Andrew Jone Carries His Heart In A Bag (pics)
*Andrew Jones became breathless on a run and began coughing up blood
*In hospital was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy - disease of the heart
*Doctors said he would need a transplant immediately or he would die
*Was fitted with an artificial heart and carries around a pump in a backpack A bodybuilder who suffered heart failure was rushed to hospital for a transplant - and now has an artificial heart he carries around in a backpack. Andrew Jones, from Conneticut, first became unwell in 2012 after struggling to breathe during a run. He was horrified when two years later he started to cough up blood and developed a high fever. In hospital, doctors diagnosed the 26-year-old with cardiomyopathy - a hereditary disease of the heart muscle - and soon he became so weak he couldn't stand, walk or dress himself. A few months later, medics told if he didn't have a transplant immediately he would die. As there were no organs available, he was fitted with a pacemaker and an artificial heart - which he now carries around in a bag on his back. Despite his brush with death, he is now back to the gym and said he cries after workouts as he feels so 'thankful to be alive'. Recalling suffering from heart failure, Mr Jones said: 'It's something I would never want to wish upon my worst enemy. 'You can't breathe, you can't think, you don't eat and you don't sleep. He continued: 'Living with this disease put me in a pattern with depression and physical pain. 'I had to stop working because I wouldn't be able to stand for more than 10 minutes. 'I dreaded going to the kitchen because that meant that I had to go up and down my stairs. 'I couldn't even get dressed without panting and gasping for air - my life was falling apart and I just wanted relief.' Cardiomyopathy isn’t a single condition, but a group of conditions that affect the structure of the heart and reduce its ability to pump blood around the body. The heart muscle can become enlarged, thick, or rigid - or muscle can become replaced with scar tissue. Mr Jones was devastated when his condition left him to weak to walk, let alone lift weights. But since having the artificial heart implanted he has slowly recovered and is now back to training in the gym. His artificial heart has two tubes that exit the body and are connected to a machine he carries around in a bag. The machine delivers compressed air into the ventricles to allow blood to be pumped through the body. His doctors have said as long as he tells his transplant routine about his weight-lifting routine, he is able to keep training. He said: 'I will never forget the day I had to throw in the towel until I started feeling better. 'I tried my hardest to push through the shortness of breath, but I just could not train without my heart functioning properly. 'Today, thanks to my medical devices, I feel like a new person. 'I am almost back to the old Andrew that was able to train with passion and intensity. 'I do everything I can without compromising my health and the security of my devices.' Mr Jones even launched his own charity, Hearts at Large, to raise awareness for organ donations and has over 14,000 followers on his Instagram, @FitnessWithAJ. Grateful to be alive, he now breaks down in tears at the gym as he is so happy he is still able to train. He said: 'I always loved working out and staying in shape, but I never actually took the time to be thankful to even have the ability to do so. 'Now I end my workouts almost in tears because I am still alive and I feel amazing.' While some would hide their scars, Mr Jones wears his with pride, and explains to anyone who asks why he carries a backpack with him everywhere. He said: 'I work in retail part-time and customers ask me all the time why I wear my backpack. 'When I tell them what it is for the response is somewhere along the lines of shock. 'They think I am pulling their leg, or seem surprised because I look healthy. He continued: 'I'm never afraid to go out in public or take off my shirt in front of other people. 'I do try to be considerate because it is different and some people may feel uncomfortable. 'But I have no problem explaining what my device is, how it works and why I need it.' He said during his four-month stay in hospital, he was constantly reminded of how serious his circumstances were. 'Despite this I couldn't shake the thought of the people who aren't healthy enough to even be considered for a transplant, or the people who don't have access to good health care,' he said. 'That is what I want to change with Hearts at Large. We can advance our already incredible technology to save lives.'