Fitness Model Shows Love While Waiting On A Heart

Andrew Jones, age 26, looks like many professional fitness models you see online: a great, nicely-cut physique, an incredible smile and a pleasing personality for judges and fans. There’s only one small thing: he also has a failing heart.

The Ohio native currently living in Farmington, Connecticut, relies on a ventricular assist device to survive. A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that’s used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.

But Jones is constantly connected to two batteries and a small computer that he carries around wherever he goes and it is keeping him alive as he waits for a donor.

In 2012, at the age of 22, Jones was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease in which the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied). The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood.

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Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often goes undiagnosed because many people with the disease have few, if any, symptoms and can lead normal lives with no significant problems. However, in a small number of people with HCM, the thickened heart muscle can cause shortness of breath, chest pain or problems in the heart’s electrical system, resulting in life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

Currently there is no cure, but it can be helped through treatment.

“I had just gone for a run and you know, it wasn’t anything very drastic,” Jones tells Ebony. “It was just a mild shortness of breath and I was gasping for air. But it struck the wrong tone with me because I know my body better than anybody else and this was just not normal.”

“I was tested for HIV, Lime disease, you name it… I’ve been tested for everything,” says AJ. “Then they tested for Hodgkins Lymphoma and Leukemia. When they test for leukemia they have to physically take a part of your bone marrow and that was one the most excruciating ordeals I had to ever go through.”

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(photo credit: Aj Instagram)

Jones says he was actually suffering from heart failure for quite some time before his diagnosis but doctors needed to run tests to see what else was going on.

“I was in and out of the hospital and I was admitted to Hartford Hospital for a little bit over four months to await a heart transplant. And the reason why I had the artificial assisted device implanted was because my condition was beginning to deteriorate. It wasn’t that it was a sudden drastic change, but the fact that my heart was continuing to fail despite all of the medications and close treatment that I was getting.”

The implant allows Jones’ heart to function normally while he awaits a transplant. He credits his pre-existing healthy lifestyle for being alive today.

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“It places my heart back into a normal rhythm when it detects my heart going into an abnormal rhythm. I can literally count on my hands and feet how many times this thing has saved my life from a life threatening arrhythmia. I’m incredibly thankful that they have this thing implanted.”

While he waits on his donor, Jones is also concerned about all those others who don’t have donors either. So he created a non-profit called, Hearts At Large.

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Hearts At Large seeks to offer support, inspiration, encouragement and financial assistance to those awaiting life-savinging organ transplants.

Hospitalized for months waiting for a heart transplant, he was inspired by people who had returned to normal lives after going through the same challenges he faced. Andrew also learned of the ones who didn’t survive due to…