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“I have a lot of folks to thank. . .”

10 June 2010

Last weekend we held our annual national conference.  The highlight of the conference each year is hearing some of our patients tell us about their experiences with our therapies.  It is the highlight of the year for many of our people.

This year was no exception.

One of our speakers this year was an amazing woman from the South Island of New Zealand named Carol.  Carol is one of the most inspiring patients I have come across in my time at Medtronic and she truly embraces life with both hands.  In October 2009, she became the first Australasian patient to run as a Medtronic Global Hero in the Minneapolis-St Paul Marathon in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, Carol sent a letter to our Medical Director in the US telling him of an experience with her implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).  She has kindly given me permission to post a copy of her letter here.

Dear Steve,

I never thought I would be in touch so soon. I really appreciated being a Global Hero and being given the chance to run in an international marathon. I then spent a week on the Superior hiking trails and was really impressed by the litter and graffiti free trails, the size of Lake Superior and the autumn colours.

Three years ago when it was suggested, on seeing my exercise ECG that it was highly suspicious of Catecholinergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia, I was pleased to know that this was the probable reason why my twin (identical) and elder sister had both died in their early 20s during exercise.  I’m sure that the decision for implanting an ICD was blurred by the fact that I had lived a very active lifestyle for the last 25 years with no serious event. After my sisters’ demise it was an annual goal to go to four new places in the outdoors, run marathons plus some and I also went back to Nepal for the third time when I was 50 and climbed to an altitude of 18,500 ft.

In February Alan (partner) and Greg and I commenced the last part of the traverse of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. This involved four passes and four large river valleys which would take us to Mount Cook (no tracks – except animal).

Day one and two were both long days of over 12 hours, the passes were 6,000ft and on day two we reached the Godley River at 19.30. This was high and cloudy due to summer glacial melt. It was a marginal call, for crossing as it would drop over night but we decided to go for it knowing we could end up swimming.

Linking arms, with myself in the middle, we started. I can remember my legs floating and being tangled with Alan and then being in a nice warm place ‘singing’. I woke and realised I was under water, couldn’t breathe, needed to get up, slow myself down etc. I was able to do this and finally lay on the rocks absolutely spent. Alan and Greg had got to shore. As I reassured them I was ok, except for rapid breathing. I faded a bit and did feel a shock from the ICD. I recovered was able to reach the hut, warm clothes etc. It took a while but the breathing settled and the shakes stopped. We had an emergency beacon but as it was all over we decided to carry on, me with a slightly lesser load, and stop after eight hours and camp. The only after incident was that the ICD kept beeping at times.

Four days later at Mount Cook, I rang our Cardiology Dept and booked myself in for a check and advised the physiologist to inform my Cardiologist also.

I thought that the ICD would have been activated twice, but it had delivered a total of seven shocks over a period of six minutes. The beeping was the high V-V count. The battery is good and the lead is fine.

Thus, I have a lot of folk to thank. My cardiologist can do no wrong, even though she would like me on a beta blocker (they drop my exercise tolerance to below my pride level). I have received many hugs on my return to the dept, but for me the biggest hug should go to Medtronic and technology. It has saved my life and will allow me to continue an active lifestyle. Alan and I have gone on one more four day tramp and I have continued my running with no ill effects.

It is good to be able to thank Medtronic personally and please feel free to distribute this letter to your staff, especially those involved in Global Heroes.

With sincere thanks,

‘Kiwi’ Global Hero 2009

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