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news item News Monday, October 29, 2018 Monday, October 29, 2018 2:47 PM - Monday, October 29, 2018 2:47 PM

Jessica's story

If there is one thing to know about Jessica, it’s that she is a dedicated athlete, participating in cross country running, downhill skiing and softball. These activities take a lot of breath. So when Jessica began having trouble breathing while competing, her family began to worry.

“It was really hard to watch because she loves her sports so much and she was literally in tears when she’d finish a ski race.” Jessica’s mom said. “We wanted to do everything we could to fix the problem.”

Jessica’s parents brought her to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with asthma. After receiving that diagnosis, Jessica’s breathing problems persisted. Eventually, she was taken to a pulmonologist, who said Jessica’s breathing difficulties were not due to asthma. They were attributed to her sunken chest.

Jessica was diagnosed with pectus excavatum, a condition where the breastbone is sunken into the chest, leaving a dent. X-rays revealed that Jessica’s sternum was so deep in her chest that it was only a few inches from her spine, putting pressure on her lungs.

Jessica’s doctor recommended she come to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield for treatment. In June 2018, she had surgery to correct her sunken chest. A metal bar was inserted under her breastbone to move the sternum away from her spine. The bar holds the breastbone in its normal position and allows for easier breathing. When Jessica woke up, the results were immediate – it was much easier to breathe.

She spent a week recovering in the hospital. During that time, her school was holding elections for senior class president, for which she had been running. Unable to be there in person to give her speech, Jessica wrote a letter. Her friends read it aloud to her classmates on her behalf, and she won the election.

Four months after her surgery, Jessica convinced her doctors to let her go back to cross country running a little early. Since she has returned to the sport, Jessica has taken four minutes off of her personal record. She’s looking forward to continued running and skiing, knowing she can breathe much easier.

jessica in skiing race