Coach Chip Malone Crusades for Heart Health

2:15 PM, Feb 3, 2012   |    comments
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More than 2,200 people die everyday in the United States from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That number is startling, but it also reveals an opportunity to take control of your own heart health.

February is American Heart Month. The medical community, as well as everyday people, want you to take notice.

That includes Coach Chip Malone from Warner Robins. He dedicated his life to a career coaching high school basketball, and he believes the stress of that job almost took his life, too.

A 2010 heart transplant gave Malone a new heart and a new reason to keep it beating.

On a morning walk through his Bonaire neighborhood, Malone said, "Before this happened, before the surgery, I could probably walk no more than 15 or 20 yards, before I had to stop and rest, because I couldn't breath."

Now, keeping pace with Malone on his five morning walks a week gets your blood pumping quickly. He said, "I'm walking for awareness, for people to understand heart disease is serious matter."

He says it can catch up with those who least expect it. "There were no warning signs. I was always a healthy individual."

For nearly 20 years, Malone led the Warner Robins High School Demons to hoops victories, football wins and green turf. He groomed four Houston County fields.

Malone said, "I worked like a dog, doing the fields, coaching and teaching all at the same time."

It was at the stadium that the years caught up with him. He said, "I was over there watering the grass, and I just started feeling bad."

Doctors diagnosed Malone with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and soon, the need for a new heart. He said, "I really didn't want to hear that. Denial set in."

A cracked chest, 58 procedures and 50 days in the hospital made it real. He said, "It's hell to be honest with you. That's what it was like. To go through something like that, I don't wish it on nobody."

He put that in ink a thousand times over in a book about his heart transplant.

Our cameras captured Malone opening the first copy of "A 2nd Chance". The title of the book is his new motivation in life.

Malone said, "God doesn't give everybody a second chance. So, I'm going to make the best of it."

His first heart came with a love of coaching. The second did, too. It's just for a different sport. He's encouraging a team of everyone he encounters to go the distance with heart health, so there's no need for a second chance.

Malone will appear at several Central Georgia events to talk about his experience, including one Saturday morning at Mabel White Baptist Church in Macon.

That event is part of the Georgia Heart Center's "Heart Fest 2012", which is offering free events and screenings at several locations throughout the month of February.

At Saturday's event, participants can get their lipids tested for free. $50 AngioScreens will also be available. The test takes six minutes and tells you about your risk for heart disease and stroke, with non-invasive, ultra-sound technology.

The American Heart Association, The Centers for Disease Control, and The Coliseum Hospital in Macon are also planning events and offering information for American Heart Month.

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