Des Moines Actor with ‘Big’ Heart, Awaits Transplant

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Khalil Adams dreams of being a famous model and actor someday.

"It's a childhood dream. It's something I've always wanted to do," says the 22 - year - old.

That dream was sidelined last spring when he left work and headed for the emergency room thinking he was having an asthma attack. However, doctors quickly determined he was in heart failure. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes an enlarged and weakened heart.

"I worked out six days a week. I worked about six to seven days a week. I was very busy," says Adams. "Heart failure? That's for someone who doesn't do these things."

Doctors say Adams heart was barely functioning at 12 - percent. Adam's mother says there was never any sign that something was wrong.

"I had the doctors go back through their medical records, asking who missed this? There was nothing," says Tinika Roland. " Everything was considered normal."

In a matter of months the then 21 - year  - old went from looking like the picture of health to barely being able to stand on this own strength. At one point Adams almost died.

"When things get too serious , fear is the last thing in your mind. Fear means you have time to think. Things were too serious to be fearful," he says.

Adams was placed on the heart transplant list in September of 2017. Now doctors are doing what they can to keep him alive. They fitted him for a life vest, an external defibrillator which shocks the heart if it were to stop. It was replaced with an internal defibrillator and a heart pump which pumps blood throughout his body because his heart can't.

In the midst of all this, Adams' condition caused him to suffer a stroke. The continuous health issues sparked curiosity in why this was happening. Genetic test revealed Rowland carried the defective gene.

Doctor's say the medical technology will sustain him until his name is called from list of 40 other Iowans who need a new heart.

"I don`t know when that call comes. It just happens you need to react, so always have a bag with you."

Bidding farewell to a heart that is too big and too weak. An organ that doesn't fit its owner.

"All the doctors and nurse practitioners kept telling me your son has very big heart and I said, 'yes, in more ways than one,'" Roland smiles.

Adams says he is excited to continue pursuing his dreams again with a new heart filled with the same old passion.

"I'm trying to appreciate the journey. That's what I'm opening my eyes too, appreciating not being there but working to be there."

African - American Heart Health in Iowa

Adams who is African - American, is a part of a much bigger problem in Iowa when it comes to heart health. According to the American Heart Association of Iowa, half of African - Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease and are two times more like to suffer a stroke.

"We try to meet people where they are. Were working with faith-based organizations as well. What we are really looking at is where is the best place to reach them where are listening but we also have to be a trusted voice. We need to have allies in community," says Kassi Wessing, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association of Iowa.

Health officials say access to health care, environmental and genetic factors play a large role in why minorities are more affected by the disease. The American Heart Association hopes to lower cardiovascular deaths by 20 - percent within the next two years.