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Report: Navy chief had heart surgery after falling ill during run

Admiral Gilday as Chief of Naval Operations, Aug. 12, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
September 30, 2020

Adm. Mike Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), fell ill during a run and underwent heart surgery in August, according to military sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.

A Navy spokesperson officially confirmed Gilday underwent a medical procedure but did not provide specific details about the incident. Gilday, the 57-year-old member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned to the Pentagon on Monday after recuperating from his August illness and subsequent surgery.

“The chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, recently underwent a medical procedure for a pre-existing medical issue,” spokesman, Cmdr. Nathan Christensen said in a statement to the Journal on Tuesday. “He is in good condition and returned to full duty yesterday in the Pentagon.”

Sources familiar with the incident said Gilday was running on the Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. when he became ill. A passing Marine provided assistance to Gilday, who was immediately taken to see his physician. Gilday reportedly underwent heart surgery around two weeks later.

The Navy did not officially disclose Gilday’s medical procedure until the Journal raised questions about Gilday with the Navy’s media-relations department. Navy officials would not say what medical condition Gilday had, citing privacy concerns, but told the Journal that the condition was pre-existing.

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A former military source familiar with the matter told the Journal that physicians knew Gilday needed to undergo the surgery, but that Gilday’s illness during the August running incident pushed forward the need for the surgery.

Gilday was scheduled to attend a forum discussion this week, hosted by Defense One, but his appearance was postponed. Defense One tweeted, “SCHEDULE CHANGE: Our ‘State of the Navy’ virtual event with @USNavyCNO Adm. Gilday originally planned for this Friday is postponed to Tues., Oct. 13. Mark your calendars.”

The change in the schedule was not related to Gilday’s medical condition, Christensen told the Journal.

According to the Journal, there is no formal process for members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to notify the military or the public about a major medical procedure, but that they are expected to notify their chain of command beforehand when possible. Navy officials said Gilday did notify them.

Gilday has been serving as the Chief of Naval Operations since August of 2019. In his first year in the position as CNO, Gilday oversaw the Navy as it dealt with a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) aircraft carrier and a fire that broke out aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) amphibious assault ship.

Gilday, in May, also underwent self-quarantine out of concern for a potential coronavirus infection. Another member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel, also underwent quarantine at the time.