Hartselle man seeks help from community before heart transplant
To ask those who know him best, Wayne Jones has a good heart – figuratively. His literal heart has failed him and needs replacing if his quality of life is to see any improvement.
Jeff Chunn has known Jones for nearly 20 years. Chunn said he is constantly taking care of other people, even when he should be taking care of himself.
“Especially through COVID, he’s been right there trying to help people – elderly people and those who were shut in,” Chunn said. “He’s a fine person – I really think a lot of him.
“Wayne will get out of the hospital from having heart-related illness, and the next thing you know he’s out cooking or trying to help someone else; it’s never-ending. Some of his friends have tried to get him to slow down but he says ‘As long as I’m living, I’m going to be helping somebody,’” Chunn added.
Kathy Lindsey agrees – she has known Jones for more than a decade.
“I met Wayne at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge one day when my grandchildren were really young, and I got to talking to him,” Lindsey said. “It was just like I had always known him. He’s so friendly and outgoing and he’s just the kind of guy who would take the shirt off his back and give it to you. He’s very generous – it makes him happy when he can do for others.”
Jason Nix was working alongside Jones when the pandemic first hit to provide meals for nearly a hundred homebound people in the Hartselle area. It was through that experience that Nix said he and Jones bonded and became close friends.
Nix said Jones is naturally warmhearted and cares deeply about people’s needs.
“I watched him and learned from him and we’ve grown closer as friends than what we were and he’s become part of our family,” Nix said. “My kids call him Uncle Wayne.”
Jones got the news that he would have to undergo a heart transplant back in January after his latest episode of what is called ventricular tachycardia, a life-threatening condition where the heart beats at an uncontrolled and abnormal rate. He said it felt like he was being punched repeatedly in the head and chest with a heavy object.
“My girlfriend came and got me – from Walmart to home to the fire station it happened 11 times,” he said. “I died twice and they brought me back in the ambulance and in the ER.”
He experienced his health episodes while shopping – he said he tried to make it home before quickly realizing he needed help.
Kim Perry is one of the paramedics who treated Jones in January.
When help arrived, Perry said Jones was in his car at fire station No. 2 in Hartselle, in immense pain and nearing unconsciousness.
Jones’s internal defibrillator activated five times in a span of five minutes while he was in the ambulance, according to Perry, even after he had been treated with amiodarone and lidocaine.
When the drugs kicked in and controlled his abnormal heart rate, Perry said Jones was not yet out of the woods.
“I put (him) on oxygen and lowered the head of the stretcher,” she said. “In less than a minute, he wasn’t breathing well. I assisted with his respirations and told my partner to have Huntsville Fire meet us (on the way) for extra hands. He called it in and we focused on helping him breathe.”
While Jones’s pacemaker was working at the time, it soon stopped and the paramedics lost a pulse.
“We immediately started chest compressions and gave (him) epinephrine,” she said. “Huntsville Fire had met up with us and very quickly got a pulse back and kept it up the rest of the way.”
Jones stayed unresponsive but was breathing better by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital.
Recalling his experience, Jones said it was a peaceful one.
“I can tell you this, you sit and watch Gunsmoke and see a guy get shot and he’s flopping around on the ground – it’s nothing like that. It was so peaceful,” Jones said. “I just went to sleep and the next thing I knew she was giving me drips and things I can’t even pronounce and brought me back around. I’m a blessed man. I think I’m around 9 or 10 lives with the cats, I just haven’t jumped off any roofs and landed on my feet yet.”
He was in the hospital for more than two weeks and before going home he was told to live much longer; he will need a new heart. He will travel to UAB in Birmingham Sunday for his five days of testing.
Jones is already on the transplant list, and his wait for a new heart could be a few days to weeks or months.
The father and grandfather said he wants to be around to see his three granddaughters grow up, and to accomplish his goal he is asking his community for help. While his health insurance will pay for the eventual transplant, he will incur extra costs during the testing phase and the weeks leading up to his surgery.
To help mitigate the costs involved, there has been a bank account set up at PNC Bank in his name. All funds donated to the Wayne Jones Heart Transplant Fundraiser will go to help him in his health journey. Donations will be accepted at any PNC branch.