Hearts At Large: Hartford Hospital patient starts nonprofit while awaiting a new heart

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HARTFORD -- While awaiting a heart transplant at Hartford Hospital a young man started a nonprofit to raise awareness about organ donation.

It’s called Hearts at Large.

Andrew Jones, 25, who often goes by AJ, knows the importance of organ donation. He suffers from cardiomyopathy.

“The inner walls of my heart are swollen so it’s hard for the heart to compress and allow for sufficient blood flow,” he said.

He was diagnosed 3.5 years ago but in May his condition worsened as he went through heart failure. He was quickly admitted to Hartford Hospital and he’s been there ever since, awaiting a new heart. While he waits – he works. He started a nonprofit called Hearts at Large, through his story he hopes to encourage others to become an organ donor.

“It would be great one day for there to be no time to wait for an organ,” he said. “The moment someone needs a transplant they will be able to get it the next day.”

He was inspired to start the nonprofit after meeting, Colby Salerno.

Salerno is a former Hartford Hospital heart recipient who received national attention for his blog, “Tales From the 10th Floor.”

We were there when the two meet for the first time in May.

“It’s inspiring to see that somebody who was in the exact same position as me is doing great things and living a normal life.”

A normal life is all AJ wants. A fitness guru he created Youtube Workout video under AJ Fitness. Unfortunately he’s been forced to hit the pause button, at least until he receives a heart.

Dr. Patricia Scheiner, Director of Transplant with Hartford Hospital was inspired by AJ’s story. She, like AJ, agrees that we desperately need organs. The number of people waiting for a transplant far outweigh the number of people donating.

“In New England we have 5,000 people waiting for transplants and 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant and every 10 minutes one more person is put on the list for a transplant,” said Scheiner.

August is Minority Donor Awareness Month. Dr. Scheiner says minority or not, awareness is key in getting people to sign-up and AJ’s charity is inspiring people to take that step that could potentially save someone’s life.

“It’s really heart-warming. No pun intended,” AJ said smiling.

AJ’s Charity Hearts at Large does have a GoFundMe Page that's raising money for the American Heart Association. Click here do donate.

Click here to learn more about Minority Donor Awareness.