Heart transplant hopeful takes 2-mile survival walk

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RAINY, WINDY WEATHER was not enough to stop Monique Jones and her supporters from making a 2-mile walk, 2 years after receiving an LVAD.

Park Forest resident marked 2 years as a survivor with an LVAD device to walk at the south suburban AHA Heart Walk

The past couple of years have been a journey for 53-year-old Monique Jones. In two years, she has survived a massive heart attack, and subsequent heart, lung and kidney failures. Today, Monique’s heart functions at only five percent. Her life depends on the mechanical Left Ventricular Assisted Device (LVAD) implanted in her chest to help her heart pump blood throughout her body.

On September 29 – World Heart Day – Jones took a 2-mile victory lap around the Advocate South Suburban Hospital walking track, in Hazel Crest, Illinois, to raise funds for the 2019 American Heart Association Heart Walk. Moreover, she showed other people living with heart failure what the power of personal determination can do, when backed by heart research.

MONIQUE JONES CREDITS exercise and a positive attitude with her ability to walk 2 miles to raise awareness about heart disease.

“With the LVAD, I have energy to walk 2 miles. Before the LVAD, I couldn’t walk the 10 steps from my kitchen to the bedroom,” she said, adding” I feel blessed because I’m able to exercise and don’t have any of those triggers that can stop you from being active.”

Jones became healthy enough to gain a spot on the heart transplant list in May 2018. She received her life-saving LVAD in late September 2017 at Advocate Christ Medical Center, in Oak Lawn, Illinois, as a therapy bridge until she receives a donor heart.

When Jones learned she needed the LVAD to live, she and her family had little time to weigh the pros and cons of the surgery. “We didn’t know about the LVAD. We didn’t have time to research the LVAD. The team of doctors said ‘This is what you need.’ And we were like, ‘OK,” Jones recalled.

Obviously, Jones is thankful she overcame fears about the procedure and authorized her medical team to act quickly.

“Being able to spend time with my family and friends, go to church and work-out definitely outweigh the challenges of an LVAD,” she says. Jones explained that the biggest challenges she faces with LVAD are not being able to take showers or hot baths, and the need to continuously avoid infection risks such as small animals, small children and people with colds or flu. She must always carry a battery pack at all times to power her LVAD and plug the device into an electric outlet at night.

“I live 80 percent of my life as I did before my illnesses,” Jones says. “When people find out I have an LVAD, they say ‘I can’t believe you have it. “

Now Jones is on a mission to ease fears of other patients with heart failure by educating them on what it’s like to live with the device. In addition to visiting hospitalized patients to answer questions from a personal perspective, Jones attends an LVAD support group, where she encourages others to keep a positive attitude and the heart-healthiest lifestyle possible. “Cardiac therapy is a huge thing when you have an LVAD,” Jones says.

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