Justin Davis is making it his mission to provide more than 1,000 care packages for heart patients. (DHI Media/Martin Verni)
Justin Davis is making it his mission to provide more than 1,000 care packages for heart patients. (DHI Media/Martin Verni)

LIMA — Launching and running a service oriented non-profit takes many things. It takes a strong desire to assist those in need. It takes tenacious persistence to build a group of volunteers willing to support your mission. It takes determination to sustain the emerging organization during its inevitable ups and downs. Above all else, it takes a unique heart — and on this measure, Justin Davis, born in Ottoville and now living in Delphos, has everyone else beat, literally.

“To this day,” says Davis, “Nothing shows up on my troponin levels (an indicator of damaged heart muscle cells). Nothing shows up on my EKGs. My vitals stay the same. And every time, I’m having a heart attack. Come to find out, I’m the only documented case so far with this heart disease.”

It took four years of multiple doctor visits in different hospitals and in different states for Davis to finally receive the attention his heart needed. Each time, since an EKG and other indicators showed nothing, he was told the issue was anxiety, and he was sent along his way.

Finally, an incident occurred while Davis was enrolled at the Institution of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which led to an understanding of just how damaged his heart is. “[The EMT’s] finally take me to the hospital,” recounts Davis. “And, it’s the same thing at the hospital, ‘You’re fine. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you.’ They finally see just a little obscurity on my EKG and take me in for a heart catheterization. They get to my heart [with the catheter] and rush me in for an emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Come to find out, I was on my deathbed. I was about to die.”

“It was a long journey, hopping from hospital to hospital, trying to find out what’s wrong with me, and every doctor is saying, ‘I have no idea.’ To finally get to the National Institute of Health where they’re now doing a case study on me. I went from a group of one of four (at the NIH) to a group of just one. Because, come to find out, my [heart disease] is different from [the other three]. We found that out in November [of last year].”

This journey gave Davis an intimate understanding of just how traumatizing and difficult heart disease can be, and not just for the one suffering through the diagnosis and its consequences, but for family as well.

“I’ve watched my mom sleep on a chair that doesn’t even recline for days on end,” says Davis. “And, they won’t even give her a pillow and a blanket in the hospital, because they’re trying to save money. She went days, weeks without a shower, just everything.”

“I don’t want others to go through that. I just have…I don’t even know now how to explain it…There’s something in me that just says, ‘This is what you gotta do. This is why you’re here. This is what you’re meant to do.’ So I started ‘Rock for the Heart.’ I’m trying to raise money for heart disease research as well as provide care packages for families and patients in the hospital.”

“I’ve always had a passion for music,” Davis says of the inspiration for his non-profit initiative. “I’ve been a musician my entire life. And, ‘Rock for the Heart’ actually started back in 2014. I was sitting there and I couldn’t do anything. I was just feeling bad for myself, and that’s when it hit me. Why don’t I use music to help others. I started putting on shows, rock shows, to raise money for heart disease research. So that’s where Rock for the Heart was born, and then it kind of grew into this.”

“We now provide care packages for Lima St. Rita’s, Lima Memorial, OSU and the [Richard M.] Ross Heart Hospital, and Dayton Children’s Hospital.”

Davis and a few volunteers recently put together 161 care packages with a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, house socks, a throw blanket, deodorant and Chapstick. For children’s hospitals, he also gets donations of children’s books, comic books and similar materials. Only new items in their original packaging are accepted as a donation. The goal is over 1,000 bags for 2018.

Donations are always needed. Several fundraising and organizing events are in the planning stages. Donation jars have been placed at area businesses, including Westrich Furniture in Delphos. According to Davis, the organization’s Facebook page is updated almost daily, as is its website. The best way for supporters to stay up-to-date is to like and follow the Facebook page. Donations can be accepted through the website: www.rock4theheart.com/donate.