Marion man celebrates 1 year of having new heart at MUSC Charleston

Pee Dee

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — He was near death and now after several heart surgeries and a heart transplant, a Marion man is celebrating life.

Joey Drayton had a series of health obstacles stacked against him, but he never gave up hope and he’s alive to share his testimony. Monday, he rang the bell at MUSC after his one-year anniversary of having a new heart.

“This whole process, it’s made me a better person and I’m thankful for everybody that helped and to my donor as well just for giving me a second chance,” Drayton said.

Drayton goes by Jo Stunnah. His passion is rapping and when you meet him, you’re instantly drawn in by his lighthearted and funny personality. It was evident Monday during his bell ringing ceremony at MUSC Charleston.

“Some people they are in there and they have no clue, if or when it will ever happen. All they have is the hope that it could happen. I was in that same boat but for me it happened, God made it happen,” Drayon said.

Each ring of the victory bell is music to his ears because it symbolizes life and music is his life. The young rapper, originally from Marion, South Carolina, thought he had it all. He pursued music in Los Angeles and excelled as a football player. However, in 2015, that all changed.

“One morning I woke up and I felt crazy, and it was 6:00 in the morning and I never felt that way before, just sluggish,” Drayton said.

A visit to the emergency room kept him in the hospital for days before he received some life changing news.

“I ended up staying nine days and then getting a diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy,” he explained.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a condition that makes it hard for the heart to pump blood to organs.

“Joey had a valve that was leaking, so when this chamber squeezes you’ve got blood that is going backwards into here,” Dr. Michal Craig, Advanced Heart Failure Cardiologist at MUSC Charleston said.

Over time the chamber in his heart got bigger and weaker and not enough blood was not getting to his lungs.

He needed a heart transplant. He spent most of his days at MUSC Florence from 2015 to 2020, barely clinging to life.

“During that time, the pain, everything increased,” Drayton said. “I was spending 200 days out of the year in Emergency rooms and being admitted. I was kind of giving up and I didn’t want to but I was running out of options.

A phone call from his doctor July 24, 2020, gave him hope.

“It was a video call and soon as he opened his mouth, he was going to be able to save me,” Drayton said.  “I ended up going down to Charleston. He ended up making me come a couple of days later and I went in and didn’t come out until I got a heart.”

Joey’s surgery moved him from the bottom of the transplant list to the second tier. He received the transplant last August and a new valve in November after some complications.

“I feel amazing…I honestly do,” Drayton explained. “From what I felt before to how I feel today. Every day I wake up it’s like wow, another day.”

Now, Drayton has a special appreciation for life.

“Value your time. The moment that you have and focus on what you can do today. Nothing is promised,” Drayton said.

Drayton’s journey is far from over.  Every 3 months he must have a right heart Cath and biopsy in Charleston. In addition to hospital staff, he thanks his fraternity brothers from Omega Psi Phi and all of his friends who supported him thus far.

To support, Joey, visit his GoFundMe.

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