Jaelyn Kinchelow, a 24-year-old African American woman from Avon, Indiana who suffered a heart attack 10 years ago, now has a new heart after undergoing a transplant operation. She is now sharing her story to raise awareness about heart disease, especially among Black women.
Jaelyn was then 14-years old when she felt a tightness in her chest and she suddenly collapsed during middle school track practice. She was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with having a heart attack.
At that time, she had to undergo an open-heart surgery that was able to repair a torn coronary artery wall. However, she still fell into a coma for 8 days and spent nearly a month in the hospital. She was also told she would still need a new heart.
Despite that, she tried to live a normal life, went to high school, and took up activities such as rollerskating and choir singing. She also managed to earn her bachelor’s degree pursuing a career as a nurse.
Earlier this year, Jaelyn started experiencing again shortness of breath that she couldn’t even walk upstairs. After spending 3 weeks in the hospital, she was told she really needed a heart transplant to live.
She was admitted to the hospital and had to wait for 2 more months before she got a call that a heart had become available for her. Immediately the next day, she underwent a 12-hour heart transplant surgery to remove her enlarged and damaged heart and replace it with a new one.
While recovering from the transplant, Jaelyn was surprised to receive a letter from the family of the donor whom she was grateful for. She was discharged in May, 5 months after she was admitted this year. She plans to continue finishing her nursing degree with the goal to help save other people’s lives as well.
Moreover, Jaelyn said it was important for her to tell her story to raise awareness about the prevalence of heart disease among women. In fact, heart disease is known to be the leading cause of death for Black women in the US, according to the CDC.
“I would say to anybody, don’t take your health lightly,” she told Good Morning America. “Although I was 14, I knew something was not right. It’s important to pay attention to anything that feels different.”