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.
Adriane Devereux was born to be an athlete. But after being diagnosed with chronic regional pain syndrome as a preteen, she feared her days as a swimmer were over. She tried a number of treatments to relieve her pain, but none provided long-lasting relief.
The pain became so severe it eventually sidelined her from school and sports. It wasn’t until she had a spinal cord stimulator implanted in 2002 that she was able to return to competition in the pool.
With the encouragement of her mother and sister, who have both completed marathons, Adriane took up running as a way to stay in shape after finishing her collegiate swimming career. Three years later, she found herself running competitively, and in 2012 she completed her first marathon. Adriane loves running because it is both a 'uniquely solitary and social activity.'
Adriane's condition has taught her how to persevere and move forward in all aspects of life. She encourages others with similar conditions to stay healthy in mind and body. She says, "It is not always easy, but as soon as I found that balance in my life, I began experiencing far less pain."
Sally Feinerman appeared to be the picture of health. She was an active, fit, 42 year-old personal trainer and avid runner when she collapsed during a New York Marathon qualifying race in 2011.
Initially dismissing the episode as heat-related, she later learned she had an atrioventricular heart block, a block in the heart's electrical system that caused it to slow down during exercise. Doctors implanted a pacemaker. Sidelined for eight weeks, Feinerman was devastated, but not deterred. She entered her name in the New York Marathon lottery and was selected.
After a 20-week training program, Sally and her husband headed to New York for the marathon when Hurricane Sandy dealt her a second blow, cancelling the race. Still determined, she and her husband found two non-official "New York" marathons to participate in a week apart while in the United States.
Sally has since teamed up with the New Zealand Heart Foundation, forming a free walking group that helps raise money for the organization. She continues her work as a personal trainer, emphasizing the importance of exercise and healthy diet as a way to prevent heart disease.
She says having a pacemaker doesn't need to change your life. She sees it as an opportunity to continue normal daily activities. She challenges others with similar conditions to "stop asking 'why me' and instead look for ways to turn their situation into a positive."
Fitzgerald has a shunt to treat Hydrocephalus.
Adam Fitzgerald has known and overcome adversity his entire life. He was born with Hydrocephalus, commonly known as water on the brain. He had his first shunt implanted when he was just five months old. At 45 years-old, Adam has undergone 31 surgeries, including 13 on his brain, for a variety of medical conditions, including deafness.
Ironically, he says it was the physical limitation put on him by his condition that led him to his passion for running. "Contact sports were off the table. Running was one of the few activities my parents let me do," he says. He ran his first race at age 14 with the promise of a free t-shirt. From that moment on, he was hooked. Running keeps him strong, fit and helps him clear his mind.
He loves the challenge of longer events and has taken on the motto "Relentless Forward Motion" in both running and life. He says no matter the challenge, "just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get there."
In addition to the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Adam will also be running a 5k in November and a 50K in December. He advises others to "remember your condition is what you have. It is NOT who you are."
Greg Goebel is what you would call an avid runner. At 59, he has completed 67 marathons, 20 half marathons and an ultramarathon. But it was during one of those marathons that he almost lost his life.
About midway through an indoor marathon in Minnesota in January of 2011, Greg collapsed after suffering sudden cardiac arrest. A doctor, also running the race, and nurse who was watching, were able to resuscitate him with CPR, but he spent four days in a coma and eventually received an ICD.
With no obvious explanation or history of heart disease, Goebel had to overcome the fear of a reoccurrence. His device has given him the confidence to return to running – this time with a new mission. He runs to create awareness of CPR, sharing his story with anyone who will listen, and also to serve as an inspiration for other cardiac patients.
Making the most of his second chance at life, Greg has run 22 marathons and 13 half-marathons since getting his device. His times have slowed as he pays closer attention to his heart rate, but his passion has not. He encourages cardiac patients to "be diligent, but not to become a prisoner of their own mind."
Tom Grossman is working hard to change the perception of diabetes – and he’s succeeding. Tom was self-conscious about his diagnosis at first. From the time he first learned he had Type 1 diabetes at the age of 8 until early high school, he avoided situations that required him to let people know about his diabetes. It wasn’t until he became a counselor at a camp for people with diabetes that he began to rethink the disease. He now sees it as a challenge that motivates him, not a condition that limits him.
Despite the incredible developments in diabetes care over the last thirty years, Tom believes public perception of the disease has changed very little. Determined to change that, he took up running in 1991 because he says it is "an activity that demonstrates the miraculous machine that is the human body." In 1993, even more possibilities were available to him when he received an insulin pump.
Since getting the pump, Tom has run multiple marathons. His most notable athletic achievement to date: participating in a Run Across America where he ran over 25 miles, each day, for 15 days in a row. The purpose – to prompt others to 'rethink diabetes' by demonstrating what is made possible when the disease is well-managed. He also competes in triathlons, duathlons, cycling and cross country ski racing. Tom strongly encourages others with diabetes to "stop seeing limits and start pursuing all of the possibilities in front of them."
At 41, Peter Johnson's heart would frequently slow down, sometimes stopping altogether or causing seizures. Doctors diagnosed him with Sick Sinus Syndrome and recommended a pacemaker. He hasn't looked back since.
With a pacemaker effectively treating his condition, Peter took up running to stay healthy. Two years later, and with his second pacemaker, he had lost 40 pounds and completed his first of five marathons. He says he loves the sense of accomplishment after a long run.
His pacemaker also led to changes in his career. He began working in the international public health field and has used his device to connect with health workers around the world working to improve the lives of others. Peter believes this would not have been possible without his pacemaker. He encourages others with heart disease "not to limit themselves or shut the door on possibilities."
Sandra Kemper knows both sides of the medical field well. She is a nurse who has suffered from tachycardia, or a fast heartbeat, most of her life. But at the age of 31, with two young daughters at home, this nurse found herself the patient.
But then her tachycardia started to occur so often, that Sandra Kemper decided to shoulder an intervention. Cause to an atrioventricular heart block during the intervention, it became necessary to insert a pacemaker. Now the pacemaker helps Kemper to keep a normal and even heartbeat.
Four weeks after intervention, Kemper made the decision to take up running with her eyes set on a marathon. She knew her life was dependent on the pacemaker, but she didn’t want it to influence how she lived.
Kemper's goal quickly turned into her passion. In 2001, she ran her first marathon. Twelve years later she is training for her 23rd marathon. Kemper's advice to others with a pacemaker is: "have confidence in the technology and work with your doctor to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself."
To Kostadin Martinov, limits only exist in the mind. That is why he refuses to let his Type 1 diabetes take control of his life. In 2006, his mission was given a boost with the help of an insulin pump. The pump opened a world of opportunity for him, allowing him more life flexibility and less daily interruption.
Determined to take charge of his condition, Kostadin turned to running two years ago as a way to keep his blood sugar in check. He quickly fell in love with running and the way it made him feel. He has since run two marathons and plans to run two more before the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in October.
Kostadin says managing diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint. He encourages others to "believe in your own power and have the courage to live life to the fullest."
Beating the odds is never easy, but it can be done with hard work and perseverance. Just ask Maureen McCool. She was an active, strong hiker before suffering a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2005. The incident left both her balance and vision compromised. With only a six and a half percent chance of ever living independently again, she knew it was a long road ahead.
Maureen began walking with a friend to aid in her recovery. The walks slowly evolved into runs, jogging closely behind her friend using her footprints as a guide.
Determined, this continued for years until she was able to regain enough balance and vision to run independently. Her condition has improved so much that she completed her first marathon and is now able to return to hiking the challenging hills she once conquered.
Maureen says running has improved the quality of her life both physically and mentally. She wants others recovering from ruptured brain aneurysms to know "it is a long road, but by staying active and living well it can be done."
Siobhan Monaghan was very active growing up, running and biking. Yet, just before her wedding in 1992, she was dealt a health challenge as doctors diagnosed her with Type 1 diabetes. Mentally, it motivated her to embrace life and see beyond her challenges, but physically it was draining her energy.
She spent years working hard to get better control of her diabetes. She returned to running and even conquered three marathons, but still felt her quality of life was being negatively impacted by diabetes. It wasn't until 2009 that Siobhan, now a mother of four, pursued insulin pump therapy. She says it changed her life, giving her the energy and confidence she needed to pursue her goals.
She now uses that energy to educate and motivate others as a Diabetes Specialist Dietitian and endurance runner. She has since run eight marathons, many of them to help raise money for diabetes research. Siobhan says running gives back more than it takes.
Siobhan encourages others with diabetes to pursue their goals and never give up. Her motto has become "life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
A workplace accident in the early 2000s left Johan Sileson with chronic nerve damage so painful he was bound to a wheelchair. Years of various treatments failed to provide relief. The pain became so intense, he barely slept. He was unable to care for himself.
Growing increasingly depressed, Johan turned to food and alcohol as an escape. Then, in 2009, he was given the opportunity to test spinal cord stimulation, a procedure he says saved his life.
After surgery for his permanent spinal cord stimulator, and with the help of rehabilitation, Johan was able to walk again and regain some independence. After some intense training, his walking turned into running. He lost nearly 70 pounds and began running competitively, completing his first marathon in 2011.
Johan now thrives on that feeling of accomplishment he gets after a long run. He has inspired hundreds of others by sharing his story during public speaking events. His advice to others suffering from chronic pain is "don't ever give up. No matter how hard it gets, don’t give up!"
Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at any age can be difficult, but learning you have it at age 11, when most kids are just trying to fit in, can be devastating. But Ana took her diagnosis as a challenge. She became determined to show the world that young people can live ‘normal’ lives despite the disease.
She admits it wasn't easy, at times taking more than six injections each day to control her glucose levels. But she never let it stop her from participating in the activities she loved like volleyball, dance, martial arts and running. For Ana, running helps her find herself. It gives her joy and a feeling only another runner could understand.
In 2010, she received an insulin pump, which helped her better regulate her glucose levels and take her passion for running to a competitive level. Now 26, she has completed four marathons and works in the health field educating others about diabetes. "The secret," she says, "is to never give up, to learn to find ways to control and to live with the disease, and to be confident in saying that we can do it."
Paul Arcangeli was first introduced to running during U.S. Army training in 1983. He recalls that first two mile run as ‘excruciating'. Little did he know at the time that running would become a vital part of his life. In 1999, at the age of 33, he suffered sudden cardiac arrest in his sleep. Rescue crews were able to revive him, but he ended up in a coma. Doctors implanted an ICD to protect him from future events. It has since saved his life four times.
Paul's heart condition ended his Army career, but sparked his passion for running. He no longer had to run, he wanted to do it. Determined not to let his heart condition change who he was, he began running regularly for motivation and to maintain his health. Running helps him control the pace of his life… giving a pause from all the emails, phone calls and other distractions.
He often jokes that the purpose of his life is "to serve as a warning to others." He hopes people can draw some inspiration from his story and how he has not let his condition stop him from living life to the fullest.
At 24, Sara Costas Varela, was on top of her game. She was an active, energetic, engineering student. Then Type 1 diabetes changed her world. For the next thirteen years she struggled to regulate her glucose levels and battled episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), which kept her from participating in some of the physical activities she loved.
Then in 2011, her world changed once more when an international diabetes specialist visited Uruguay for a lecture. Sara's case was presented at the forum and the specialist recommended an insulin pump for her. She became the first person in Uruguay to receive the insulin pump technology with continuous glucose monitoring. Ten days after she got her insulin pump doctors cleared her to run her first 10K. She hasn't stopped running since.
Sara says running gives her a feeling of freedom. She learned to never give up. She says, "The power of the mind, the decision to just 'do it' is what allows us to overcome adversity."
Running has been part of Gerard DeGannes' life for 40 years. His love for running started after friends inspired him to take part in his country’s first ever marathon. He went on to start and lead a running group named Corkies Casuals. Then about four years ago his friends noticed he was having a hard time keeping up, and was missing a few group runs. Doctors diagnosed him with an irregular heartbeat and inserted a pacemaker.
Gerard and his friends noticed the difference pretty quickly. He was able to return to doing the things he loved, especially running. He loves the feeling of freedom he gets from running. He wants to let others with heart disease know life continues after your diagnosis. He says, "Keep going the best way you can and enjoy what it offers."
Noa Rinzler Diwan began running to train for triathlons. She was quickly hooked. She finished in second place in her first 5K and has never looked back. But only three years after that first race, her running came to a halt when she was nearly paralyzed. After losing feeling in both her hands while swimming, doctors diagnosed her with severe stenosis in her spine and told her she was at risk of becoming a quadriplegic. Noa, a busy mother of three, lived in constant fear that life as she knew it was over.
She eventually opted for surgery. Doctors inserted plates to secure her spine and relieve the pressure that was contributing to her paralysis. She quickly returned to training; first walking, then working her way into running. Earlier this year she completed her first full marathon and has become a certified running coach. She says running give her the strength to keep her head high during challenging times and gives her inspiration and motivation.
She wants to let people experiencing their darkest moments know "they have the spirit within them to turn their setback into triumph." She is a great believer and a living example of the healing power of running.
Katherine Hernandez has been a runner most of her life, but it wasn't until she completed her first half marathon at 44 that she found her passion for the sport. Five years later, she found herself growing increasingly fatigued when she ran. Eventually she stopped running altogether. She was embarrassed, had put on weight and had become depressed before doctors diagnosed her with aortic stenosis.
Katherine believes medical technology saved her life twice; first with a valve replacement and then four days later with a pacemaker to correct complete heart block. As she was leaving the hospital she asked the doctors when she could run again. Katherine says she will never forget the look on her husband's face that said, "She’s back!"
Following her doctor's orders, Katherine eased her way back into running, this time with a newfound sense of accomplishment and purpose. She completed her first half marathon following surgery this past March, immediately sending a photo of herself with her medal to her surgeon and cardiologist. She says medical technology has given her a quality life in which her only limitations are the ones she places on herself.
Nagesh Kuppuraju grew up in India where he says the emphasis is put on academics, not sports. It was not until he moved to the United States in his twenties that he was inspired to run. Nagesh says the health benefits and affordability of the sport made it appealing. It didn't take long for him to enjoy the steady breathing and calm that sets in after the first mile.
As he reached his forties, Nagesh began to slow down, tiring more easily. He wrote it off as part of aging, until his doctor told him he had aortic stenosis. He underwent a valve replacement in 2011, which he says drastically improved his life. Nagesh likens his new valve to a brand new spare part that helps his engine run better than before.
He returned to running, and completed his first 10 mile race a year later. He now makes the most out of every day he is given and wants to spread the word to others that "a healthy body and healthy mind go hand in hand."
Karen Lordan's life was taken over by bowel incontinence, a painful and embarrassing condition few feel comfortable talking about. She found herself carrying an emergency kit with her everywhere she went, 'just in case' of an accident. She adapted nearly everything she did, including running, to avoid those situations. It became so bad that even bending over was a challenge. Side effects from various drugs only made the condition worse. She was isolated by her condition and its associated stigma.
In late 2012, her doctor suggested sacral neuromodulation to help gain better control of her bowel function. Immediately following the procedure Lordan was hesitant out of habit, but she soon got rid of her emergency kit and starting returning to the activities she loved, including running. Sacral neuromodulation has given her a new freedom to live her life on her terms.
She now enjoys pushing herself during regular runs and has completed two ten mile races since her procedure. Lordan wants others suffering from colorectal conditions to know that they are not alone. She encourages others "not to be too embarrassed to seek help, because it is out there and can change your life."
James McGurl has never let his Type 1 diabetes stop him from living a full, active life. He was diagnosed at age 13 and received an insulin pump less than a year later. He embraced the challenge of his condition right away. That first summer he attended a camp for kids with diabetes to learn more about his condition. The next year he attended a leadership camp and was selected to be a camp leader the next several years.
He continued to play sports, his pump helping him regulate his glucose levels. At age 18, he followed his parents' lead and took up running. James loves the internal competition of trying to improve his times and distance. He started a running club at college and leads daily runs. He has completed eight half marathons.
McGurl wants others with diabetes to know it doesn’t have to slow you down. He says, "If anything, embrace the challenge."
What was intended to be a fun Christmas vacation in Hawaii quickly turned tragic for then 11-year-old Crystal Pitney.
On Christmas Day 2001, she was thrown on her back by a crashing wave. She broke her back and compressed several vertebrae. Doctors placed a metal rod in her back and she spent weeks in the hospital before beginning physical therapy. Because of the procedure, she was eventually able to return to swimming, and soon took up running too.
Crystal went on to run competitively in high school and college. Running makes her feel free and strong. She enjoys being outdoors and taking it all in.
She refuses to let her challenges become excuses. She believes sometimes it takes a tragedy to uncover the real strength inside of you. Her advice to others: "Anything is possible with time and work."
At age 44, Marla Sewall believes in miracles. She says she is one. On Labor Day 2011, after some hard runs training for a marathon she went to take a bath, passed out, fell into the tub and drowned.
Her husband found her lifeless approximately five minutes later and immediately performed CPR. He was able to revive her, but she spent days unconscious in intensive care as doctors worried about lung and brain damage. Miraculously she pulled out of it with neither.
Doctors later determined Marla had suffered sudden cardiac arrest. To prevent future attacks doctors implanted an ICD.
In the year and a half since receiving the ICD, the otherwise healthy mother of four has completed two half marathons and a 10 mile race. Running gives her both energy and a sense of calm. Her device provides her the confidence and security she needs to continue.
Since her cardiac arrest, Marla and her husband have made it their mission to share their story and spread the word about the importance of knowing CPR. She encourages everyone to "live in the moment and cherish each day."
Lin Shen refuses to let his Type 1 diabetes slow him down. He has always been active. He plays on his school's basketball team and loves long distance running. But unlike his teammates, he lives with the risk of hypoglycemia.
In 2005, at the age of 11, Lin received an insulin pump, which helped him achieve better glucose control than when using insulin injections. He says the pump helps his body keep up with his enthusiasm, supplying continuous monitoring of his glucose levels and providing him more energy to do the things he loves.
He has completed two ten mile races with his pump and looks forward to many more. He wants other young people suffering from diabetes to know it doesn’t have to stop them from the things they love. His advice: "Believe in yourself, believe in your doctors and believe in medical technology."
Yao Wang has always had a love for sports, particularly long distance running, but his Type 1 diabetes took away some of his confidence. Yao was constantly plagued by the struggle to control his blood glucose levels. He was dependent on daily insulin injection. In 2003, his confidence returned, along with a new found inspiration when he received an insulin pump.
The pump helped him achieve better glucose control, which made him feel safe doing the things he loved and gave him the assurance he needed to reach beyond his current abilities. At age 21, Wang has a new appreciation for running. It is no longer all about winning, but about being in the moment. He hopes others can glean hope from his story and know that diabetes does not have to mean the end to dreams.
It was during a checkup for his son that Warren Williams got the shock of his life. He asked the doctor to give him a quick checkup, too, as he was overdue for one.
The doctor had few concerns about Warren, who is an elite level competitive athlete, until a listen to his heart detected atrial fibrillation. Williams, who had been running competitively since age 17, had no prior symptoms.
Initially doctors put him on a variety of cardiac medications. The drugs made him feel tired and sick to the point running was nearly impossible. Doctors ultimately decided to fit him for a pacemaker. Two weeks later he was back running. Today he is more active than ever running, biking, surfing, swimming, rock climbing and more.
For Warren, running is a fantastic way to relieve stress and forget about the worries of a daily routine. Today he aims to show others they can overcome anything with courage and determination. His advice to others is to "always focus on the positives because the negatives will only slow you down."