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For the third year in a row Thomas Jefferson Elementary School’s gym was packed with students participating in Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraising effort by the American Heart Association.
One factor driving the turnout is an enthusiastic faculty member spearheading the effort. That’s Sue Moore, the physical education instructor. The other factor is the event’s poster boy. Cody Beck, now 4, is one of their own. His three brothers are students at the school.
The purpose of the Heart Association’s fund raising effort is to finance medical research and, if not for research done in the last couple of decades, Cody Beck, who is 4, would not be alive today. He was born with a three-chambered heart. This arrangement doesn’t allow for fully oxygenated blood to be circulated through the body. Some blood makes the trip through the lungs to unload carbon dioxide and take on oxygen and some ends up making another pass through the body without going through the lungs.
He had his first open heart surgery — the first of four — when he was nine days old.
“We knew before he was born that he had a complex heart defect,” said Gina Beck, Cody’s mother.
That’s why he was born at UVA’s medical center. UVA has one of America’s top centers for treating pediatric heart defects.
“He was pretty much scooped up from my arms immediately [after birth],” his mother said. “I think I held him for 20 seconds.”
Cody still has a three-chambered heart but the surgeries rerouted his vascular plumbing so that his blood picks up more oxygen. As a result, he can do activities such as playing football with his brothers in the back yard. He just gets tired quicker, but he knows when to stop and rest.
“We don’t limit him,” Gina said.
The oxygen level in his blood is usually between 90 percent and 92 percent.
“Before his third surgery, he was down around 60 percent,” Gina said.
What are Cody’s plans for the future?
“Whenever I’m bigger, I’m going to be in this school,” said Cody, who turns 5 in August.
Moore sees Cody as a living example of what heart research has accomplished.
“Fifteen years ago, he wouldn’t be alive,” she said.
This year’s Jumprope had 16 stations with a variety of physical activities in addition to jumping rope. Moore said that 197 children signed up this year.
“That is 27 more than last year,” said Moore.
The children are all third, fourth and fifth grade students.
“Two years in a row we raised over $10,000,” Moore said.
That was this year’s goal, and the school exceeded it. The students and staff raised $12,200.