A young man, determined to use his story to help save the lives of others, Justin Davis, epitomizes what it means to have a huge heart. Ironically, this same heart is the cause of his change in perspective of what it means to live life. At the tender age of 24, Davis, who’s played sports since age 4, was initially diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy and Chronic Heart Failure at the Chippenham hospital, Levinson Heart Center. After additional testing (a Cardiac MRI) the Congenital Heart Defect, Non-compaction cardiomyopathy (NCC) was discovered, also called spongiform cardiomyopathy. What this means is that the muscle in the bottom left ventricle of Justin’s heart never fully formed inside of his mother’s womb. Instead, the area where the muscle tissue should be is a soft substance that resembles that of a sponge. It is a rare congenital cardiomyopathy that affects both children and adults and results from the failure of myocardial development during embryogenesis. .
Justin originally believed that he had the flu, but after weeks of vomiting, feeling weak and misdiagnosis, he knew that it was potentially something worse. He received his diagnosis in April of 2017 and says that he never asked why, but asked how. How could someone who’s been active all his life, often times playing basketball and football for years, be born with a heart defect that he never knew had existed. While sick he never knew that his heart was functioning at 12%. He believes getting sick happened just in time to not only help save his life, but afford him the opportunity to save the lives of others.
The diagnosis may have changed Justin’s life; however he refused to let it stop him from living life. Everything that he does is now in moderation. He’s still physically active playing basketball, going to the gym, and working; however this is all done in moderation. Justin was given an ICD (Internal Cardiac Defibrillator) upon his surgery at Duke University Hospital, ranked 5th in the nation for Heart care, to shock his heart in the event that he had an arrhythmia. The device is a combo ICD/Pacemaker that paces his heart and ensures that his heart rate is never fewer than 60 beats per minute. Justin keeps a positive outlook on the situation by looking at his device as an airbag in a car.
Justin is someone who has eaten, breathed, and slept sports for pretty much all of his life, and is grateful that his story is not like many others who have dropped dead from sudden cardiac death during sports activities. Instead, he has created the Justin J. Davis Heart Foundation, a nonprofit aimed toward educating, empowering, inspiring, supporting and promoting positivity to young patients and their families affected by congenital heart defects and heart failure.
The Justin J. Davis Heart Foundation is geared towards helping young people and their families learn more about heart defects by helping to offer screenings and bring awareness of heart defects and how serious heart health is for all ages, especially for those young people who play sports. Davis believes that his condition could have caused him to go into sudden cardiac death, therefore because he is still here and has made it through; he needs to help the next person. He never looked at his condition as if it was the end of the world; he has used it as a stepping stone to find his purpose in life, which has become being a servant to his community and lending a helping hand to others along the way.
Justin’s condition has opened his eyes and sparked his curiosity to learn more about his body, health and educating him on a healthier lifestyle. He is now more conscious about his everyday life decisions that could affect his health. Justin now monitors minor details about his health and body such as blood pressure, weight, and heart rate. As millennials we tend to think that we are invincible and too young for health issues. We tend to live life on the edge, without thinking we are not susceptible to big health problems, but the reality is that we are not.
Justin has currently partnered with the Ryan Lopynski Big Heart Foundation to offer a free heart screening at his alma mater, Matoaca High School, to continue to live up to the mission of his organization and bring awareness and support for young athletes who may have never been screened and/or are living with a congenital heart defect. Davis’ name lives up to how he has perceived his newfound situation, everything has happened JUST-IN time, in order for him to help and encourage the lives of others. Please follow on Facebook and Instagram and donate to the Justin J. Davis Heart foundation.
By: Shanique Yates
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