Waiver Situation: Is It Futile?

JDDouglas

New Member
Hey there, I'm posting to discuss my current situation with DoDMERB as I am an applicant to USMA, USNA, USAFA, and AROTC. I am most interested in attending Clemson University on my 4-year Army Scholarship. I will start from the very beginning; it will take a moment to get to my points, but all information is relevant. Please bear with me.

Back in September, I took a physical as part of my DoDMERB application. All went well, except for one thing: for the first time in my life, the physician reported hearing a heart murmur when he put the stethoscope up to my chest. He shrugged it off like it was no big deal, but I suppose he wrote it down because a while later, I'm prompted to take an echocardiogram as part of the remedial process.

I was also prompted to provide more information regarding some childhood asthma that I had. More on that later.

I took my echocardiogram on January 3rd. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the cardiology company sending their results to Concord, and then some issues with Concord sending the results to DoDMERB, so only two days ago (March 7th) did I receive the notification that I have been medically disqualified on the grounds of "current or history of congenital anomalies of the heart and great vessels" and "Airway hyper responsiveness including asthma, reactive airway disease, exercise-induced bronchospasm or asthmatic bronchitis, reliably diagnosed and symptomatic after the 13th birthday."

I expected to be disqualified because of the asthma. Yes, I had received medication after my thirteenth birthday, and I knew that was an automatic disqualifier. However, I have been off any medication for it for roughly 15 months now and have not had one issue.

I am surprised by the results of the echocardiogram. I am a varsity long-distance and cross country runner for my school and I have never had any complications with my lungs or heart. Because of this, could it be reasonable to say I have a chance at getting a waiver for these things? I've done some reading online about a condition called Athlete's Heart Syndrome, which is essentially the body's natural response to frequent endurance/aerobic exercise, thus thickening the walls of the heart, more or less (from what I understand). Perhaps this is my condition? I do run 40+ miles a week, and if this is the case, it is supposedly healthy in young athletes.

I know I've begun to ramble. I am concerned I won't receive a waiver for these conditions despite my physical fitness, which would suggest neither condition is existent, or at least of consequence. I am also concerned that I've received my results too late, and thus, am starting the waiver process too late. Is it going to take me until July to know where I'm going to school?

Thank you so much for reading. Your input is appreciated.
 

WXH1

Member
When you got the echo did the cardiologist mention to you finding any anomalies? Maybe request a copy of the echo report and see exactly what it states. Good luck!
 

GoCubbies

Member
The problem with the asthma is just because you haven't had symptoms the past 15 months, it doesn't mean you no longer have it.

The issue is there are potential exposures that may cause an asthma attack. Ever heard of the burn pits service members were exposed to in Iraq? That type (environmental pollutants) of exposure can trigger an asthma attack. Cold (no one can't guarantee you won't be assigned to Ft. Drum or Ft. Wainwright in the future) can trigger an attack. What medicines were you on in the past?

As for the heart, it could be Athlete's Heart Syndrome like you said. It could be also hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is a condition in which the walls of the heart are abnormally thickened. If you want to know how bad this condition can be, read up on Hank Gathers or Reggie Lewis.

What exactly were your echo results? Did it mention something like concentric hypertrophy? Or was the hypertrophy of a particular chamber like the left ventricle? What about the murmur? The issue will be trying to decide if the thickened heart muscle (hypertrophy) is caused because you're a well-condition athlete vs something pathologic.
 

momofmod

Member
I'm not quite clear how old you are or what grade you're in so where you are in the process isn't evident to me. I have to agree with Korab....your focus should be on your health not DoDMERB. Get your health squared away and then your path will be clear. Good luck to you and prayers this is all 'nothing.'
 

THParent

Member
...Cold (no one can't guarantee you won't be assigned to Ft. Drum or Ft. Wainwright in the future) can trigger an attack...
I'll see your Fort Wainwright and raise you (since the OP is a USAFA applicant as well) Thule Air Base. Brrrrrrrr!
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AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
Today's low at Thule: -23 degrees (F)

An Air Force E-9 who went to school with my oldest DS just visited Thule on a TDY and she actually loved it!

(Of course the key word is TDY)
 

AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
Getting the thread back on track....

As Korab and others have said, the OP should definitely see a cardiologist, preferably one with a military background.

Your health comes first!
 
First, Don't lose hope, My DS was DQ'd due to Asthma and Shoulder Instability (big issues for NROTC with Marine Corps option Candidates) we paid for and obtained private testing so we could see the results first to prove out that DS was Medically Qualified to serve. After several successful tests to prove no Asthma and Shoulder was stable (from Qualified Physical Therapist), coupled with two strong endorsements from NROTC unit, DS was awarded scholarship. I would agree with above, make sure you get testing done first for your own health so that you can continue to run knowing you are in good health. Then once you have results, you can appeal using the test results (assuming they are favorable). I would pay out of pocket so you receive test results vs going through Concorde where results may get sent direct to DoDMERB. Good Luck.
 

JDDouglas

New Member
When you got the echo did the cardiologist mention to you finding any anomalies?
I was never told any results at the appointment, nor have I seen any to date. How might I obtain the results? I imagine this is because my echo was performed by a technician, not a cardiologist. I learned this when I nervously asked the technician, "So... What exactly are you seeing on that screen?" and she replied, "Well, I can't tell you. It's against the law. But if it's any help, if it were something life threatening we would get medical help right away." I imagine this is for lawsuit reasons, as the technician/company could be liable if the technician interpreted my results when she herself is not a cardiologist.

The issue is there are potential exposures that may cause an asthma attack. Ever heard of the burn pits service members were exposed to in Iraq? That type (environmental pollutants) of exposure can trigger an asthma attack. Cold (no one can't guarantee you won't be assigned to Ft. Drum or Ft. Wainwright in the future) can trigger an attack. What medicines were you on in the past?
Good points here, sir. When I was a kid and into my years as a young teenager, it was really only pollen and cats that set off my allergies and triggered the breathing problems. Thus, I was on Singulair, which treats allergies so as to prevent asthma attacks. However, I no longer seem to have any issues with pollen or cats anymore.

It seems like the general consensus right now is to see my own cardiologist (and perhaps pulmonologist). Then, afterward, use such test results to appeal to DoDMERB if all turns out well.

I was quite surprised when I logged in that so many had taken interest in helping me out. Big thanks to you all and I'll provide any updates as they come in case anyone stumbles along with a similar issue.
 

GoCubbies

Member
To get the test results, you can go to the office where you had the echo done. You will have to sign a release form. On the release form, they may ask why you want a copy of your records. You can either put down you want for your personal records or for additional care. Don't get just the report. A good cardiologist won't rely on just a report to move forward evaluating a condition. The cardiologist you see will probably want to look at the actual echo. You should ask for the actual echo and they will put on a disc for you to bring to your cardiologist. You might have to wait several days or a couple weeks for the disc. Your parent may have to sign the release form.

We have no idea if your heart is actually enlarged. You mentioned Athletic Heart Syndrome which can manifest as an enlarged heart muscle (hypertrophy). For all we know, it could be a benign flow murmur that the physician heard on the exam resulting in the request for an echo. If it's just a benign murmur (look up Still's murmur), then your heart "issue" is really a non-issue. If your echo does show you have some type of hypertrophy, then your cardiologist needs to figure out what's causing it because it could be Athletic Heart Syndrome or something pathologic.

Animal dander can trigger asthma attacks which seems like happened in your case. I take it you've had PFTs and/or MCCT in the past? If those came up positive for asthma, then you might be toast on this condition. Do you take albuterol or Proventil as needed for asthma attacks?
 

JDDouglas

New Member
Animal dander can trigger asthma attacks which seems like happened in your case. I take it you've had PFTs and/or MCCT in the past? If those came up positive for asthma, then you might be toast on this condition. Do you take albuterol or Proventil as needed for asthma attacks?
I have never had a PFT or MCCT. I know it sounds odd, but I don't believe I was ever formally diagnosed with asthma. I had pneumonia twice when I was 2 and 6, and I believe it was required that I be classified as asthmatic to submit the insurance claim, which is why I marked "yes" on my initial medical questionnaire for asthma.

I used to have an albuterol inhaler but have not seen it or used one for years.
 

GoCubbies

Member
Your doctor might be able to explain way the asthma/reactive airway disease if you've never had a formal diagnosis. The problem is you may be asked to do a PFT/MCCT to prove it which could take your timeline more to the right.

Have you gotten your echo results yet?
 

JDDouglas

New Member
Your doctor might be able to explain way the asthma/reactive airway disease if you've never had a formal diagnosis. The problem is you may be asked to do a PFT/MCCT to prove it which could take your timeline more to the right.

Have you gotten your echo results yet?
Yes, I picked the report up today as well as the disc. How much of what is on the report would be appropriate to share on this forum?
 

AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
After Five posts, you can send @GoCubbies a private message. (It might take a day to cycle)

I would not share medical info on the public side of the forum that could risk identifying you.
 

GoCubbies

Member
@JDDouglas

At the end of the report there should be a section titled "Results" or "Impression". You can PM me that part. As AROTC-dad said, you need a minimum amount of posts to PM me though.
 
@PantherPride I am in the exact same situation as your son with the shoulder thing but not with asthma. I had shoulder stabilizing surgery last year and have had no problems since. I was awarded the Marine scholarship as a first year college programmer and am currently undergoing the clearance process. My entire NROTC unit staff has told me I’ll probably be fine and not to worry which is what I am doing. They’re going to give me extensive reccomendations that my performance has been great, especially my fitness performance, so again not too worried. What I am worried about is missing CORTRAMID, the first summer cruise. I cannot go on CORTRAMID unless I am medically qualified and CORTRAMID is in 7 weeks. Just wondering, what was the turn around for the decision from DoDMERB with your son?

FYI I have already been reviewed by DoDMERB and they requested medical reports in order to proceed. I am submitting all my doctor and physical therapist reports by the end of the week so I am relatively far along in the process. Based on this and your experience with the process would you have an educated guess as to whether or not I will be getting my DoDMERB results before CORTRAMID in 7 weeks?
 
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