LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A little more than seven years ago, I walked in to a New Orleans Navy Medical Clinic for chronic nose bleeds and walked out with terrifying news. The Corpsman didn’t know what was wrong, but he knew it was something major. He said he could hear my heart leaking, badly.
I remember going through all the tests in New Orleans and then calling my parents back home in Albany, Ky. to tell them the latest reports on my health.
My last visit to a cardiologist in New Orleans was devastating. He said he believed the bacteria and mold from Hurricane Katrina had infected a preexisting heart condition and I was in bad shape. He gave me a year to live at best, but he expected that I wouldn’t make it more than six months without surgery.
I held it together until I got to my car and then I called my dad and started crying hysterically. I was 22 years old and I was dying. I was terrified.
It doesn’t take the Marine Corps long to send you home when you get news like that. So a few weeks later, I was medically retired from the Marines and sent home to be with my family.
It didn’t take long for my health to really start to deteriorate. I was sick, and it happened fast. I couldn’t sit up without help; walking without help from my dad was completely out of the question and, at times, I couldn’t breathe. I stayed in bed most of the time and either watched TV or played video games. I had a lot of time to think and to pray.
I chose to have my surgery at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. My grandfather had surgery there just a few months earlier and we really believed they would take care of me.