The American Heart Association is very sad to learn of the sudden passing of dedicated advocate Coach Narleski “Chip” Malone on Oct. 3, 2015. After a long and brave fight with heart disease, Chip passed away the weekend before his 60th birthday. His wife, Cynthia, remains a tireless advocate for cardiovascular health in her husband’s memory. In honor of Chip's legacy, we'd like to share his story with you - in Chip's own words - that was originally published in December 2014.
My story begins on a college campus as the youngest grandson of Dr. James H. White, Founder and first President of Mississippi Valley State University located in Itta Bena, MS. I was a typical, fun-loving boy surrounded by a great family and friends, a good student, and later received a full scholarship to play football at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. with several players that went on to become NFL greats. After a knee injury in the Mississippi High School All-Star game ended my football career, I decided to coach athletics instead. During my 32-year career in the school system, I had some successes, taught many promising students, and began to teach next generation family members. Those challenging and fulfilling years provided for my wife of 30 years, Cynthia, and our beautiful young ladies, Lauriel and Crystal. We are Chip’n Away @ Heart Disease and this is why.
In 1997, a new mandate issued by the board of education required that not only student athletes, but coaches would have to get a physical exam. To my surprise, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and heart concerns that would be treated with a couple pills. “You may be a candidate for a heart transplant.” Now, you know I didn’t want to hear that! In total denial, I looked at my physician and said, “Okay doc, anything else because practice starts at four o’clock today.” He couldn’t possibly be talking about me, right? I continued to work as an educator/coach keeping a strenuous schedule of teaching, maintaining four playing fields, conducting practices and coaching games ending most evenings at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. for several years. I worked hard, was not prone to illnesses, and shared in raising my family, also athletes, on a healthy diet and exercise regimen. So, where did all this come from? I found myself under the watchful care of my doctor who said, “If you want to live, stop smoking.” I did -- that day. Diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, meaning my heart was less able to pump blood throughout my body, I continued to work until retirement in June, 2009.
From my initial diagnosis, until one year after retiring - June, 2010, something went terribly wrong. Because of a virus that attacked both ventricles of my heart, I became a statistic due to heart disease and had a heart transplant after being on a life-sustaining device. I spent many days and nights in local hospitals until being referred to Emory St. Joseph’s in Atlanta where I spent fifty days. Cynthia never left my side. At this point, I was struggling to breathe with congestive heart failure; I had a pacemaker and underwent dialysis for five months because of my weak heart. A machine used for the first time ever at the hospital, the BiVAD (BiVentricular Assist Device), pumped blood throughout my body which revived my failing organs and allowed me to be put on the heart transplant waiting list. My surgeon informed me that I could only be on this new device four weeks. “What then,” I asked. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.
What did I think about while on the waiting list? My family. Mostly, I prayed. What did my wife and I talk about? Meeting our grandchildren and not taking anything for granted. Going into the third week, “the call” came and a nurse excitedly, ran into the room saying, “Mr. Malone, we have a potential heart for you!” Two families were impacted 1:10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010; both the donor family and my own. The gift of life came in three weeks – yes, three weeks. In the Foreword of my book, A Second Chance, one of the physicians wrote, “He is a miracle of modern technology. His story is really one of the triumphs of the human spirit and faith.”
I am passionate about being a volunteer with the American Heart Association because I don’t want what happened to me, to have to happen to anybody. To honor my donor, we are advocating heart health and educating others on preventive measures in various communities, and I am returning to high schools educating students on obesity, diabetes and heart disease. My wife and I visit churches and are invited to present to civic organizations. Since my transplant four years ago, I mentor and volunteer my time having reached approximately 30,000 people. Birthed from these efforts is a non-profit organization called Chip’n Away @ Heart Disease whose mission is to give back through outreach programs that direct public attention to heart disease.
Find me on Facebook: Coach Narleski “Chip” Malone