Global Heroes

Global Heroes

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Weekend Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN USA
October 7–9, 2016

The 2015 Heroes

While their stories, running abilities and goals may vary, each Global Hero brings inspiration to the starting line. By sharing these stories, others can cheer the accomplishment, or take action in their own lives.

Thanks to advances in medical technology, these extraordinary runners still compete — not necessarily against the field — but within themselves.

Global Heroes is a cooperative effort between the Twin Cities in Motion and Medtronic.

Meet our 2015 Global Heroes

Marathon Participants


Delphine Arduini — Saint-Restitut, France

Delphine Arduini

Delphine Arduini, 37, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

At 16, Delphine Arduini was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but she never let that stop her. And with the help of her insulin pump, she is not afraid to do anything.

With a love for travel and trek, Arduini has been able to experience the world, despite her diabetes. On a world tour of 16 countries through Europe, Asia, and South America, she was able to focus on the experience rather than managing her blood sugar, living life to the fullest.

She also loves to run. However, the combination of diabetes and exercise made it complicated to manage her glucose levels. Her pump has allowed her to control these variables. Now, running is a release for her, providing a new test both mentally and physically.

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Liga Arniece — Riga, Latvia

Liga Arniece

Liga Arniece, 31, has a pacemaker to treat atrioventricular block.

In 2008 Liga Arniece was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, which is characterized by a rapid heartbeat. A member of Latvia's national orienteering team, Arniece needed surgery. Unfortunately, damage to her electrical conduction pathway during surgery led to abnormally slow heartbeat. For her, a 24-year-old athlete, it was a cruel diagnosis and seemed like the end of her life. Unable to work, to run, or complete everyday tasks, she didn't just lose her chance to run for the national team, she lost her happiness and life balance.

In September 2008, the same year as her diagnosis, Arniece had a pacemaker implanted. It took three years for her body and her pacemaker to speak the same language after her surgery. Since then, her physical and mental strength and energy have returned. Last year, once again part of the Latvian Orienteering National Team, she participated in - and won - an 80km trail running race in her home country.

Along with being a member of the orienteering national team, Arniece is a chairman of her orienteering club and a Swedish teacher. Her pacemaker has given her the opportunity to live a life where she doesn't just take from the community, but also contributes, while still doing the thing she loves the most - running.

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Jack Clancy — Cape Town, South Africa (formerly from Minnesota)

Jack Clancy

Jack Clancy, 24, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

As a college freshman, Jack Clancy went to the doctor for what he expected to be an eye appointment. Imagine the devastation when Clancy learned what was actually affecting him was type 1 diabetes. The first few months of managing his condition were a challenge.

Frustrated with the challenges of his new life, Clancy lived in constant fear of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and struggled to give himself accurate insulin doses to account for his active lifestyle. The fear began to completely dictate his life, causing him to stop participating in many of the activities that he loved – hiking, playing soccer, swimming and exploring.

But the moment Clancy started using an insulin pump, everything changed. His numbers started to stabilize and he realized diabetes didn't need to own his life – he could own his diabetes. This is when Clancy discovered running.

Since first becoming an athlete with diabetes, Clancy now dedicates his life to teaching others the power of exercise in managing a chronic disease, as well as fighting to give medical technology and care to those in the developing world. A native of Minnesota, he's currently living in Cape Town, South Africa, working for Grassroot Soccer, an organization that uses sports-based activities to educate youth in high-risk areas about topics like HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence and substance abuse.

Clancy is passionate about his work: "I am ready to fight for the 12-year-old in Botswana who thinks his diabetes diagnosis means the end of his life, because I know that it doesn't have to be."

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Laura Gee — Nashville, Tennessee

Laura Gee

Laura Gee, 36, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

Laura Gee manages her type 1 diabetes, which she has had most of her life, with an insulin pump and a healthy lifestyle. But it was her mother's breast cancer diagnosis and survival that really inspired Gee to take responsibility for her health. With her doctor's help, she decided to undergo a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy in 2011 to reduce her lifetime risk of cancer.

With minimal training, and only 10 days after her surgery, Laura Gee and her husband Rob finished their very first race, the Susan Komen Race for the Cure 5K, and they haven't looked back. Her insulin pump has not held her down, and in fact has made it possible to lead an active life - she and her husband have completed multiple 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, marathons, and even an ultra-marathon.

With her diabetes requiring a healthy lifestyle, and her high risk of cancer only furthering that need, Laura has used her mother's breast cancer survival as inspiration. Her diagnosis of a genetic mutation, that puts her at a significant lifetime risk of cancer, did not end her run; it started it.

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Silvia Verhoeven — Etten-Leur, Netherlands

Silvia Verhoeven

Silvia Verhoeven, 52, has a pacemaker to treat 3rd degree AV block and bradycardia, a slow heartbeat.

Silvia Verhoeven began running at the age of 43. In 2010, however, and after only a few years of training, she started to experience loss of consciousness when straining her body, but there was no diagnosis. To help figure out what was causing the problem doctors implanted a cardiac monitor. Verhoeven kept up her running and once again lost consciousness. This time, the results of the monitor diagnosed her with AV block. Finding clarity on the issue, her next step was having a pacemaker implanted.

Eager to get back to sporting activity, Verhoeven held tight to the pleasure in running, which she found she had only begun to experience in the past. With her confidence growing, slowly but surely, she adjusted to her pacemaker and is now competing in marathons and other long-distance runs.

She sees herself as an example of a "never give up" attitude and chose to look at her heart problems as a personal challenge rather than a drawback and hopes to share her approach with others who face similar conditions.

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Sarah Escutia — Warren, Michigan

Sarah Escutia

Sarah Escutia, 30, has a pacemaker to treat Neurocardiogenic Syncope.

Suffering severe, near-daily blackouts for much of her adolescent life, Sarah Escutia struggled to hold a conversation without becoming out-of-breath. But after receiving her first pacemaker to treat severe bradycardia (slow heartbeat) at age 21, Escutia's life was opened to possibility – the possibility of becoming a marathon runner (and finisher), the possibility of raising funds to support the American Heart Association. These possibilities are now the realities that define Escutia's life.

Escutia has completed two full marathons and more than six half-marathons. Additionally, she helps inspire those who are living with similar conditions through volunteer work with American Heart Association and local Heart Heroes.

"Do your best and forget the rest," is the motto Escutia lives by as she goes through life encouraging those around her to live each day to the fullest.

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Dr. Melanie Schipfer — Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Dr. Melanie Schipfer

Dr. Melanie Schipfer, 33, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

Sport has always been part of Melanie Schipfer's life, but after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes it became more than a hobby. It became a lifestyle. Ever since that day in 1996, Schipfer has looked for ways to take control of her health and manage her condition. This includes running a total of 13 marathons and seven Ironman races.

For Schipfer, it's about more than simply completing a race. It's about pushing herself to find ways to participate in races as if she is any other runner – not one reliant on blood-sugar monitoring tools and backup sugar in her pocket.

This feeling of facing adversity with confidence is a message Schipfer hopes to pass on to others through work with Special Ones, a group dedicated to helping people with type 1 diabetes participate in ambitious sport competitions.

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Sergei Boronin — Moscow, Russia

Sergei Boronin

Sergei Boronin, 35, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

Having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five, Sergei Boronin doesn't really know life without his condition. That may be the secret to his belief that diabetes is not a disease, it's a way of life and that people with diabetes can live a very normal – even extraordinary – life.

With the help of an insulin pump, which he received in 2012, Boronin's extraordinary life includes participating in sports of all kinds from football to marathons, as well as helping teach his three daughters that no dream is out of reach. Boronin credits the pump for helping stabilize his blood sugar, which has made it easier for him to live an active lifestyle. He appreciates that the injections are easier with his current device – no longer needing to give himself a shot with a syringe.

Boronin also spends time using social media encourage other Russians with diabetes to run marathons and is training to become the first Russian with type 1 diabetes to compete in an Ironman.

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Kenji Kamiuchi — Kyoto, Japan

Kenji Kamiuchi

Kenji Kamiuchi, 44, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

Kenji Kamiuchi grew up running. But when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 15, running stopped being enjoyable. Feeling constantly at risk for low blood sugar every time he completed a long exercise, Kamiuchi ran with fear and essentially stopped participating in the workouts he loved.

But after receiving an insulin pump in 2007, Kamiuchi became able to run without fear of a low blood sugar crash, and completed his first marathon in Honolulu. He was delighted to be able to compete just like any other runner.

Kamiuchi hopes to inspire other runners with diabetes to continue running and managing their disease in order to live their best lives.

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Tomas Mahony — Waterford, Ireland

Tomas Mahony

Mahony, 46, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

Having been a runner for more than 10 years, Tomas Mahony loves to live an active lifestyle. He's run five marathons, quickening his pace each race (his dream is to break three hours). You can often find him playing soccer with his four boys. He is a Manager with the EirGrid, who manage the electricity grid in Ireland. But having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he found his active life constantly being interrupted to check blood sugar levels.

Since receiving his first insulin pump seven years ago, the technology has continued to improve, giving Mahony more and more flexibility with his life. For example, previously during triathlons he would lose time during the swim transitions because he had to remove his device before getting in the water. With a new device that he received this year, Mahony will be able to wear it right into the water. Additionally, while on the farm, he can set the pump to a lower basal rate so the increased physical work doesn't bring on hypoglycemia.

When asked what advice he'd give others managing this disease, Mahoney recommends, "Manage it aggressively, take interest in it and use the latest technology."

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Ten Mile Participants


Katie Bartel — New Westminster, Canada

Katie Bartel

Bartel, 37, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

While Katie Bartel may not know what it's like to run without diabetes, she does know what it's like to run without an insulin pump. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at nine years old, Bartel has spent most of her life being told what she "can't" do – run marathons, climb mountains, ride long distances and travel the world.

She's also spent her life proving the naysayers wrong with the help of an insulin pump. Bartel began running in 2007 and her sister-in-law encouraged Bartel to join a running clinic with her. After placing third in her first 5K, Bartel was hooked. In January Bartel beat her half marathon personal best time by nearly four minutes.

Following a successful 11-year career in journalism, Bartel returned to school last fall to become a registered dietitian with the goal of working with healthy, athletic people living with diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, who want to improve their disease management through nutrition and sport.

She credits her insulin pump with helping raise the exposure of what people with diabetes "can" do – often, even more than they think. Bartel says, "Don't let anybody – including yourself – tell you that you can't; you can!"

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Yoshitaa Jayabalan — Klang, Malaysia

Yoshitaa Jayabalan

Jayabalan, 22, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

According to Yoshitaa Jayabalan, "Every day was a war I could never win." A runner for the past five years, her blood sugar would fluctuate tremendously and her time was always spent pricking her fingers to monitor glucose levels.

Despite these obstacles, Jayabalan would never miss a run. She craved and loved the daily intense hour of pushing herself both mentally and physically. However due to multiple episodes of severe nocturnal hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), her doctor ultimately advised her against running. Still, Jayabalan managed short runs and when her blood sugars continued to run high, she considered an insulin pump.

A year and a half after receiving her insulin pump, Jayabalan's life took a whole new turn. She's able to better manage her blood sugar, which allows her to continue to run. In fact, her passion for running only continues to grow.

Jayabalan is currently a medical student and hopes to raise awareness. Jayabalan's advice to others, "Do not let type 1 diabetes consume you or define you. Allow yourself to grow as a person; there is nothing to be embarrassed about if you have diabetes."

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Dr. Luciana Alves — Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Dr. Luciana Alves

Dr. Alves, 41, has a pacemaker to treat inappropriate sinus tachycardia and bradycardia, a slow heartbeat.

All her life Dr. Luciana Alves has been a vigorous person – determination was always her motto and running and exercise were always a part of her life. While in her 30s, however, her body began feeling tired due to abnormally fast and slow heart arrhythmia, while her soul still felt full of life.

Now, three years later, her pacemaker has changed her life. As a doctor – and a patient. With support from the Brazilian Society of Cardiac Arrhythmias and the Department of Artificial Cardiac Pacing, she founded PACEMAKERusers, a nonprofit whose mission is to help patients with implantable medical devices to share information related to health and technology and to facilitate regional and global networking. Dr. Alves is proud to tell the world that people with a medical device can run and have an active life.

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Sally Hughes — Durham, England

Sally Hughes

Hughes, 18, underwent spinal and bone therapies to treat scoliosis.

A keen swimmer and cyclist, scoliosis had prevented Sally Hughes from running as breathing was difficult and the impact on her body was too harsh. Frankly, it was something she always wanted to do, but never could. Since undergoing spinal and bone therapies, however, running has become possible. Inspired by her father to give it a try, Hughes began running a year ago and hasn't looked back. She now runs an average of 60 miles per week and has competed in 10K races and triathlons.

Hughes' advices to others with scoliosis, "Don't let it stop you. You can achieve anything you have a true passion for if you just try and work hard. I have made new friends and achieved a lot of things that I never thought possible."

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Carmen Malouf Florek — Tampa, Florida

Carmen Malouf Florek

Malouf Florek, 39, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat cardiomyopathy.

As a former collegiate track and field athlete, Carmen Malouf Florek always knew running would be a part of her life. She started running as a kid, doing sprints in her neighborhood. Later, at the University of South Florida, she ran the 400m hurdles, the 4x400 relay and also played soccer.

Six months after college graduation and at the age of 23, however, she collapsed because of her underlying heart condition, and had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implanted. While initially fearful of any physical activity following her operation, Malouf Florek's cousin convinced her she needed to "get up and move."

Malouf Florek began competing in karate tournaments and slowly began integrating more fitness into her daily routine – walking, ballet, yoga and strength training. Eventually, Malouf Florek began attending classes at UCLA, working out to kill time between work and her night classes. One day, she ran a lap around UCLA's track and felt victorious – it was the first full mile she had run in years. She continued running every day until she hit four miles at an 11 minute pace – knowing she was back in action. She went on to compete in two half marathons in California.

Malouf Florek tells others who have medical devices to "Keep on living. Even if you have fears about your device and trying new things, you have to keep positive thoughts about feeling better and getting well. I lead a perfectly normal life with my condition and my device."

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Camilo Cavalcanti — Vitoria, Brazil

Camilo Cavalcanti

Cavalcanti, 37, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat ventricular tachycardia, a fast heartbeat.

A former professional soccer player, Camilo Cavalcanti began running 10 years ago after his knees prevented from him continuing to play professionally. He then took up beach soccer and was part of the Brazilian national team from 2001-2009, winning two world championships in 2002 and 2004.

On March 21, 2009, however, Cavalcanti passed out during a beach soccer game. Diagnosed with CPVT, he could not play again and was sidelined from doing what he loved most in life. Three months later he had an ICD implanted to treat his heart arrhythmia. He began running three to five times a week and found through running he was able to do what he loved most in life – physical activity.

Since receiving his ICD, Cavalcanti says that it isn't about the fastest time anymore, rather he enjoys meeting new people in new places and learning other runners' histories. "When I travel with my family, the first thing I do to ‘meet' the place, is run through it."

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Wen Gu — Shanghai, China

Wen Gu

Gu, 34, has a pacemaker to treat bradycardia, a slow heartbeat.

As a lawyer, Gu Wen managed an intense work schedule and often found himself working long hours, often into the night. He developed bradycardia, which is a condition where the heart beats slower than 60 beats per second. This condition cast challenges on his life and family and Gu found himself unable to exercise regularly. Gu's doctors recommended that he have a pacemaker implanted, which was done in 2014.

Now, a year and a half later, Gu find himself in better shape than ever before – resuming exercise and running, and back to work as a lawyer with more confidence. He now runs three to four times a week.

Gu wants to share his story so others can be warned about living an imbalanced lifestyle. "This is my mission: to restore hope for the ill and to sound an alert for the rest."

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Nicola Derryberry Maurer — Eagan, Minnesota

Nicola Derryberry Maurer

Derryberry Maurer, 35, receives gastric electrical stimulation to manage symptoms of gastroparesis.

Nicola Derryberry Maurer's journey began in 2006 while enduring a difficult pregnancy with many complications. Following the healthy birth of her daughter in 2007, Derryberry Maurer was looking forward to feeling "normal" again. However, the nausea and vomiting didn't stop. She continued to find herself in a constant state of nausea, vomiting anywhere from two to six times a day.

In an effort to not let her condition get the best of her, Derryberry Maurer would run and compete in 10 mile races for the endorphins and the feeling of accomplishment, even though running was often followed by fatigue and nausea. Not feeling well enough to exercise became extremely frustrating and she was eventually diagnosed with idiopathic gastroparesis. The condition makes it difficult to digest food since stomach muscles are paralyzed and they can't easily pass food on to be absorbed into the body.

After nearly seven years of living with the condition, and not finding significant relief from various treatment approaches, her doctor recommended gastric electrical stimulation.

Since receiving her therapy, running and training for races has become fun again. Derryberry Maurer has completed many 5K and 10K races and several 10 mile races - and is contemplating her first half marathon this summer. She lives by Christopher Reeve's quote, "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

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Crystal Gail Welcome — Stone Mountain, Georgia

Crystal Gail Welcome

Welcome, 34, is running with a neuromodulator to manage pain.

In elementary school, Welcome was picked on by the other students. One day the kids were taunting her more than usual, and her father intervened by challenging them all to a running race. Though she didn't want to, he made her participate - and she won.

From then on Welcome's father challenged her to participate in local 5Ks. If she came home with a medal he would pay for the entry into more races. Because money was tight, she understood the financial sacrifice and worked hard to meet her father's expectations, later joining the junior high cross country team.

As a young adult, Welcome began experiencing pain, which limited her ability to be active. The lack of physical movement took a toll on her mental and physical health, and at one point she weighed 350 pounds.

In 2014, she was implanted with a neuromodulator. After her implant surgery, she began running in races again. She also lost more than 200 pounds. Welcome says, "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."

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Dion Taka — Christchurch, New Zealand

Dion Taka

Taka, 41, has a spinal cord stimulator device to manage Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 2.

In August 2012, Private Dion Taka was wounded in battle during a deployment to Afghanistan as a soldier with the New Zealand Defence Force. A bullet had shattered his pelvis, wounded his lower abdomen and caused nerve damage to his right leg. Following a medically induced coma and three surgeries to save his life, Taka was stabilized, but he began experiencing severe and debilitating pain associated with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Type 2. Taka spent four months in a German hospital unable to return home to his family in New Zealand as he worked to rehabilitate his leg and learned to walk again.

Taka received a spinal cord stimulator two years ago to help manage the debilitating pain. Taka's pain was reduced significantly and he has been able to take up running again - something that was a huge part of his life prior to being wounded, as he played rugby for many years.

Taka believes being a hero is not just about inspiring others, but it is about offering others hope. Taka and his wife want to raise awareness in New Zealand and around the world about the positive effect medical technology can have on your life.

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John Morris — Afton, Minnesota

John Morris

Morris, 58, has a stent to treat coronary artery disease.

In love with the idea of being outdoors, John Morris began running as a high school cross country and track runner. His love of outdoor exercise continued to develop as he joined the United States Army in 1984, relishing the competition of the Army's two mile run tests with his fellow soldiers.

Later, as an adult, Morris was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and had a stent implanted following his heart attack. Following the implant of his stent in 2001, Morris was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army two times. Finding the idea of slowing down unimaginable, he refused to let his condition change his activity - insisting on continuing his military service as well as his running regimen. What did change was Morris' perspective – from competitive to appreciative.

Now a Colonel and Staff Chaplain with the Army, Morris founded the Beyond The Yellow Ribbon program and manages the Army Strongbonds, a marriage and family program while preparing the 685 chaplains and chaplain's assistants of the Army National Guard.

He also has taken a more joyful and fun approach to running. He continues to take the Army's two mile run test, 5Ks, and the Whitestop 10K. Morris lives by the advice that he would give to someone whose life is affected by a condition similar to his: "Do not stop living until you are physically dead. Stay active and stay alive."

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Yulong Zhang — Kaifeng, China

Yulong Zhang

Zhang, 52, receives deep brain stimulation to help manage symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

For Yulong Zhang, life was very difficult the first few years after his diagnosis of Parkinson's. Hampered by incessant tremors and immobility, he traveled halfway around the country in hope of salvation, both physically and mentally. Doctors in Shanghai introduced him to deep brain stimulation, and implanted a stimulator, pulling him back from the edge of despair.

After his implant surgery in 2004, Zhang resumed work and began to embrace regular exercise. Now 52, Yulong has participated in many running events in his native province of Henan. Walking – let alone running – was unimaginable during the early years of the disease, but now road running has become a vital and irreplaceable part of his life.

Zhang is resolved to share his story with fellow Parkinson's disease patients by being an inspiration through his racing. In China, Zhang says, trust can be lacking between many patients and their physicians. He wants to send the message that patients and doctors can be friends and has invited his doctor to be his race companion. They hope to finish the race hand-in-hand.

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Sianga Akende — Lusaka, Zambia

Sianga Akende

Akende, 51, has two artificial heart valves to treat mitral and aortic stenosis and regurgitation.

Diagnosed with mitral and aortic stenosis, Sianga Akende finally understood where his pain and lack of energy came from. As a remedy to his heart condition, Akende found it necessary to pick up the pace from a walk to a run. After receiving his artificial heart valves in 2002, he has learned how to live a healthy life and strives to use his experience to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Winning a number of medals and riding the support of the public, Akende has become an advocate in his community. He is involved in a number of support and advocacy groups for both cardiac and diabetes sufferers, giving them encouragement and assurance that there is life even if one has a heart condition.

His advice to those affected by similar conditions is to accept it, while thinking positively and embracing a healthier lifestyle through exercise and healthy eating.

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Dr. Michael Shaughnessy — Solon, Ohio

Dr. Michael Shaughnessy

Dr. Shaughnessy, 47, has an artificial heart valve and aortic graft to treat a congenital bicuspid aortic valve as well as an aortic root aneurysm.

Michael Shaughnessy's congenital bicuspid aortic valve and aneurysm had, unbeknownst to him, kept him from reaching his potential as a kid. He first became aware of his problem at age 25 in medical school, listening to his own heart and hearing a murmur. He was diagnosed with an asymptomatic aneurysm, a crushing and unexpected development that called for urgent surgery.

In 2014 – three years following his open heart surgery – Dr. Shaughnessy was able to run more than five miles for the first time and was in the midst of training for a triathlon. He thought all was lost when a car hit him while he was training on his bike, launching him to the pavement. Rather than another surgery, however, activity was the remedy. Putting the bike in the basement and shoes on the pavement, Shaughnessy found hope for the present and future.

A physician himself, his advice to those with the same condition is to do their research, ask questions, inventory their life, and make a decision before it is too late. Michael almost lost his chance at recovery, with the rapid advancement of his disease without recognizable symptoms, but he is certainly taking advantage of his second chance at life.

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  • Eligible medical devices and disease conditions may vary. Please see the guidelines for current eligibility information.
  • Implantable devices are not for everyone, and all devices described on this site carry risks. You should consult with your physician about any questions or concerns you have related to your own health, and also about the risks and benefits associated with medical device therapy to know whether medical device therapy might be an option for you. You should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. For more information, visit www.medtronic.com.
  • These patient stories capture individual successful experiences. Individual results vary.