Somewhere on a list of more than 106,000 people hoping for a life-saving organ transplant in the U.S., is the name of one Rockdale County resident — Kelly Jones.
Jones is awaiting a new heart, and the "Give a Heart Benefit Ride and Concert" is hoping to help her find one.
The Benefit Ride and Concert is today at the Granite Mountain Harley Davidson at 11 a.m. and aims to raise awareness about organ donation and funds for Jones’ heart transplant.
Last August, after experiencing fatigue and congestion symptoms, Jones, a 2006 Rockdale County High School honors graduate, checked herself into the emergency room at Chestatee Regional Hospital, where she worked part-time in registry while studying criminal justice at North Georgia College. After a series of tests, an echocardiogram revealed that Jones suffered from noncompaction cardiomyopathy, a rare condition where the heart muscle doesn’t fully compact from a spongy meshwork of fibers to a more solid state. Typically not diagnosed until patients are in their late teens and early 20s, the condition develops in the embryonic stages.
After a four week stay in the ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital following open-heart surgery to implant a Left Ventrical Assist Device in early March, Jones is back home living attached to a battery-operated gadget that circulates blood through her heart until she receives a new one.
"Her doctors say it’s a miracle she’s still here," said Dawn Meridith, a close family friend who’s organizing today’s benefit. In May, Jones will be entered as a 1A status on the transplant waiting list — the highest priority. There’s a 60 day waiting period between her previous surgery and the procedure.
Most people don’t realize that every day, about 77 people in the country receive organ transplants, but 19 die each day waiting. Each organ and tissue donor saves or improves the lives of as many as 50 people.
Meredith has been impressed with Jones’ positive attitude through her health struggles. While Jones, a former saxophone player in the marching band and ROTC member at RCHS, says she is frustrated at times over her limitations, she tries to keep things in perspective. "When my friends are going through something bad, I tell them you have to be like my blood type — ‘B’ positive," she said.
The Give a Heart benefit will take place at Granite Mountain Harley Davidson. Registration for the bike ride begins at 10 a.m., and the police-escorted ride through south Rockdale and parts of DeKalb and Henry counties begins at 11 a.m. The cost to ride is $10 per rider and $5 per passenger. The concert begins at noon and will feature The Amanda Meridith Band and Pulled Addiction. There will be food, raffles, face-painting and games galore for both adults and children, including a car smash. Many local restaurants have donated gift cards for prizes.
To learn more about organ donation or to register, visit www.organdonor.gov.