My initial warning signs of Congestive Heart Failure

My name is Jesse Bell. I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure at the age of 28. At the time, I was a Captain in the United States Army. I was in peak physical condition. I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri from Fort Bragg (Liberty), North Carolina for a training course. While there, I began to experience weight gain in my abdominal region. I thought the swelling came from all of the beer we young officers drank nightly. What was noticeably different was my run time on my physical fitness test. My time kept getting slower and I was really tired.

One particular day, I went back to my apartment for lunch. I sat down to eat some leftovers from the night before. While eating my food, the left side of my face began to twist and I became extremely dizzy. I knew something was wrong and I immediately tried to get to my friend’s apartment across the street. I don’t remember walking there but I do recall him answering the door. He greeted me at the door but my speech was too slurred for him to understand. I knew what I wanted to say but, it wasn’t coming out of my mouth clearly. My friend drove me to the hospital on base. There, I remember the intake nurse asking for my social security number but again, I was unable to speak. After running a few tests, they said they didn’t find anything but I was placed on quarters for the next 24 hours. For the remainder of the course, I had several episodes, but still managed to complete the course.

Upon returning to Fort Bragg, I still felt like something was wrong. I began to lose weight and coughing persistently, especially at night. Thinking I probably had the common cold, I went to the doctor on base. I was treated for a virus and sent home on quarters again. After completing my rounds of antibiotics, I still felt pretty awful. I remember pushing my daughter around in a shopping cart and having to stop for breaks. By then, my stools were black. Being completely exhausted, I went to the ER on base and they admitted me.

In the hospital, the coughing got worse. I remember being scared to go to sleep because it felt like I was drowning. I would wake up gasping for air. By this time, my family came up from Alabama. The doctors explained to me and my sister that I had Pulmonary Edema. My sister didn’t like that answer and phoned a family friend, who is a thoracic surgeon at a major hospital. He suggested that they take a look at my heart. Once the looked at my heart, they found that it was enlarged. The staff called a cardiologist and he came in to give me an echocardiogram. After the exam, he immediately had me transported to the hospital at the University of North Carolina. After being examined there, I was told that I had an Ejection Fraction of less than five percent. The doctors called for my immediate family to come to the hospital and prepare for the worse. This is when my heart journey began.

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