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'I appreciate the little things more' | Son of Navy offensive coordinator shares heart health journey

In honor of American Heart Month, Jarren Jasper shares his experience receiving a heart transplant and what lessons he learned.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — You may remember the hashtag #JarrenStrong. The son of the Naval Academy offensive coordinator experienced a heart transplant several years ago.

Like his siblings, Jarren Jasper grew up playing sports. At 14 years old, a physical to get ready for his high school season revealed a big concern.

"It was a tough time obviously. He was entering his freshman year of high school and went in for his physical. The doctor did not like what she heard so she recommended him to the cardiologist and they recommended he have an ablation performed," said Jarren's father Ivin Jasper.

While undergoing the procedure to fix the irregular heartbeat, Jarren's heart stopped.

"When he came out after the ablation, he was on life-support. They tried everything to get his heart to restart to beat on its own," said Donna Jasper.

It didn't take long for it to become clear that Jarren needed a heart transplant.

Doctors placed a mechanical pump in his body to help circulate blood through the body, while he waited for a new heart. "That was the toughest part, there was no going back. Obviously, we knew a heart transplant was next," said Ivin Jasper.

Credit: WUSA9

Jarren spent several months in the hospital as he waited for a new heart. He was released in time to attend Navy's home game against Air Force in early October.

"It was such an emotional time but at the same time it was so rewarding to see him standing there, to give him my first pump and kiss my wife and go into the game and try to find a way to get a W," said Ivin Jasper.

A win for the family came several weeks later when Jarren received word that he would receive a new heart.

"It’s the selfish part that you feel waiting for a transplant but at the same time when that gift of life is given, it’s definitely a blessing," said Ivin Jasper.

"I just appreciate the little things more, like spending time with friends and family and things like that. Those type of moments you just can’t take it for granted," said Jarren Jasper.

Credit: WUSA9

"I appreciate life so much more because when we were in the hospital I met so many other heart moms who lost their kids and I just thank God every day that my son is still here," said Donna Jasper.

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The support was immediate from other families across the community. Football players at the Naval Academy even came up with the slogan #JarrenStrong.

"You just look at life in a different way, the little things don’t matter anymore, it’s the big things," said Donna Jasper.

Credit: WUSA9
Credit: WUSA9

"When I asked the doctor how this all started, he said it could’ve been anything from a common cold that dropped to his chest and a little piece of the virus attached to his heard and made it irregular," said Donna Jasper.

The Jasper family hopes others will hear their story during American Heart Month. "So my message to the parents, just make sure you get your child a very thorough physical," said Ivin Jasper.

"I question myself all the time now when I go back and think of him saying I don’t feel good in bed. For something like a simple cold, a virus getting into your chest, attaching to your heart and causing something like that, never in 1 million years would we have thought that would have happened," said Donna Jasper.

"When a kid tells you they don’t feel good, yes sometimes they’re messing around with it but worst case scenario look what happened," said Donna Jasper.

The Jasper family said it is so important to receive routine check-ups and if you notice anything wrong, don't ignore it.

"You would rather be safe than to have something happen," said Ivin Jasper

Credit: WUSA9
Credit: WUSA9

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