Meet the fitness model using his scars and artificial heart to inspire people.

It was just like any other daily run for Andrew Jones. He put one foot in front of the other. He breathed in. He breathed out. He made it to the mailbox, but he knew something wasn't right.

"It kind of felt like my lungs had turned into sponges. Like I was breathing through a sponge."

That bizarre feeling first happened in 2012. And it would change his life forever.


Andrew Jones. Image via ajFitness/YouTube.

Labored breathing would alarm anyone, but for Andrew, an avid runner and fitness hound, it was particularly worrisome.

After his run, he called his doctor and requested to see someone right away. Two specialists and 24 hours of heart monitoring later, Andrew was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy.

"I didn't really know much about what it meant," Andrew said. "I was still very strong, getting my workouts in at the gym like normal, just being young and feeling invincible."

Andrew at his gym. Photo courtesy of Andrew Jones.

So after that one troubling run, Andrew kept working out. But his symptoms started getting worse.

Andrew, now 26, has loved the gym since college. He found an unexpected home there and noticed that regular workouts kept him focused and disciplined. "The best way to explain it is that being active is in my blood," he said. 

But soon his fatigue and shortness of breath turned into pain and weakness that left him, at times, unable to stand up for more than 10 minutes.

Eventually, Andrew suffered heart failure. He was coughing up blood and had to be rushed to the hospital. There, doctors told him that if he didn't get a heart transplant soon, he could die.

Andrew in the hospital, recording his journey back to health. Image via ajFitness/YouTube.

That was two years ago. 

He is still awaiting a heart transplant and relies on an artificial heart and a pacemaker to keep him alive.

While he waits, Andrew is doing something few people awaiting a transplant would do. He has become a professional fitness model.

As you can see, Andrew doesn't hide from his scars. Nor does he hide from the tubes coming in and out of his body that operate his artificial heart.

Instead, he wants those things to inspire others. He wants people to know that whatever your goals are, you shouldn't let anything, including a near-death experience, stand in your way.

Everywhere Andrew goes, he carries a backpack. Inside it is the machine pumping blood through his veins and keeping him alive. The literal weight on his shoulders is a constant reminder of how close he came to losing everything.

"Tomorrow's not guaranteed for any of us," Andrew said. "For someone in my situation, it’s guaranteed a lot less. ... Two and a half, three years ago? I probably would've taken waking up in the morning for granted."

Now, he says, he's grateful for every single morning he gets.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Jones.

Andrew knows that everyone has goals. Whether it's starting a business, paying off bills, or writing a book.

"If there’s something that’s on your mind 24/7 that you can’t stop thinking about, you need to act on it," he said.

Andrew uses his body and his mind to inspire people all over the world. On his Instagram, he spreads messages of hope and acceptance, calling on people everywhere to embrace the hand they were dealt and push forward. 

"I want people to leave with a little more motivation than they came in with," Andrew said.

In all of his photos, scars and medical equipment are on proud display.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Jones.

They remind people that no matter what you're up against, you can achieve incredible things. 

Andrew has also started a foundation called Hearts at Large, which raises awareness for organ donation and collects the stories of people whose lives have been saved by it. 

For Andrew, paying it forward is not just a thing he occasionally does, it’s a mantra for his life. 

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
True

This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

Keep Reading Show less

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."