Jacob Morris passed away on December 13th, 2019. He was 18 years old.
Morris received heart surgery to treat a bicuspid aortic valve and enlarged heart three months prior to his passing. He shared how he learned of his condition and subsequent follow-ups with his doctor to determine his need for surgery in an Instagram post. Here is what he said:
November 30th 2017 I went to cardiologist after my regular dr check-up showed an abnormal EKG. I wasn’t worried about anything because even my [doctor] told me it’s mostly likely abnormal [because] I am an athlete.
They did another EKG and the cardiologist told me it was actually fine. She then listened to my heart and had me lay down and then stand. I was kinda like what is going on. This is weird. She then told me and my mom that I have a leaky valve and I need to go and get an echo right now. The echo showed that I have a bicuspid aortic valve and my heart was enlarged. After that diagnosis I had to have a stress test done and an MRI to determine if it was safe for me to continue to train in CrossFit at a high level. It was crazy to think my heart wasn’t working with the fact that I never once felt any symptoms.
After all the test my doctor and parents agreed that I could continue CrossFit but I had to be very aware of my body and if I ever got symptoms I would have to let them know immediately. I also needed to see my cardiologist every 6 months to redo my echo to make sure my heart was still ok for me to keep training.
One month before the CrossFit Games my [doctor] wanted to repeat my MRI to check on how much blood my aortic valve was regurgitating and also my heart size. My condition had progressed a lot since that first MRI. She told me that she wants another stress test to make sure my heart can handle competing. That test showed that it was safe for me to go to the Games and to compete but we all agreed that once that was done it was time to cut back on my training volume so I can see if the size of my heart would go down. It was getting too large with how much I was working out and also with how much the valve was leaking.
6 weeks after the games and with a lower training volume I ended up going back to the [doctor] because I woke up one night not able to breath. It scared me pretty bad. She redid my echo and saw that my valve was more dilated than the last one and said it’s time to have my valve replaced.
Prior to Morris’ scheduled surgery, he caught a cold strong enough that the surgery was postponed by six weeks as a precautionary measure to avoid any potential for viral infections. Morris continued updating the community on the type of procedure he would undergo on a second Instagram post where he wrote:
I ended up getting a mild cold so my surgeon pushed back my surgery to 11/11 to be safe. It’s a long surgery and even a little viral infection could make me really sick after the surgery.
I decided to have something called the Ross procedure done for my valve replacement. They are going to take my pulmonary valve and use that to replace my aortic valve. They will then take a cadaver pulmonary valve to replace that. We liked this option best because I won’t have to be on blood thinners and there is a chance my next surgery may not have to be open heart. All the others guaranteed another OHS.
Several days prior to his passing, Morris gave another update on how he was feeling after completing heart surgery. He never allowed the circumstances to hinder his positive outlook on life.
I still have 8 more weeks until I’m even cleared to think about working out. Especially with how my heart function is still not where it should be. But today I feel good. I feel healthy. I feel thankful. I feel loved by so many.
I am thankful this happened. I know it is making me into who God wants me to be.
For those interested in seeing the post, you can check it out here (be aware, the images are of surgery and are graphic in nature). Morris ultimately passed due to complications from his heart surgery.
Earlier in 2019, Morries took 2nd place in the CrossFit Open in the Boys (16-17) division (placing 3rd overall in the United States). This qualified him for the CrossFit Games, where he finished 7th.
Morris trained at CrossFit Waterside in Orlando, FL. The owner of that affiliate, Cassidy Lance-Mcwherter, started a GoFundMe campaign for the Morris family. At the time of writing this, the campaign has exceeded its goal of $15,000.
On Thursday, December 19th, at 10am, a Celebration of Life Service for Jacob Morris will take place at Real Life Christian Church in Orlando, FL.
What is a Ross procedure?
A Ross procedure a cardiac surgery operation where a diseased aortic valve is replaced with the person’s own pulmonary valve.
Where can I donate to the Morris family?
A GoFundMe campaign was organized by Cassidy Lance-Mcwherter for the Morris Family.
Feature image from Jacob Morris’ Instagram page: @jacobmorris2001