Dallastown native and NFL Network reporter Kim Jones was on NBC’s Today show Wednesday to discuss her life-threatening heart surgery last November and to raise awareness for heart health.
Jones, 49, was covering a Washington Redskins news conference about four months ago when she lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital for what emergency medical services personnel thought was heart attack.
“All of a sudden, my neck got hot on both sides. I walked outside and I tripped,” Jones told the Today show hosts. “…I went back into the room and I sat down. From that point on, I was in and out of consciousness. I was in the ambulance, they were asking me questions, and I was responding to them. They told me I was having a heart attack. For some reason, in my mind, I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack.”
The Penn State graduate was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia and had surgery for an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the wall of the artery that carries blood outside of the heart.
“The layers of the aorta in my body had split,” Jones said. “That leaves the aorta in danger of rupturing. If that happens, I’m not here.”
About aortic dissections: An aortic dissection is what John Ritter, an actor and comedian, died from in 2003.
“The one thing John Ritter did, unfortunately in death, was raised awareness of this,” Jones said. “My understanding is since then, (aortic dissection) is on the minds of emergency room doctors and was for me.”
Joining Jones on the Today show was Dr. Liam Ryan, who is the director of aortic surgery at Inova. He explained that aortic dissections can be difficult to diagnose, since the symptoms are like those from a heart attack.
“The key thing is to activate EMS as soon as you have any compelling symptoms and get to a hospital and let us figure that out for you. That’s our job,” he said. “… Forty percent of people who present with an aortic dissection have no risk factors whatsoever. No family history, not high blood pressure, no smokers. No risk factors.”
Following her procedure, Jones’ surgeon, Dr. Alan Speir, apologized for the scars.
“I know what you do for a living,” Jones recalled Speir saying. “I’m sorry about the scars.”
“I was still in ICU,” Jones said Wednesday. “I didn’t have a mirror, and I hadn’t been up. I had no idea what he was talking about. My reflex was to say, “the scars are who I am now. Don’t apologize, because you saved my life.’ I had that awareness right away that Inova, Dr. Ryan and Dr. Spear saved my life.”
Jones, who is also a WFAN radio personality in New York and a former New York Yankees clubhouse reporter for the Yes Network, spent about two weeks in the hospital, during which she posted several positive videos on Instagram, thanking the doctors at Inova.
“Everyone at this hospital has helped put me back together,” Jones said in an Instagram video from her hospital bed. “I really appreciate them.”
Back at work: Jones also thanked the Washington Redskins organization during her appearance on the Today show. She said the Redskins “took the initial role” to call EMS and get her taken to a hospital.
“I got so lucky with the care I got,” she said. “It’s incredibly lucky that no one can explain.”
Jones is now back working for NFL Network, where she’s been a field reporter since 2012.
“People root for the athletes I cover all the time,” Jones said. “But in this case, some of them and a lot of other people were rooting for me to live. I certainly will never forget that feeling.”
Information for this story was provided by NBC’s Today show.