Jessica Willburn faced two heart surgeries when she was 14 years old, and now as a junior at Mancos High School, she is organizing a local fundraiser for the American Heart Association.
Willburn needed surgery to cure her supraventricular tachycardia, a condition that caused her heart to beat up to 235 beats per minute. She used to experience the symptoms when she was sitting still and exercising.
“It makes you really dizzy and shaky,” she said.
The condition prevented her from playing some sports. Doctors went in through her neck to burn nerves in her heart that were sending the electrical signals that were causing her heart to race, she said.
Willburn’s family – including her father, uncles and grandfather – have also struggled with heart disease, and those experiences motivated her to organize a Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser at the Mancos Elementary School.
Willburn kicked off the fundraiser with an assembly for the elementary students on Thursday. The students will complete the fundraiser by jumping rope during gym class on Feb. 26 and 27.
The fundraisers take place nationwide and help students learn about a healthful lifestyle.
Willburn hopes the students will recognize how important it is to be active so they can have a healthy heart.
She was inspired to get involved organizing the fundraiser and taking a lead role in the Millwood Follies after she attended a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership event in Denver.
She also wanted to bring back Jump Rope for Heart at the elementary school after a hiatus of six or seven years.
“I always loved it when I was a kid,” she said.