Jeff's Heart to Heart Fund
In my late teens I started noticing something odd. I was an active, healthy young man, but suddenly I would get winded very easily; even with the slightest bit of physical activity. I was little on the heavy side, so I attributed it to that and kept on pushing. When it didn’t go away, I figured that I should go see the doctor just to be sure. I was told that I had a heart murmur, which was described to me as an irregular heartbeat. The doctor didn’t seem to be too concerned, so I wasn’t either. I went back to my regular life with an irregular heartbeat – no big deal. In reality, it was a much bigger deal than simply an irregularity. One day, about 10 years later, I was on the treadmill as part of my normal workout routine and the next thing I remember, I was laying on the ground. I was told that I blacked out and my cardiologist recommended that we run tests to determine the cause. I still wasn’t really that concerned. I figured it was something minor; didn’t even think it was my heart. After some debate, my doctor in Dallas determined that I had what he thought was congestive heart failure. Me? At 28? No way, Jose. I needed another opinion.
After consulting with my mother, she suggested that I see a cardiologist in the Charlotte area. After extensive testing, the doctors gave me news that changed my world forever. I was diagnosed with Hyper-trophic cardio myopathy (HCM). “Hyper what??,” I thought. I was told that I would not only need to take a lot of medication for the rest of my life, but the doctor also suggested that a defibrillator be placed in my chest. No, way – I was young and in pretty good shape. Aren’t defibrillators for old people? I was actually so young that I didn’t even really know what a defibrillator was. Of course I didn’t want this device inserted into my body, but my mom and aunt convinced me that it was the best thing to do. I said yes and I am now living with defibrillator. Okay, I can admit that I was a bit scared at that point, but tried not to worry since they told me it was merely an extra precaution.
Now, it’s 2013 and my condition has worsened. I've spent much of the latter part of the year in and out of hospitals. A significant amount of excess muscle has formed around my heart and that excess has to be removed. Basically, my heart works way harder than a heart should have to in order to function. Like any overworked muscle, it’s larger than average. Not such a big deal if I was talking about a six pack of abs, but this is not what you want for your heart. So, a few weeks from now, I will undergo open heart surgery. Yep, I’m thirty-something and I’m having open heart surgery. No matter how many times I say it, it doesn't sound 100% real. At this juncture, it is necessary; not an option. The doctors say that my heart can’t function this way much longer and that it’s the only chance I have at living a normal life. I think they’re right. Not just because they are medical professionals, but because I know how I feel and I live with this every day. My chest is constantly tight and I have trouble breathing. Every day activities are exhausting and leave me worn out. Right after Thanksgiving I experienced my very first set of shocks from the defibrillator – the device that has been in my body for over a year. During that ONE day, the defibrillator was activated nine times! That means that NINE times it had to shock my heart back to a normal rhythm. Shock does not even begin to describe what I felt. Each defibrillator activation was intense, and left me nervous and scared. I’d never experienced this before and it kept happening over and over and over again. The doctors are telling me that while that’s the purpose of the device, it’s not supposed to happen that much because each time it happens, it puts additional strain on my already overworked heart. I know it’s time to take this to the next level – no matter how scary that is. Open heart surgery is my only fighting chance.
I’m scared and I feel alone. Not because I don’t have people by my side. I have lots of family and friends that have been with me every step of the way. I feel alone because despite how much they all care about me; they are unable to relate to how I feel. When I’m in the hospital’s cardiac unit no one is my age. There’s no one to talk to. I don’t know anyone else who has this condition that looks like me. I’m a young African American man with a defibrillator that was activated NINE times in a 24 hour period. How many people my age can say that? How many people can I talk to about how I feel? What do I do when this happens? What is a normal reaction? These are the questions I often ask myself. No one should feel this void; this loneliness. There have to be other young people with the same or similar conditions who are living life like I am.
I am reaching out to you in hopes that you will support me as I undergo this procedure. I am asking for all of your prayers and encouraging words. Also, I am asking if you could donate to my surgery fund as we all know, the cost of healthcare is far from cheap. To my surprise, my insurance will likely only pay for a small part of the procedure, leaving the rest up to me. Not to mention my post-surgery expenses including home healthcare, medications and not to mention the routine cost of living expenses. Anything that you can give is greatly appreciated.
After my recovery, it is my plan to start a non-profit to:
1. Spread the word about the condition and make people more knowledgeable
2. Support and inspire those who may be living with similar conditions who feel as though they are alone.
I want you all to know I am in excellent spirits, as I know from whom my strength comes from. After this surgery I assure you that I will be back to the same Jeff that you all have come to know and love. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart and Happy New Year to you and yours!
Posted by Jeffery L. Owens
I would like to first thank each and everyone of you for the heartfelt cards, texts, emails, encouraging words, tweets, IG/ facebook posts, donations and prayers that I have received before/during this surgical process. I am elated to report that the surgery was not only a success, but my Surgical Staff is excited that I am ahead of my anticipated recovery schedule. I am certainly taking it one day at a time but, AIN'T GOD GOOD?!!?!
I am truly blessed and thankful to all of you who have encouraged me during this process. Your words have brought me a mighty long way and provided me with a light at the end of a tunnel.
Please feel free to continue to share my story:
Feel free to reach out to me, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (202) 531-0100
Posted by Jeffery L. Owens
WOW! Words could not even begin to accurately describe the gratitude I have from all of your kind words, prayers, and donations. I am truly humbled. If I haven't already, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you.
When I initially set out to start this fund, I set my goal at a modest amount,as I knew that any little bit would help me. I truly did not expect such a great outpouring of donations in such a short period of time.
I am only asking that you continue to share my story and this page in hopes that people will continue to give even though my original goal has been met. Again, I
am thankful and humbled by your generosity.
My surgery date is Wednesday, January 8, 2014. I have a great sense of peace going into this and your words have reminded me that I will come out victorious in the end because God will see me through!
I love you all,
Posted by Jeffery L. Owens
Be blessed, and continue to be a blessing to others!
I love and appreciate you all greatly!
I pray your surgery went well in the name of Jesus. I will support and asked others to support. I pray the best is yet to come for you and that God's angels protect you and send you new peace. Jesus loves you and understands even though no one else does. You're in His lovinh hands. God bless you.
Dang Jeff!!! I haven't seen you in a few years but never would I have imagined that you were going though so much. My prayers go out to you. I wish all the prayers and blessings and will contribute. God bless you my old friend. ....
Hi Jeff, I saw your page as I was going to set up one for my husband. He has the same condition as you. Next month he goes in for an LVAD to pump his heart until his transplant. He is not even 40. I want you and your family to know you are not alone in this. I will tell you what I told Robert when the defib went off first time. It hurts but dead hurts more. Keep strong and if you do what the docs tell you, you'll be fine. Best of luck and we'll pray for you.
God bless keep up the faith
Hey Jeff I know how it feels to be young & diagnosed with something so serious. I have a Defibrillator/pacemaker was diagnosed with congestive heart faliure. My heart is only working at 27%
Hi Jeffery, I will keep you in my prayers. I understand what you are going through. I am 29 years old living on dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant. I thought also that I was too young but just know what you are going through is your testimony for you to share with others. God has this under control. Lean on Him that's what He wants.
My prayers & support go out to you Jeff! #GetWellBro
Prayers sent for a speedy recovery...
Hey Jeff I'm sorry you have to go through this but God don't put anything on you that you can't bare. I have been through a similar situation. In November 2010 I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure with my heart only working at 5% and need a heart transplant. I couldn't even put on clothes or walk from the car to the steps without giving out of breath. Not only did I need a heart transplant I also needed a kidney transplant too. On March 27, 2011 at the age of 28 I had my heart and kidney transplants. Continue to pray and keep your head up. Let go and let God have his way. If he did before he'll do it again. God Bless you.