Jon Wes and Gardner Adams share a lot. Both have a profound love for baseball. Both are in phenomenal physical condition. And as identical twins, they share the same genetic profile.
The Adams twins, now 27, began playing baseball almost before they could read. Both were offered scholarships to Asbury University. Gardner was drafted by the Braves. Their work ethic was a big factor in their success on the diamond, running 25-30 miles a week, regardless of weather, each pushing the other to achieve.
It was that closeness — and their shared genes — that ultimately saved both their lives.
In June 2014, as Jon Wes was running in the Lexington Arboretum, his heart suddenly stopped beating. He collapsed near a concert, and audience members performed CPR for almost 20 minutes until emergency crews arrived to transport him to UK HealthCare. Doctors there told his frantic family that Jon Wes had about a 30 percent chance of survival.
But Jon Wes is a fighter. After several days in a medically induced coma, he began to wake up. Now the real work fell to Gill Heart Institute cardiologists Dr. Samy-Claude Elayi and Dr. Alison Bailey, who needed to figure out why a physically fit 26-year old would have sudden cardiac death. And after some sleuthing, they had their answer: Brugada Syndrome.
According to Elayi, Brugada is a fairly rare diagnosis, affecting only about one in 1,000 people, typically of Asian descent. It can cause dangerous arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, which in extreme cases can cause sudden cardiac death.
An implantable defibrillator — a tiny version of the paddles that doctors use to shock people back to life in medical television dramas — monitors arrhythmias and delivers a shock to the heart whenever one occurs. Jon Wes was implanted with an ICD in late June and was cleared to resume exercising shortly afterward.
In the meantime, Drs. Elayi and Bailey took note that Jon Wes had a twin — an identical twin. Gardner was put through the same paces. While the ECG was inconclusive for Brugada, the genetic tests indicated he had Brugada as well. Gardner and his family agreed with the Gill team’s recommendation, and on Aug. 29, 2014 — six days after his 26th birthday — Gardner was implanted with an ICD. His first words out of surgery: “Look Mom, we’re identical again.”
Fourteen months after Jon Wes collapsed, and almost exactly a year after Gardner received his ICD, a short run revealed just how sound that decision was.
Gardner and his wife, Mary Ann, went to a local park in Anderson County, where they now live, to get some exercise and fresh air. Elayi had warned the twins never to run alone, so the plan was for Gardner to run one direction around the circle while Mary Ann walked in the opposite direction. Just four minutes in, however, Gardner knew something was very wrong.
“I was dizzy and short of breath,” Gardner said. “The next thing I knew, I woke up face down on the pavement.”
Within a minute Mary Ann appeared on the path and immediately drove him to UK Chandler Hospital. There they learned the incredible news: during Gardner’s run, his heart had stopped. The ICD had shocked his heart back to life.