Transplant survivor turned her campaign into a family effort.
As a heart transplant survivor, Jenna Bell has to be extra cautious to avoid exposure to COVID-19 — especially restricting her time in public places.
So when the American Heart Association in Denver nominated her as a Woman of Impact, she welcomed the distraction from teaching elementary remotely, guiding her two children in their online learning and sharing workspace at home with her husband.
“I’m in a family of serial helpers,” she said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, of course, I’m going to help.’”
No stranger to the American Heart Association, Jenna volunteered as a national Go Red for Women spokesperson in 2009 and worked closely with the Denver and Kansas City Go Red for Women teams.
Due to the pandemic, the American Heart Association’s in-person events, such as the Go Red for Women luncheons, were celebrated virtually in 2020. Jenna saw the shift as a huge opportunity to take the Go Red for Women movement out of the ballroom to reach even more women with its important messages to take control of their health and advocate for themselves.
“It’s your body,” she said. “You know it better than anyone else. If you feel like something’s wrong, have it checked up. If you feel you aren’t being listened to, seek a second opinion.”
Jenna knows firsthand. At 23, she was short-winded during non-strenuous activities. Her general practitioner ordered an EKG, which came back slightly abnormal. He pushed her to see a cardiologist, who diagnosed her with heart failure.
“He saved my life,” she said about her primary care physician.
Jenna’s experience motivated her to lead her Impact Team, creating a closed Facebook page when she couldn’t meet in person.
Her campaign also became a family affair. When her children returned to school, her 9-year-old daughter conducted a fundraiser in which students paid $1 to wear jeans to school on Friday. She raised $5,000 make her the top individual fundraiser in Jenna’s Impact Team.
Jenna tapped into her network of military wives through social media, emails and calls. She hosted Zoom meetings to share the American Heart Association’s impact and followed up with a request for donations.
“The outreach we got on this floored me,” Jenna said. “Even though I would have never said no, I’m really glad I did it.”
Her advice to other women considering being a Woman of Impact nominee: “You can do it. Ask people you think will say no. People you think will say yes will say no, and that’s OK. They’re not going to hate you because you asked. You’re asking to save someone’s life.”