Kenneth Johns’ Second Chance at Life after Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Diagnosis
“This is your second chance at life, son. Use it wisely.”
Words of wisdom from the father of Kenneth Johns, a Winthrop University student athlete whose story we shared back in April. Kenny was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy after testing was performed on his college campus by Wimbledon Athletics.
Those months following the phone call to the athletic trainer at Winthrop to pull Kenny from track practice—and any physical activity—have been pretty rough for the junior. It’s understandable. In one moment, Kenny went from strong, healthy athlete to someone with a life-threatening condition faced with giving up his passion—sprinting for the Winthrop track team. But Kenny is someone who doesn’t let things get him down. And he has never lost sight of the positive.
“So at first, of course it was a tough pill to swallow. Having been an athlete for so long, when you are told that you might not be able to ever compete again, it is hard to take that,” says Kenny. “But now realizing how fortunate I am to still be alive, I’m grateful for the testing.”
On August 9, 2016, Kenny got his new lease on life, undergoing surgery at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to have a defibrillator implanted. The device, inserted below Kenny’s collarbone, will deliver an electric shock to restore rhythm to Kenny’s heart should he go into sudden cardiac arrest from his HCM. Now Kenny is back to school and back to work with limitations as he continues to recover. He will not be able to participate in competitive sports, at least not for the time being, but after he heals, he will be able to resume moderate workouts and other low-impact activities.
Kenny’s father, Ken Johns, continues to encourage his son: “Kenny, it is no accident that you chose that school.
No accident that you joined the track team,” he said. “It’s no accident that this was the first year Winthrop included Wimbledon’s testing. This happened for a reason, and you can’t take life for granted after something like this.”
Kenny’s mother, Koi, has never forgotten the reason Kenny is here—cardiac testing. “Any chance I get, I share the story about Wimbledon and what they did for my son—they saved my baby. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. I pray to God every day giving thanks for this testing,” she says.
Kenny’s story doesn’t involve sudden cardiac arrest. It doesn’t involve a miraculous resuscitation after collapsing from an undetected heart condition. But his story is no less dramatic. Had it not been for the echocardiogram that identified Kenny’s HCM, he would have continued on the track team, running his sprints with no knowledge of the deadly disease in his heart that could have taken his life in an instant. He had no symptoms. He completed years of PPEs with no flags raised.
“After having the surgery, I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life,” Kenny says, echoing his father’s words. “And with that being said, I think that all athletes on all levels should be given these tests.”
Proactively testing student athletes for unsuspected heart conditions saves lives. It saved Kenny’s life. Every year, more than 100 young athletes under the age of 18 die suddenly from sudden cardiac arrest during practice or competition in the U.S. It could happen to anyone. It could have happened to Kenny. Early detection of these silent killers through cardiac testing is easy. It’s painless. And it’s necessary.
Wimbledon Athletics is pioneering the way for high schools, colleges, universities, and sports facilities to test students for vascular conditions and for unsuspected cardiac abnormalities to help minimize sudden cardiac death among young athletes. For more information on how your school can partner with us, call us at (855) 200-8262 or CLICK HERE.