Monday, March 18, 2013

Being a Medtronic Global Hero...

Medtronic Global Hero
Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Weekend
October 2, 2011 (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota) 

Each year the Medtronic Global Heroes program chooses 25 runners from around the world who benefit from medical technology to participate in the Twin Cities Marathon or Ten Mile Run (2011 included runners from Spain, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Israel, United States and more).  Most of the runners chosen benefit from the use of insulin pumps, pacemakers and stents but I was chosen for being a runner with an Interstim device (sacral nerve stimulator).  Further explanation perhaps….

On October 1st, 2007, we joyously welcomed our third daughter into the family.  The C-section went smoothly and we were looking forward to a speedy recovery.  Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.  Sixty hours after her birth, barely alive, I was rushed into surgery to evacuate a massive retroperitoneal hemorrhage that had displaced my bladder and kidneys and caused my lungs to collapse.  Unfortunately due to the size of the clot and the length of the pressure, permanent nerve damage had been done to my bladder and it no longer emptied naturally, requiring the use of catheters.

I woke up in the ICU on a ventilator, minus a uterus, 57 staples running from my chest all the way down my belly and a long way from recovery.  My baby, along with my dreams of a large family, went home two weeks before I did.  It took an amazing nurse, numerous blood donors, extremely supportive friends and family, and a lot of inner strength to begin my journey back to health.  As we began to search for answers for the bladder issues, with a seven month old baby in tow, I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy.

Enter the run…
I was extremely athletic but never able to run long distances due to my large breasts.   My newly created physique from the mastectomies enabled me to run, and run I did.  Within a year I was logging 50 miles a week on average and found that it really helped me heal emotionally as well as physically.  During this time I also found a Urogynecologist at Washington Hospital Center that not only was able to diagnose the exact nature of my bladder issues, she was able to FIX them with a sacral nerve stimulator, bye-bye catheters…hello long runs with the ability to empty my bladder.  I entered my first race, the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in 2010 and finished with a time of 1:22:01.  My second race, a week later was the Hospice 10K in Leonardtown; I came in second for women and first in my age group.  The seed had been planted and I was hooked.

Living LARGE in the Twin Cities!
When I heard about the Global Heroes Program, I decided to apply never expecting to be selected.  I really liked the premise of the program, it helps illustrate that your body can overcome so much and with enough work, passion and dedication it is possible to come back and be as strong as or even stronger than ever.  We are often surrounded by people with excuses or an “I can’t” attitude, this program is for the people who stand up and decide that obstacles are meant to hurdled, cleared or completely obliterated!

Beautiful City, Beautiful People
Medtronic paid airfare, race entry, hotel, food, and limousine transportation for my husband and me while we were in the twin cities (in addition to making a $1000 donation in my name to the National Association for Continence).  As a Global Hero I also had special race recognition and a ton of free swag from Medtronic and Twin Cities in Motion.  At some point I decided that this race was going to be an experience for me, NOT just another race.  I gave myself a broad goal of a 5 hour finish time and decided I was going milk this experience for all it was worth.  As a mom to three young girls it is NEVER about me, I thought that for these five hours I would make it ALL about me!

Medtronic Twin Cities is dubbed “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America” and I have to agree.  For 26.2 miles we ran through park like settings, around four beautiful lakes with historic homes on one side of the road and water on the other.  At about mile 20 we began a pretty good climb which took us across the Mississippi River into St. Paul where we ran down streets, including infamous Summit Avenue, with it’s gorgeous mansions and immaculate landscaping.  We started off in the heart of Minneapolis and finished in front of the State Capitol in St. Paul. 

From the start of the race to the end, there was always someone nearby ringing a bell, blowing a horn or banging blue Medtronic clappers, the course was stacked with people 3-6 deep waving signs and wearing costumes.  Most of these “cheerleaders” also knew what the Global Hero shirt meant and gave us a little extra hoot and holler.  The whole city comes together for this race and it is literally a giant block party. 

Love Medtronic
At mile 19.5 I hit the Medtronic tent and as one of their Global Heroes I felt it necessary to crack out a few cartwheels for posterity (and because that is just the kind of energy I have) and then move on my merry little way (with a few hugs and smiles (plus I was only at 3:00:30 (a good 55 minutes ahead of my goal time)).  At mile 21.7 I met a nice man named Jerry sitting in front of his HUGE MANSION handing out beer, I decided that this would be a good time to sit down and make a new friend while drinking a (3 ounce) beer (again, still at least 50 minutes ahead).  He even let me use his chair, since I was running a marathon and had clearly exerted myself a trifle more than he had.  At mile 23.2 I met a lovely woman named Nora, she makes the best bloody Marys EVER.  We sat and chatted for a few minutes while sharing (a very small) drink and a piece of celery but since I WAS in the middle of something I had to get going.  At this point I was still well ahead of my goal time so when I came along a line of bounce houses at mile 24 I just had to take a turn.  Surprisingly not many of the runners took the time to enjoy the toys and games along the way.  I had fun taking off my sneakers for a few minutes and playing with some of the children that had been cheering for the runners all morning. 

Making this an experience rather than a race was probably the best plan I have ever had.  This is a race where the whole city is involved.  The number of signs, costumes and bands along the way was simply overwhelming.  For the six days we spent in the Twin Cities I truly felt like a hero and the marathon was the ultimate expression of that feeling.  As I crossed mile 25 the tears came, unexpected and unbidden, tears perhaps of gratitude for being included in something extraordinary, a once in a lifetime experience.  Yet, as I crossed mile 26.2 my cheers and screams of joy could be heard above the announcer.  I finished in 4:19:14, I ran well, I ran strong, I think that if I had pushed just a little I would surely have had a Personal Best, but I think there is a lot to be said for having a personal best time emotionally.  For me, this marathon was 259 minutes of consecutive smiles, a chance to celebrate life and appreciate the obstacles that make each footfall of each mile so meaningful. 

Here is the link to the Global Heroes Program, if you or anyone you know qualifies I encourage you (or them) to apply.  It is a once in a lifetime experience and truly a celebration of life.

I leave you with a thought that a good friend shared with me:
I do not run to add days to my life but rather I run to add life to my day!

This is one happy Global Hero

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen - what an AMAZING story. Gave me chills. Go YOU!!