David Aucamp

Uitzicht, Cape Town, South Africa

David, 56, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to help manage an abnormal heart rhythm.

David Aucamp has been a runner, cyclist, tennis player, and more his entire life, often with his wife at his side. He ran every day for 25 years and competed in half marathons, marathons, and ultramarathons. But in 2015, after several years of constant fatigue, David was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia and an ICD was implanted.

He slowly started to train again and is now back to his normal pace. So far this year, he’s completed two marathons and the Ironman African Championship South Africa. “This means the world to me. I feel I have my old life back thanks to medical technology and procedures. I’m not afraid to run, cycle, and swim because I have peace of mind.”

Today, David is committed to helping others with heart conditions move forward. His cardiologist contacts him whenever a patient needs reassurance about life and participating in sports after receiving an ICD. He also plans to share his experience in the Western Cape, “where not many are aware of different heart diseases.”  

Angad Chandhok

Navi Mumbai, India

Angad, 22, uses insulin and a continuous glucose monitoring system to manage type 1 diabetes.

In 2013, just weeks before starting college, Angad Chandhok was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He managed his condition with insulin, dietary restrictions, and by taking up running. But quickly, running became much more. “When I’m feeling low, stressed, or anxious, I just put my running shoes on and go for a run.” He also started a tradition of evening runs with fellow students, encouraging them to achieve their fitness goals.

Even so, Angad struggled with blood sugar fluctuations. A continuous glucose monitoring device enabled him to figure out his glycemic management. He is now able to do longer runs and maintain steady blood sugar. Angad ran his first marathon in 2018. “The only thing type 1 diabetes restricts one from doing is producing insulin, the rest is in the mind.” He also recognizes that type 1 diabetes is growing at an alarming rate and is committed to spreading awareness about it.

Angad is involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation in Mumbai and shares his story online. As a Global Champion, he’ll take advantage of an even bigger platform to encourage people to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. 

Ciaran Conroy

Portlaoise, Ireland

Ciaran, 56, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

When Ciaran Conroy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 23, he received a piece of advice he’s never forgotten. “Diabetes is a condition, not a disease, one you can manage yourself with support from good advisors.” He chose to lead an active lifestyle and hasn’t looked back since.

Ciaran, who is married with two children, a CEO, a women’s football team coach, and a runner for more than 10 years, describes himself as “sporting mad.” He runs 50 miles a week and competes in numerous marathons — and consistently finishes in the top 5 percent in his age category. But after his glucose spiked during the 2016 Dublin City Marathon, he received an insulin pump. It gives him more freedom in his training and he says he wouldn’t be without it. He recently qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon.

Ciaran plans to leverage his years of marketing and communications expertise to reach out to the world and tell his story. “There’s an old Irish saying, ‘If you want to know about mountain climbing, ask a mountain climber.’ Coping with diabetes is a mountain — and I might be able to help.” 

Verna Cook-Jackson

Taupo, New Zealand

Verna, 66, has a pacemaker to help manage an abnormal heart rhythm.

In 1980, Verna Cook-Jackson ran her first Rotorua Marathon in New Zealand. She hasn’t missed one since, despite dealing with serious health concerns, including a heart problem.

Early in her running career, Verna’s husband Tony — an experienced Ironman athlete — helped her overcome a fear of water and achieve her goal of being a triathlete. In fact, she went on to complete 15 Ironman events and more than 100 marathons. After a heart problem was diagnosed, Verna continued to train, always in consultation with her cardiac specialists.

In 2013, Verna was fitted with a pacemaker. She now does marathons at a walking and jogging pace — and with a smile on her face. “Thanks to this little piece of computerization, I’m leading a normal life.” She also actively seeks ways to inspire others and is a regular speaker at local Rotary, Lions, and Probus clubs.

“The indigenous people in New Zealand have a saying, ‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata,’ meaning ‘the people, the people, the people.’ The people I’ve been involved with, encouraged, and coached are the rewards running has given me.”  

Brent Hanson

Perham, Minnesota, USA

Brent, 37, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to help manage an abnormal heart rhythm.

When Brent Hanson was in high school, cross-country coaches routinely asked him to give running a try — to no avail. Then, in 2001, after his first year of college, he nearly died from cardiac arrest and was implanted with an ICD. He struggled to make sense of everything until his senior year, when he took up running.

“I started using a treadmill twice a week, then I began running every other day. Before long, I was running daily. My outlook changed from bemoaning my fate to being a really positive person.” He suffered a second cardiac arrest in 2004, but the ICD did its job. Now happily married with two children, Brent loves life.

He’s completed 13 marathons, including the 2017 Boston Marathon. He also puts his experience to good use in his job as assistant coach of Perham High School’s cross-country and boys basketball teams. His cross-country teams have won eight state championships and five small-school national championships, and his basketball team won state in 2011. “I was saved by medical technology and have thrived. I want to share my story with youth and help them on their path in life.” 

Marina Jones

Rancho Santa Margarita, California

Marina, 66, had lung surgery due to cancer.

An international flight attendant for 35 years, Marina Jones loves meeting people, traveling the world, and running. She qualified for the Olympic Marathon trials twice — first in 1996, then in 2000, when she became the second-oldest woman to qualify for and run in the trials.

In 2008, after being diagnosed with Stage I lung cancer, Marina had lung surgery. The cause was secondhand smoke. Thanks to willpower and the support of her doctors, she learned to breathe again and remained focused on her goal of running 100 marathons. “When I heard I had lung cancer, I thought life was over. Starting to run again was difficult, but I think it made my lungs stronger.”

Now in her 10th year as an assistant coach for a high school girls track team, Marina educates students on the effects of secondhand smoke and the benefits of running. She also practices what she preaches. In May 2018, she ran in her 100th marathon. 

Tom Plath

Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Tom, 54, has a pacemaker to help manage an abnormal heart rhythm.

Since taking up running after college, it’s become a cornerstone of Tom Plath’s life. In addition to completing 37 marathons, he’s done numerous 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, sprint triathlons, and turkey trots. But after being diagnosed with a heart condition in 2011, he thought he would have to face life without running and was deeply frustrated.

Following surgery and a pacemaker implant in 2012, Tom was running again within six weeks. He completed a marathon several months later and has done five more since. “My pacemaker allows me to continue life as before. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today. It’s a factor that enables me to run and continue to stay healthy.”

Tom is actively involved in the Memphis running community and has become an inspiration to others who require pacemakers. “Life is about staying with it, having endurance, and just pushing through it. I always tell people I’m not a great runner, but I’m persistent. Running makes my life, my relationships, and my health better.”  

Meghan Wilkie

Liverpool, New York, USA

Meghan, 32, has a nerve stimulator to help control chronic pain.

Because she was born prematurely, Meg Wilkie has faced numerous obstacles throughout her life. But she’s never let anything prevent her from pursuing her goals, including being a long-distance runner and training six days a week. 

In 2015, Meg was implanted with a neurostimulator for chronic pain that began after falling and breaking her wrist while training for her first marathon. She was in excruciating pain due to nerve damage and underwent surgeries, physical therapies, and drug therapies. Throughout these treatments, her first question to her doctors was always “when can I run?” The device continues to provide relief and enables her to keep training.

Today, Meg is an active member of the Syracuse running community and knows how fortunate she is to be able to pursue her passion. She dedicates all of her races to a little boy with a serious health condition and shares her medals with him. She also freely shares her story so others know that it’s possible to manage pain. 

Christine Youngblood

Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Christy, 34, has undergone surgery and chemotherapy for cancer.

For more than 10 years, Christy Youngblood has been happily running the trails in Anchorage. But a few years ago, she was sidelined due to deteriorating health. After a splenectomy and numerous biopsies, she was diagnosed with HLH — a life-threatening immunodeficiency — and lymphoma. She underwent chemotherapy and is now in remission. “The surgery and therapies saved my life.”

It didn’t take long for her to start training again for mountain running. “After treatment and recovery, I’m now back on the trails. Running has always been my therapy and outlet to free my mind and spirit.”

She’s also telling her story. Christy is active with community organizations including the Anchorage Young Cancer Coalition, for people with cancer who are either young at heart or were diagnosed in their 20s or 30s. She gives time and energy to Be the Match and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In addition, Christy, a pharmacist, plans to share her experience with health professionals and members of her running community. “I want to help others with chronic illnesses stay hopeful and take things one day at a time.”

Maria Fernanda Zuazo

Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina

Maria, 45, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.

After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012, Maria Fernanda Zuazo took up running to help turn daily challenges into something enjoyable and rewarding. “Running is the only thing that lets me remain strong when facing adversity.”

The insulin pump Maria received in 2015 helps her maintain regular glycemic profiles. “The pump gives me the confidence and the freedom I need to run and meet my goals, including participating in the 100K El Cruce Columbia and the 80K La Misión, both in 2017.” Maria also adheres to a regular training schedule. 

Today, Maria is deeply committed to helping others with type 1 diabetes, be it in person and through social media. She wants to show family, friends, and anyone who will listen that it’s possible to achieve goals even when facing significant obstacles.  

2018 Medtronic Global Champions Honorary Alumna Ambassador

Deby Kumasaka

Edmond, Washington

We’re proud to introduce one of our two 2018 Global Champions honorary alumni ambassadors, Deby Kumasaka. She’s a mom, wife, and research scientist who continues to dream big, reach for her goals, and triumph despite having a heart condition.

Since being selected as a 2009 Global Heroes honoree, Deby has completed three races of more than 200 miles, various marathons, and more than 80 ultramarathons. She also conquered the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning—completing the four oldest 100-mile races in the United States within four months.

See our Global Champion 10 Mile Runners.

The submission deadline for the 2018 program has closed. We can notify you when the 2019 application is available.

Medtronic Global Champions recognizes athletes from around the world who have received medical technology and therapies to treat health conditions such as heart conditions and disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, obesity, gastrointestinal or urological disorders. Implantable devices and treatments represented may not be for everyone. The Global Champion patient stories capture individual experiences; individual results may vary. You should consult with your physician about any questions or concerns you have related to your own health.