Juan Mikel-Jones was a 16-year-old known at New Kent high school for his athletic achievements. He was a stand-out student as well. But weeks before Christmas, things changed for this sophomore boy.
It came on like a cold and no one was really concerned at first. Jones described the illness as leaving him feeling “Very weak, short of breath, Very dizzy. Loss of appetite. I couldn’t focus really.”
But soon Jones was in excruciating pain that wouldn’t go away. After a battery of tests, including x-rays, the doctor gave Jones a shocking diagnosis.
Instead of a cold or the flu, Jones was suffering from cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart.
And then a day after Christmas, he was given the devastating added shock that he would need a new heart.
In the days that followed, Jones underwent one surgery to help the heart that he has keep beating, while waiting for a donor heart as a transplant. He was strengthened by his close family and community.
While Jones waited anxiously for his new heart, he never gave up hope. He listened to inspirational music and bonded with the nursing staff.
“I want a holy heart for my son,” said Woody Jones, his father. “Because at the end of the day that’s what makes a difference. Praying and having a holy heart for him.”
Both father and son kept strong in their faith, praying and knowing that God was always with them. And then they received the miracle they were waiting for: a new heart.
The entire community chipped in, raising money for the needed surgery.
“Our whole local community is the perfect area to support something like this,” said the New Kent High School Principal Christopher Valdrighi. “I can’t think of a better reason to support somebody than what he’s going through.”
Assistant principal Julie Ellis came up with several fundraisers, including a polar plunge, that raised close to $3,500. There was also a GoFundMe account set up in their names.
New Kent High School left a post on social media and communicated that the transplant was a success.
“I’ve never seen him not smile, or heard him say a bad word about another person.” said Principal Valdrighi of Jones, and even in this difficult time he remained positive.
Through the prayer and faith of a family and the immense support of a community, Jones is now on the road to recovery.
It will be a long road, but Jones is a fighter. And he’s got the best sort of people on his side.
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