For Chris Jones, it was a second heart scare that provided his “lightbulb moment.”
The Carmel resident was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, a genetic mutation of the heart muscle, in 2011 while a student at Ball State University. He had open heart surgery to repair it in November 2014, but Jones didn’t change his lifestyle immediately.
Two years ago, Jones’ older brother, Kevin Jones, had a heart attack.
“I’m 33 and he’s 11 months older, so it shook me,” Jones said. “I decided it was time to take my life and health into my own hands in a proactive instead of reactive way.”
Jones cut out meat that same day.
“I changed my diet and began to run, and run, and run,” he said. “After a year, I had run hundreds of miles, completed numerous 5Ks, 10Ks and a few half marathons. I’m in the best shape of my life,”
At 5-foot-5, Jones weighed 185 pounds when he started running. He has since lost 50 pounds.
On April 17, Jones will run in the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation, which raises awareness for early childhood detection and screening for heart defects.
“When Chris had his heart surgery in 2014 for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, we were told that our kids would have a 50-50 chance of getting the gene for HCM, and we were just dating at the time,” said his wife, Sarah Jones. “We knew we would have kids. Our kid does have the gene, and we’re lucky it was detected, and she will have regular heart screenings throughout her life. Just like people try to normalize getting heart screenings, mammograms and colon screenings, this is another thing that needs earlier screenings and could save lives. It’s an easy cause to get behind.”
Joseph Middlemiss was born May 31, 2007, with cardiomyopathy. Moments after birth, a chest X-ray revealed an enlarged heart that caused a lifetime of medical struggles. He died on Sep. 23, 2013.
“Although Joseph’s time here on Earth was way too short, he left behind a beautiful legacy of compassion, empathy and kindness,” Jones said. “Joseph’s life, legacy, spirit, smile and love will never be forgotten. Joey was wise beyond his years, setting the framework for amazing things to be done in his name.”
Jones said he was inspired by his story and that the foundation does great work for a cause that’s very close to his heart, so he signed up to be a member of the foundation’s team.
Eating healthy has been a good example for their daughter, Harper, as well.
“It’s good for our whole family. My daughter, who is 4, has decided that she likes spinach on her pizza because that’s what Dad does, and I love that,” Sarah said.
Jones has been working with running coach Rachel Sinders since November 2022.
“Chris has an amazing story to share about his journey to running,” said Sinders, a Carmel resident. “Chris hasn’t been running for very long yet is all in on running. He is a hard worker, eager to learn, very coachable, and a true testament to hard work paying off. It’s truly amazing to see him progress.”
For more or to make a donation, visit givengain.com/ap/chris-jones-raising-funds-for-joseph-middlemiss-big-heart-foundation/#timeline.
After graduating from Ball State, Chris Jones was working as a reporter at the Stevens Point (Wis.) Journal when he started to experience symptoms.
“I just felt exhausted, but I was really out of shape at the time,” he said.
Then he returned to Indiana to start working at the Columbus Republic newspaper. While in Columbus, Jones was going to join Sarah, then his girlfriend, in the Mill Race Marathon’s 5K race.
“I was starting to prepare and couldn’t get 100 yards down the street,” Jones said. “I hadn’t been to the doctor and in like three or four years. I kind of stopped keeping track of it because at the time I didn’t feel bad or anything. I was taking medicine for a while. But I stopped taking it at that time. It was about a beta blocker, and it basically slows your heart rate down. All it did for me at first was make me feel tired.”
It was recommended he go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for four or five days of tests. On the second day, he learned he needed surgery to fix the condition. Immediately after surgery, he felt a difference.
Following surgery, he went to live with his grandparents in Kokomo to help with his recovery.
After the time away from work, Jones realized he wanted a career change. He eventually became trained as an electrician. He now specializes in solar and backup battery design for Jefferson Electric.