When fifth-grader Becky Silvezweig heard about the American Heart Association's "Jump Rope for Heart" school program, she decided to help others while remembering her father, Stan, who died of heart disease in 1998.
On Monday, Becky and schoolmate Emily Shannon visited LDS Hospital to get a first-hand look at how the money raised will be used. In this case, it will go toward research that will help stave off infection in artificial heart patients.Silvezweig, a student at Park City's McPolin Elementary, was the top state fund-raiser, bringing in $950 for the program.
"A lot of people thought it was dumb to raise money. I did it because I was helping people and because my father had passed away," she said.
She contacted her father's former co-workers, neighbors and relatives.
"It was a way that she could do something and not sit around moping about the loss of her father," said her mother, Mary.
Shannon raised the second highest amount, $590 -- at the school and in the state. In all, students at McPolin raised $13,570 -- more than any other of the 72 schools across the state which participated. Statewide, $158,314 was raised through the program. Most schools which participate sponsor a school-wide gathering where students come together to jump rope. Some school districts even sponsor teams which perform jump rope tricks.
Dr. James Long, director of the artificial heart program at LDS Hospital, told the girls how the money helps his research into improving the long-term survival of artificial recipients.
The research could eventually lead to prolonged use of artificial hearts -- which to the girls looked like a piece of lawn equipment. Currently artificial hearts are used as bridges -- from months up to a few years -- as patients wait for heart transplants. About 5 percent to 10 percent of artificial heart patients suffer from infection.
Eventually, doctors hope to increase that time to many years but prolonged usage is likely to increase the rate of infection. The need for anti-rejection therapies is clear as up to 50,000 people have heart failure each year. Only 2,000 hearts are available each year for transplants, Long said.
In the study at LDS Hospital, antibiotics are released around the artificial heart. It allows antibiotics to be placed in the body inside a container of permeable material. The procedure avoids the possible harm which comes from high doses of antibiotics being administered to the entire body.
Reid Clark, a Provo resident with an artificial heart, came to the press conference to show how the girls how artificial hearts can sustain life. He said he had little hope after a heart attack.
"This has broken open the envelope of disease," he said."It made a major difference."
Along with the fund-raiser, students who participate in the "Jump Rope for Heart" program also are taught about proper nutrition, exercise and the ill effects of tobacco, according to Madeline Gulla, regional director with American Heart Association. For more information about the program call Gulla at 801-484-3838.