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Eric Douglas, West Virginia

If anyone should have known the signs and symptoms of heart disease and heart attack, it was Eric Douglas. A former CPR trainer, EMT and scuba instructor who has trained more than 1,000 people to perform CPR, he still denied he was having problems. He wrote it off as “heart burn," and convinced himself he had just gotten in really bad shape.

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Finally, a visit to his doctor and a follow up appointment with a cardiologist in January 2016 told a different story. A stress test showed major blockages, and even the presence of damage from a previous heart attack. Douglas was immediately admitted to the hospital for quintuple bypass surgery at 48-years-old.

A scuba diver with more than 20 years of experience, Douglas set a goal before he was released from the hospital that he was going to return to diving. As soon as he got home, he began to change his eating and exercise habits. It took nearly six months of daily effort and dedication, but for his 49th birthday, he was cleared to dive and was able to get back in the water.

Douglas knew he needed to set another exercise goal for himself and he immediately began training for the Charleston Heart Walk in September 2016. While most people walk the course, Douglas planned to jog the entire 5K route. Since then, he has run another six 5K races, including the 2017 Charleston Heart Walk.

Douglas is a columnist for his local paper and writes a diving accident column for Scuba Diving Magazine. He decided he was going to write about his experience with the surgery and the long road back to help others facing the same diagnosis. Eric wrote a six-part series for the magazine and more than a dozen weekly articles for the newspaper on the subject. He also wrote a book called Heart Survivor: Recovery After Heart Surgery where he talks about his own recovery and the goals he set for himself that kept him focused on getting healthy again. Find out more about Douglas and his heart recovery on his website at www.booksbyeric.com

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