Health Team

Garner kids 'jump' to help classmate with heart defect

Posted March 9, 2011 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated March 10, 2011 9:22 a.m. EST

— Students at East Garner Elementary School participate each year in the nationwide fundraiser Jump Rope for Hope to help children born with life-threatening conditions, including heart defects.

This year, they renamed the event "Jump for John" in honor of their classmate, 7-year-old Jonathan Bridges, who has Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect.

"He has what seems to be a four-chambered heart, but only three of them function as they should," his father, Damien Bridges, said.

Jonathan has had two major heart surgeries and might need another.

To bypass the defective chamber, surgeons redirected blood flow through the heart. Blood from the upper portion of his body now goes through his lungs.

"The (blood) from the lower part of his body comes through his heart, so his heart and lungs work together," Jonathan's mother, Schadell Bridges, said.

However, because his lungs are doing double duty, a simple cold could place more stress on his heart.

Jonathan's condition motivated his fellow students to raise money that the American Heart Association will dedicate to medical research and other assistance for children like him.

"They realize that there are people just like them who are going through tough times and that even the littlest things we can do help. Just raising a few dollars is helping somebody," teacher Amanda Beier said.

Almost half of babies born with Down Syndrome have heart defects. Some of those defects are minor and can be treated with medication, while others require surgery.

Newborns with Down Syndrome should be examined by a pediatric cardiologist as soon as possible after birth.

This year, the students at East Garner Elementary raised $2,300 in the Jump for John event.

"It was very emotional," Schadell Bridges said. "It's just overwhelming to see all the love and support that Jonathan has from his school family."