Global Heroes


The Medtronic Foundation’s Global Heroes program celebrated runners from around the world who benefited from medical technology. Past participants included 259 runners representing 38 different countries and a wide range of medical conditions. You can learn more about the Medtronic Foundation Global Heroes alumni by reading their bios here.

A new program has been created by Medtronic to honor athletes with medical technology, called Medtronic Global Champions. We pay tribute to and recognize all Medtronic Foundation Global Heroes alumni as honorary members of the Medtronic Global Champions inaugural team.


Marathon Participants

Bob Durband — Shoreview, Minnesota

Bob Durband

Durband, 63, has an aortic valve replacement to facilitate blood flow to the heart.

A veteran of 80 marathons, Durband missed the 1989 Twin Cities Marathon when he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aorta). With the exception of that year, he has run every marathon from Minneapolis to St. Paul.

"My surgery was a second chance for me, without it my aorta would have burst. Since then I've run another 50 plus marathons and skied about 15 Mora Vasaloppets and 15 American Birkiebeiners and done various other events. My point is not to make this a list of my accomplishments; it is to tell you that if you are given the signs, have them checked out."

Durband recalls a "welling up" in his chest, light headedness, feeling as though he was going to black out, and eventually coughing up blood. "I'm very thankful for my second chance. My times are slower now, but I'm still having fun. The spectators still cheer for me like I'm in first place when I'm running down Summit Ave. and down John Ireland Boulevard to the Capitol."

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Leslie Lam — Kaneohe, Hawaii

Leslie Lam

Lam, 42, a former Mrs. America (2000), has a pacemaker to treat an arrhythmia.

"My life has dramatically improved with the gift of technology in countless ways. The first and most significant improvement is the simple fact that I am no longer living in denial that I have a health issue…I am very aware of my heart health and the choices available to me to continue to improve my quality of life."

Lam has a genetic condition that causes her heart to beat too slowly, which resulted in frequent fainting spells prior to her pacemaker implantation in 2002. In  2006, she took up running when she decided to join a friend who had signed up for the Honolulu marathon.

As a direct result of running, she has increased her blood flow and raised her heart rate. "I no longer rely on daily medication and my pacemaker allows me to run without the fear of fainting."

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Jill Martin — Gig Harbor, Washington

Jill Martin

Martin, 41, received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

"I've exercised faithfully for most of my life and have always been health conscious. For over two years now I have been competing in triathlons and will be doing my second half Ironman race this summer. I have done numerous shorter triathlons, a marathon and plenty of shorter road races, all after suffering from sudden cardiac arrest on January 15, 2003.

"I now am the proud owner of my very own ICD. It took some time for me to get use to, and I won't pretend I wasn't afraid the first time I went running on a back road by myself, but now I see my ICD as an extra little safety blanket. I have been able to accomplish more in the last four years than I ever thought I could."

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Erin McGann — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Erin McGann

McGann, 47, has a pacemaker to treat an arrhythmia.

Diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, McGann had unexplained grand mal seizures that were life threatening before receiving a pacemaker eight years ago.

"Since getting the pacemaker, I have not had any more seizures, and I have no adverse side effects. I can run and train without threat or worry. I had a baby the same year I got the pacemaker; she has also been diagnosed with Long QT. One of the main reasons I run and compete is to show my daughter there are no barriers to what she can do and to show the importance of staying fit and healthy."

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Thomas Price — Clay, New York

Thomas Price

Price, 52, has an aortic valve replacement to facilitate blood flow to the heart.

"I had just finished the first Disney "Goofy" marathon and a half challenge when I was diagnosed with aortic stenosis. Within nine months I was unable to run even a mile. I underwent open heart surgery to replace the valve…It saved my life, and allowed me to run again! I am also a certified running coach (USATF and RRCA). I have begun using my coaching to help other AVR survivors to resume or begin running to improve their health and recovery."

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Alan Rider — Reston, Virginia

Alan Rider

Rider, 71, has a pacemaker to treat an arrhythmia.

Rider has been an avid runner/racer for 27 years, completing 28 marathons, hundreds of 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and four 50-mile ultra-marathons, but was slowed three years ago by exercise intolerance due to sick sinus syndrome (SSS).

"My performance fell dramatically and the condition progressed until it affected my everyday quality of life."

After several physician visits, Rider was eventually implanted with a pacemaker.  "My doctor recommended a pacemaker as the best hope to restore my quality of life. She implanted it last September. Since then, I've run seven races and placed in my age group in all of them. Bottom line: the pacemaker restored my quality of life. I feel like my old self prior to the onset of the exercise intolerance."

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Julie Robbins — London, Ontario, Canada

Julie Robbins

Robbins, 28, a Type 1 diabetic, has an insulin pump.

"The day before my 14th birthday I thought my life was over when my doctor told me I had Type 1 diabetes. My first question was, ‘Can I ever play sports again?'

"For the next 14 years I used insulin injections to control my diabetes and tested my glucose levels frequently. When I started running marathons in 1999, I became very frustrated with my fluctuating glucose levels and being unable to predict my highs and lows. I was also frightened that I may have a bad reaction.

"This year I was connected with a group of incredible individuals with diabetes who are also avid runners, who also taught me about the benefits of an insulin pump. In April 2007, I hesitantly obtained the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system. As soon as I made the switch, I wondered why I hadn't done this sooner." 

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James Todd — Port Hayward, Virginia

James Todd

Todd, 36, has a spinal disc to treat back pain and muscle spasms.

Todd's spinal disc is not approved by the FDA and is currently under clinical evaluation.

"I'd had back spasms off and on since my early 20s. By the time I had spine surgery, the pain and muscle spasms were so intense that my ability to perform my job as a firefighter and medic – and to just enjoy life – had become almost impossible."

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Scott Wiebold — Cartersville, Georgia

Scott Wiebold

Wiebold, 36, a Type 1 diabetic, has an insulin pump.

A Type 1 diabetic for 27 years, Wiebold decided to try pump therapy after meeting other diabetic runners at a half marathon in Kona, Hawaii.

"At the time I was taking 4 to 6 insulin shots a day. I realized that I needed to get better control of my diabetes if I wanted to run a full marathon. After seeing and talking with other diabetics with insulin pumps, I knew that an insulin pump would be an essential tool in reaching my athletic goals.

"My insulin pump has given me the freedom and flexibility to train and complete three marathons. I am in the best shape of my life. To me, running marathons with diabetes is an opportunity, not an obstacle. It's an opportunity to discover how strong you are, to prove you have the discipline and determination to achieve your goals, and to inspire others."

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Ten Mile Participants 

Patricia Arribas — Madrid, Spain

Patricia Arribas

Arribas, 30, has neurostimulation therapy for incontinence.

After suffering from consistent urinary infections that required stronger and stronger antibiotics to treat, Arribas began to feel as if she needed to urinate all the time and developed urge incontinence.

"After several drug treatments, I was led to Fundación Hospital de Alcorcón to have a new device tested on me. I was implanted in September 2005. It was last June when I took part in Valdemoro Marathon and…I was continent during the whole race."

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Almarika de Jong — George, South Africa

Almarika de Jong

de Jong, 43, has a implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat arrhythmia.

"On April 7, 2006 I received my ICD. I never had the opportunity in my life to exercise due to the arrhythmia complications. A week after surgery I started to walk and gradually increased the distance up to a point when I completed my first half marathon.

"My son, who is 8, received his ICD in April 2005. It gives us the opportunity to do basic things in life that other people take for granted – go to school, play, run and most of all to live life and enjoy it.

"I am involved in the South African support group PACE (prevention of arrhythmic cardiac events) and would like to make the public aware of the risks of SCD."

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Kristin Elgard — White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Kristin Elgard

Elgard, 25, has deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy for essential tremor, a movement disorder.

"My life has completely changed since my deep brain stimulator was implanted four and a half years ago. Things that were once difficult I can now do with ease. Little things that people take for granted, such as eating soup, writing notes in class, or putting on jewelry are now as simple as ever.

"In 2004 I became encouraged by a friend to train for a marathon. In June 2005, I ran Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, and I've been hooked on running."

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Jim Goodridge — Chicago, Illinois

Jim Goodridge

Goodridge, 57, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat an arrhythmia.

"Running has been central to my life for the past 30 years. When I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse and told that I should have open heart surgery to correct the condition, I was in complete shock."

After surgery, Goodridge was informed that he needed an ICD. "I resisted for two months, but caved in when my heartbeat slowed to four beats per minute.. Faced with the possibility of a stroke, I agreed finally to have an ICD implanted. This turned out to be the best decision a lifetime runner could make.

"Slowly I have regained my running strength and have recently rejoined by old running club, Run Chicago. I can truly say that medical technology has given me back my life."

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Jesse Hennes — Fargo, North Dakota

Jesse Hennes

Hennes, 24, a Type 1 diabetic, has an insulin pump.

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10, Hennes was a varsity cross country and track runner at Centennial High School in Circle Pines, Minn.. "As an athlete I was often nervous while running and competing. What if my blood sugars went low? How could that affect my performance, and what if I should have a severe reaction to low blood sugars?"

Hennes got an insulin pump in 2001 and continued running recreationally while attending North Dakota State University. In spring of 2006, he ran the Fargo half marathon. "If I did not have an insulin pump, maintaining consistent blood sugar levels running over an extended period of time would be very difficult. My insulin pump allows me to train on a flexible schedule while juggling both my job and studies in college. It helps me live my life on my terms, not as dictated by being a Type 1 diabetic."

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Sarah Molloy — Boston, Massachusetts

Sarah Molloy

Molloy, 30, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat an arrhythmia and will run with her twin sister, Beth Molloy Wells, another 2007 Global Hero.

"My ICD has enabled my life and running NOT to change significantly despite being diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome. Being diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm at the age of 25, having already run two marathons, was a shock. I knew that I could not go to sleep each night worrying that I was at risk for a lethal heart rhythm, so I made the decision to have an ICD implanted. I know my ICD will protect me and therefore it enables me to work out daily."

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Kirk Pfrangle — Alpharetta, Georgia

Kirk Pfrangle

Pfrangle, 58, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat an arrhythmia.

"Prior to a virus-caused episode of ventricular tachycardia two and one-half years ago, I had been a seriously competitive runner and coach for over 40 years. This was an integral part of my life. As I lay in the hospital for two weeks in 2004, I feared that my running days were over, and I was terrified at the thought.

"The little piece of extraordinarily sophisticated technology that is implanted in my chest, however, has allayed my fears and concerns. I live my life with a high degree of energy and enthusiasm because of the defibrillator, and for that I am extremely thankful."

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Sheila Pidde — Stillwater, Minnesota

Sheila Pidde

Pidde, 37, a Type 1 diabetic, has an insulin pump.

"I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 25 years old. Shots and eating consumed my life. I was running prior to my diagnosis and continued running, but was eating most days during my run to avoid the low blood sugars. I decided to start pump therapy one year after my diagnosis. Once I started the pump I felt normal again."

Pidde started running with her sister beginning with 5Ks, they worked their way to the marathon. In 2006 they ran the Chicago marathon and both qualified to run the Boston marathon, which they did in April 2007.

"Without my pump these runs would have been a lot more complicated. With my pump I can decrease my bolus percentage to match my distance and intensity of the run with just a couple button pushes! By doing this, I am able to run as far and fast as my mind and body will go; my diabetes becomes very manageable."

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James Scheibel — St. Paul, Minnesota

James Scheibel

Scheibel, 60, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat an arrhythmia.

A former mayor of St. Paul, MN (1990-94) and veteran of 35 marathons, Scheibel collapsed after finishing a race in 2002.

"I remember turning in my chip and talking with my wife about where to go for breakfast as we walked back to the car. That's the last thing I remember that day. When I regained consciousness the next morning, I found myself in the cardiac intensive care unit.

"I am told that my heart attack was probably caused by ventricular fibrillation. No one knows what caused it, nor could anyone guarantee that it wouldn't happen again. I love to run. I started running as a cross country runner in high school, more than 45 years ago. I've run hundreds of races and was a founding board member of the Twin Cities Marathon. The thought of not running every day is unfathomable.

"In October 2002, I received a cardiac defibrillator. I took my first outdoor run on Thanksgiving [Day] of 2002, and I've run every day since."

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Mark Siwik — Broadview Heights, Ohio

Mark Siwik

Siwik, 43, who was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, has an aortic valve replacement to facilitate blood flow to the heart.

"I started running in 2000 at the age of 35. I completed 7 marathons with the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon when my plans for meeting that goal were suspended because of discovery of a serious heart murmur at a routine checkup in May 2005. I was hospitalized immediately and surgery followed shortly thereafter.

"Whether I make Boston or not is no longer my end-goal. Since my surgery, I have met other patient groups comprised of open heart patients. In May 2006, one year after surgery, I helped organize and run a marathon relay team comprised solely of open heart patients…This fall, in September 2007, I have organized three teams of open heart patients to participate in [a] marathon.

"Without medical technology, I wouldn't be able to run, in fact, I wouldn't be alive. To be restored to good health and to be able to train as if I don't have a congenital heart defect is amazing."

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Courtney Sprissler — Raleigh, North Carolina

Courtney Sprissler

Sprissler, 22, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat an arrhythmia.

An active child who enjoyed athletics, Sprissler became passionate about running in middle school and began to compete in cross country and track in high school. "As my junior year concluded, my running was halted with fainting episodes that were shortly diagnosed as Long QT Syndrome."

Under the care of her cardiologist, Sprissler resumed competitive running in the middle of her senior year and was recruited to run at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. "Three weeks into college my running career was halted again from a very serious syncope episode. I was taken to UNC-Chapel Hill a day later to have an ICD implanted…all I could think was how months and months of training was down the drain. How could this be fair…

"Over the next year or so I lived an exercise-free life out of sight of normal competition. This is about the time I learned that some things are more important than you really notice. I learned the true appreciation of good health and how fortunate I was for a technology like the ICD."

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Beth Molloy Wells — Washington, DC

Beth Molloy Wells

Wells, 30, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat an arrhythmia and will run with her twin sister, Sarah Molloy, another 2007 Global Hero.

"When I was 25 and in medical school I fainted twice. The first time everyone, including myself, dismissed it as the result of being overly tired. However, when I fainted the second time in a doctor's office, I was sent to have several tests done and was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome. My three siblings were subsequently diagnosed with irregular heart rhythm.

"Like my sisters, I chose to have an ICD implanted and since then have run two marathons."

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  • Eligible medical devices and disease conditions may vary.
  • 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
  • These patient stories capture individual successful experiences. Individual results vary.