, “It Was Almost Like My Heart Beating Out of My Chest

Symptoms first started to appear in 1992. Vigorous exercise was part of my job, and in 1996 I started feeling fatigued and out of breath. I was experiencing pains in my chest. Sometimes I could feel my heart pounding when I laid down to rest. I was in denial that anything was wrong and continued to push myself harder, thinking I was just out of shape.