MEET OUR GLOBAL CHAMPIONS ALUMNI RUNNERS
Michelle, 60, has a pacemaker to manage heart disease.
Since childhood, Michelle Crosby has enjoyed participating in sports and going on long runs. She ran her first Melbourne Marathon in 1982 and placed 10th overall, fueling her passion for challenging runs — despite experiencing near-fainting episodes for many years.
In 2002, Michelle was diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome and fitted with a pacemaker. The next five years were “a journey of more lows than highs.” She experienced leg fatigue while running and felt her mental health was deteriorating. In 2009, a new pacemaker gave her the ability to continue running, and the confidence to enter her third Melbourne Marathon, which she completed in less than four hours.
As a runner and a registered nurse, Michelle is passionate about encouraging people to achieve their goals. “My pacemaker enables me to continue to live an active and fulfilling life. One of my mantras is ‘as long as you move forward, speed does not matter.’”
ERNESTO LUIS ESPINOLA ESPINOSA
Ernesto, 42, received a gastric bypass to combat obesity.
At 280 pounds, Ernesto Luis Espinola Espinosa had class III obesity, insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, and dyslipidemia. Exercising and eating a balanced diet were a struggle, and he needed to make lifestyle changes quickly. That led to a gastric bypass in 2015, a healthier diet, and regular exercise — especially running.
Ernesto now runs more than 37 miles a week, has lost 84 pounds, and looks forward to competing in long-distance races. He’s grateful for “this second opportunity” and feels running has shown him what he can achieve when he puts his mind to it. Ernesto also thinks his experience serves as an example for his daughters to never give up and always fight for what they want.
He hopes that sharing his story will inspire others to make the changes necessary to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. “Medical technology can change many lives, but it also requires us to do our part. In the end, the biggest change is in oneself.”
EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA
Shawne, 48, has an artificial pulmonary valve to manage heart disease.
Born with Noonan Syndrome, Shawne Flaherty was only three years old when she was diagnosed with pulmonary valve problems. Because she was so young, doctors were uncertain if she would survive the high-risk surgery to repair the value — and if she’d ever learn to walk if she lived.
Shawne went on to achieve much more. Running became her passion and outlet, and a local running community is now the cornerstone of her social life. In 2010, with the approval of her cardiologist, she began long-distance running. Since then, she’s competed in more than 28 half marathons and five full marathons, including qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon.
“My heart is strong and my lifestyle is healthy. My run times are getting stronger, and I am aiming for a second Boston qualifier and repeat of the Boston Marathon.”
Shawne speaks regularly to running groups and charities. She hopes her story helps others pursue fitness, face obstacles, and tackle their goals.
Fridleifur, 47, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to manage heart disease.
Fridleifur Fridleifsson went from an overweight office worker in 2009 to an elite runner who finished his first marathon in Berlin in 2011 at 2 hours, 48 minutes.
Other marathons with top finishing times followed, including the 2012 Chicago Marathon, the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the 2014 London Marathon. Fridleifur also holds course records in Iceland. Then, in 2015, he suffered cardiac arrest while sleeping. His wife, who is a nurse, started his heart while his son called an ambulance. Doctors said Fridleifur’s excellent physical condition was a lifesaver and that what happened was an “electrical failure.” They implanted an ICD.
Five months later, Fridleifur got the green light to run in the New York City Marathon, which he completed with his wife in just four hours. “Of all my running achievements, this still remains the best one.”
Fridleifur feels he got a second chance at life, an experience he shares freely. “Be thankful, embrace life. Do not expect to be able to do things the same way you did them before. But you will be able to do them on your new terms, with your new goals.”
Marcello, 58, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.
Marcello Grussu initially took up running as a leisurely exercise. But since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010, running serves another purpose — to improve his health, keep heart problems at bay, and avoid being a burden to his family.
Marcello’s insulin pump plays a vital role in all this, enabling Marcello to maintain regular glycemic profiles and to continue running. “For a person with diabetes, running increases the chances of not developing complications related to cardiovascular decay. It’s also allowed me to gain greater awareness and self-esteem.”
An advocate for those with type 1 diabetes and a volunteer for a diabetes association, Marcello plans to continue encouraging others to test themselves and overcome any self-doubts. He feels that sharing experiences and successes helps people realize that diabetes isn’t a limit, but a way to learn about the disease and manage their health.
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
Bruno, 23, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.
Before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 18 in 2013, Bruno Helman suffered from life-threatening asymptomatic nocturnal hypoglycemia. Once his diabetes was under control with help from an insulin pump, Bruno took up running.
“I had never run before because it seemed boring to me, even though my dad had been running marathons since his early 20s.” Bruno decided to honor his father by training for a marathon.
In May 2016, Bruno finished his first full-length marathon in Rio de Janeiro with his father by his side. Bruno now says he’s been infected by the “running mosquito” and is addicted to running. “With a balanced diet and adherence to treatment and the practice of physical activities, you can live even better than before being diagnosed.”
Bruno has more freedom now to pursue his greatest passion — traveling. Bruno has visited more than 12 countries in less than three years, including participating in the T1D Challenge in Iceland, an event for people living with type 1 diabetes. A volunteer with a national diabetes association, Bruno is passionate about sharing his story to empower and encourage others, primarily young people, to start exercising.
Lucy, 54, has a pacemaker to help manage heart disease.
A diagnosis of bradycardia in 2002 didn’t stop Lucy Lim from pursuing one of her favorite activities — running in races across Malaysia with her husband and three children.
A pacemaker enabled her to continue running. Then, in 2016, she suffered a heart attack during a duathlon, prompting doctors to replace the old pacemaker with a new one.
Since then, Lucy has been back on her feet, including running a marathon in January 2017. Her dream is to run a half or full marathon in every country in the world. Despite these successes, some members of Lucy’s community in Malaysia are critical. They believe women shouldn’t expose their arms and legs in public.
“I hope my story will ignite a flame in women to start running. I want to show that it does not matter who you are, where you live, how old you are, or even if you have a heart condition, you can go the distance if you put your mind to it.”
CRANBROOK, KENT, UNITED KINGDOM
Samantha, 45, has a pacemaker to manage heart disease.
Samantha Lloyd has always led an active lifestyle, including horseback riding, swimming, and cycling. In 2008, she added running to the list after participating in a 5K, saying she was “totally hooked.” She loves the emotional highs and lows of running, seeing how the land and environment change, feeling one with nature, and pushing her limits.
After being diagnosed with a heart problem, a pacemaker enabled Samantha to keep running. It was implanted the same day as a race in the Pyrenees she’d been training for, and she was sure her running days were over. Just six weeks later, she started running short distances and felt happy and alive again. She slowly increased her distances and recently completed two 50-mile races. Her biggest highlight was crossing the finish line with her 20-year-old daughter in a half marathon.
“I’d like to spread the word to anyone who has been through a major trauma that they shouldn’t give up. There is a whole community of people who can inspire and help them lead an active lifestyle no matter what they have been through.”
Kevin, 43, received a mechanical thrombectomy using a stent retriever to treat a stroke.
Thirteen years ago, on a dare from his younger sister, Kevin Schmuckal started training for his first marathon. “I wasn’t in any kind of shape and literally went from sitting on the couch to running a marathon in six months’ time.” Running has been part of his life ever since, and he’s prompted his family and friends to take up running as well.
Then, in January 2017, while running on the treadmill, Kevin suffered a severe stroke due to a blood clot in his brain. The day after doctors removed the clot and implanted a stent receiver, Kevin got out of his hospital bed and took a few steps. “I knew right then that I was going to be fine and would be able to run again. Walking was going to eventually lead to running, and running would lead to getting my life back.”
Kevin plans to reach out stroke survivor groups and to be an advocate for stent retrieval technology. He says if his experience inspires even just one person to make positive changes and lead a healthier life, it would be incredibly satisfying.
WEST SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA
Jen, 26, has an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system to manage type 1 diabetes.
Within days of starting training for her second marathon, Jen York found out she had type 1 diabetes. Her doctors encouraged her to stop running while she learned about the disease and how to regulate her blood sugar. Jen had other plans — she wanted to keep training.
With the support of her health providers and Team World Vision, her running team, Jen trained for the marathon while transitioning to an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system. Not only did she complete the marathon, she helped raise more than $10,000 in funds for clean water in Africa.
Today, Jen is captain of a 31-person marathon team, and her goal is to keep connecting with and supporting others. She hopes her story will help those with type 1 diabetes see that it’s possible to achieve their dreams. “There’s a narrative of ‘you can’t,’ but I believe my story shows that a disease didn’t limit what I can do and provided the strength that comes from discovering all the things I can do.”
Sean, 49, has a coronary artery stent to manage heart disease.
Sean Doyle has always been an avid runner, taking part in local events and weekly group 5K runs. In 2013, during one of his regular runs, he collapsed from a massive heart attack that left him with a six percent chance of survival. Other runners administered CPR until Sean was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he had a second heart attack and received a coronary stent.
Following his hospitalization, Sean made steady improvements toward regaining his running life, including going on training runs with his club. Today, he rigorously follows his doctors’ advice and limits races to distances of less than a half marathon. He also became part of Cardiac Athletes, the world’s largest online community for athletic heart patients, and strives to do good through running.
“Running is my life. In the past year, as a Cardiac Athlete, I’ve run 2,000 miles to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation and have campaigned to save the hospital that saved my life.” Sean hopes his story will educate others on the dangers of heart disease and help runners with heart issues find a new life.
VASTRA GOTALANDS IAN, SWEDEN
Karin, 41, has a pacemaker to manage heart disease.
Ask Karin Knauer about the role running plays in her life and she has a ready answer. “It means everything to me — except for my two girls and my husband!”
Karin completed 18 half marathons and played soccer, handball, floorball, and other sports. Then, during a half marathon in 2011, she collapsed and was taken away by ambulance as her family watched. She was diagnosed with heart disease and received a pacemaker.
Since then, Karin enjoys running even more and runs frequently with her friends. “Before I was sick, I never allowed myself to run with friends at a ‘chat rate.’ These days, I love every step I take.”
Karin believe it’s important to spread the word that “old” people aren’t the only ones who receive pacemakers. As a staff physiotherapist in a clinic, she works with people of all ages and regularly shares her story. She wants the world to know it’s possible to be active when you have heart disease.
Torie, 27, has a medical device to help manage the symptoms of gastroparesis, a condition that affects the stomach muscles.
After being diagnosed with gastroparesis at age 19, Victoria (Torie) Miele managed her disease with medications. But in her senior year of college, something changed. She began experiencing severe pain, constant nausea, and difficulty keeping food down — to the point of losing more than 50 pounds.
After struggling with gastroparesis and lacking success with medication for three years, Torie’s gastroenterologist got approval to treat Torie with a gastric electric stimulator in 2012. A week after her surgery, Torie graduated from college and could eat for the first time in months. Now she runs at least twice a week, saying it keeps her “chasing goals.” She also regularly connects with other gastroparesis patients, gives speeches to share her experience, and holds events to raise money for research.
“I strive to be an advocate not only for those with gastroparesis, but for all people going through hardship. I believe it is important to stay positive despite your difficulties and to follow your dreams, no matter what the barriers.” Torie hopes her advocacy and story will help make gastroparesis a household word, ensuring that others with the disease know they’re not alone.
CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY
Vincent, 40, has an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system to manage type 1 diabetes.
When Vincent Myers began running five years ago, he could barely make it to the end of the block, which was two houses down. He now runs more than 30 miles a week and regularly competes in 5Ks, triathlons, and marathons.
“When I lace up those shoes and hit the pavement, I feel I’m invincible. I escape the everyday struggle of blood glucose control and find peace in knowing I’m taking care of myself.”
It’s a far cry from the sense of hopelessness Vincent experienced when he was initially diagnosed. “I wish 10-plus years ago, I had a support system to help me cope with what I thought was a life sentence. Now I want to be that support system to help others realize type 1 diabetes isn’t the end — it’s just the beginning.”
An elementary school principal, Vincent regularly tells his students and local community that, with the right mindset, anything is possible. “No one should ever let something hold them back from reaching their goals.”
STEFY MARLIEN ALFRIEN ROMPAS
NORTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA
Stefy, 45, received a deep brain stimulation (DBS) device to help treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Before receiving her DBS device in 2006, Stefy Marlien Alfrien Rompas experienced debilitating tremors and depression due to Parkinson’s disease. Her symptoms were so severe that she was unable to pursue one of her biggest passions, running, which left her feeling like a prisoner to her disease.
After the DBS surgery, Stefy’s life changed. She became active in her church, participates in charity events like teaching reading and writing in English, and conducts a morning exercise session at her parish. She’s also thrilled to be running again. “I feel reborn and alive. I run regularly and can now exercise with confidence and happiness.”
Stefy actively shares her experience to let others with health issues know life can get better. “So many people feel desperate and hopeless. They need someone to show them that hope exists and the disease wall can be broken.”
Julia, 29, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.
When Julia Snigorska was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, she was filled with grief and resentment. She struggled to get out of bed in the morning and accept her new reality. She felt “different” and punished by her diagnosis, especially because she was “so young, so normal, and fit and healthy.”
Life took a positive turn when Julia transitioned from insulin injections to an insulin pump and began running several times a week. Running is now the “path of her life,” helping her overcome her fears. “I can’t imagine my life without a few trainings a week. Thanks to running, I’ve realized the simplest truth in the world — no pain, no gain.” Julia’s insulin pump helps keep sugar levels stable and insulin doses well balanced.
“I refuse to be a victim of my disease and defeated by it,” says Julia. “I have diabetes, but I also have dreams. With every single step, I’m closer to leading a normal life, which is my main goal.”
Julia hopes to help others with type 1 diabetes believe they can lead a normal life despite their disease.
WAKE FOREST, NORTH CAROLINA
Tiffany, 39, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to manage long QT syndrome.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27, running became a way for Tiffany Sorber to feel a sense of control over what felt like a failure of her body. Little did she know that just two years later, running would help her face another health challenge — cardiac arrest and a diagnosis of long QT syndrome.
At first, Tiffany felt like her body was turning against her again. But this time, she had a constant companion to help her through it — an ICD she named Kevin, in honor of her electrophysiologist.
“Kevin allowed me to continue my active lifestyle. Kevin kept me in the game.”
Since receiving her ICD, Tiffany has finished two half marathons and set her sights on finishing a full marathon. She is deeply committed to sharing her story and wants people to know that “life isn’t about the cards you’re dealt but how you play those cards.”
Rob, 47, has four stents to manage heart disease.
Ever since Rob Steinberg can remember, he’s been running — from backyard games and high school track to 5ks, 10ks, and Ironman triathlons. Running also saved his life.
Over his many years of running, Rob’s heart built up collateral arteries that helped keep him alive when he suffered a string of heart attacks at age 45. He received four stents.
Rob’s medical team told him he’d never race again. But after going through rehab and working with a sports cardiologist, Rob got the green light to race. He also created the HeartStrong Foundation, which helps educate people about heart disease and raises funds to help heart attack survivors pay for medical costs.
“I’m here today, striving to share my story and inspire other heart attack survivors to lead active, healthy lifestyles.” It’s Rob’s way of leaving a legacy honoring the incredible medical professionals and medical technology that saved his life. “Without this technology, I would not be here today.”
JOSE LUIS MORALES URBINA
ESTADO DE MEXICO, MEXICO
Jose, 45, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.
Jose Luis Morales Urbina has lived with type 1 diabetes since he was a child, and relied on traditional insulin injections for most of that time. But in 2004, he experienced complications, including diabetes retinopathy, neuropathy and dramatic weight loss. In 2007, Jose had an insulin pump implanted.
He regained the weight he’d lost and returned to running, the sport he loves. “Exercise is the key to having a better life. I’ve never been a fast runner, but I always reach my goals.”
An active advocate for diabetes awareness, Jose freely shares his life story, the importance of education, and the benefits of medical technology in managing the disease. He also works with nonprofit organizations to help type 1 diabetes patients, especially kids, face the challenges of diabetes and adopt healthy behaviors.
CHENGDU CITY, CHINA
Xin, 22, has a pacemaker to manage heart disease.
After suffering cardiac arrest in 2013, Xin Xiong received a pacemaker, which allows him to “live like normal people.” Then he turned to running to find peace and happiness within. In 2016, he participated in the Chengdu WCH & WHN Marathon and finished the half marathon in 2 hours, 10 minutes.
“What I’ve learned from running is that, like living, there will be good miles and bad miles. The key is a positive attitude.”
Xin believes helping others makes his life meaningful and wants people to know that heart disease didn’t stop him “from pursuing a colorful life.” In addition to running and studying to be a medical professional, he volunteers as a tour guide at a local museum, is a Rh-negative blood donor, plays on a football team, and sings in a chorus. As Xin says, “Don’t lose hope and you will find that life is full of possibilities.”