Medtronic Global Heroes – Meeting the Engineers
Several weeks have passed since I participated in the Twin Cities Marathon as a Medtronic Global Hero. I haven’t been able to write about it until now because the experience was so unexpected, so overwhelming, that I think I’ve needed time to process its deep meaning in my life.
First, a bit about the program: Every year Medtronic selects 25 people from all around the world who have chronic medical conditions but are able to run because of medical technology. Some are diabetic who have insulin pumps, many suffer heart conditions and have artificial valves are pacemakers. A few have nerve stimulators to treat chronic pain, like me. Medtronic then pays for those runners and a loved one to travel to Minnesota, meet the other Global Heroes, and run the Twin Cities Marathon.
But really, the program is so much more than that.
On our first full day in Minneapolis, (and after lavishing us with heaps of Global Heroes swag like apparel, water bottles, hats, a backpack, and more!) Medtronic gave us a tour of one of their main facilities. I was able to meet a few of the engineers who designed my peripheral nerve stimulator. In other words, the people who changed my life by plucking me up from the track I was on, a life of inactivity and inability to function, and set me back down on this new track in which I have opportunities and ability to fulfill my ambitions.
I often write about how ultra-running and mountain climbing lessen my physical pain and help me cope with what is left, but my nerve stimulator was the change that made it possible for me to be active again in the first place. Before my nerve stimulator, even going for a walk would aggravate my headache. I could never have become an athlete again without it.
Listening to the engineers talk about the challenges they have in designing internal medical hardware, I have an entirely different appreciation for the amazing technology inside my body.
Just as one example: I never before considered how much thought and innovation needed to be put into the type of coating around the outside of the device in order for my body to accept it. And that’s just one aspect, of thousands, of my stimulator.
In 2007, I went in for surgery without ever having seen the device and came out having never met its designers. This was an opportunity to learn about the beginnings of my stimulator’s life cycle. The Global Heroes program removed the distance between the engineers and us patients and our loved ones, allowing us to come together to celebrate how much their medical technology has helped us achieve more fulfilling (or in many cases, much longer) lives.