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22nd July 2019

‘It’s not just a pacemaker, but a smile-maker and a dream-maker’

Marianella is a 38-year-old editor and a keen athlete from Costa Rica. In January 2015, she woke up with a terrible headache, but managed to go to work. Around midday her headache retuned with such force that it knocked her out.

‘I woke up the next day in the hospital. I didn’t know why I was there, but I was wearing a housecoat and had needles in my arms and there was uncomfortable equipment attached to my neck.’ The “uncomfortable equipment” was an external pacemaker and it was keeping her alive, but it was clear that Marianella needed to be fitted with an internal one.

She had suffered a bradycardia – a dangerously low heart rate, which resulted in a lack of oxygen to her brain causing a blood clot. She was fitted immediately with a pacemaker.

Marianella thought that the devices were strictly for old people and, at first, hated that she needed one. ‘I was telling myself: ‘How can a young athlete have a pacemaker? This is not okay! Only old people have pacemakers!’’

Now though, she embraces the ‘wonderful piece of technology’ that is protecting her life every day. ‘It has completely taken care of the bradycardia. I don’t even think about it anymore.”

And, as a younger woman, she was relieved to learn that the pacemaker that her clinician chose allows patients to undergo MRI scans – an important diagnostic test that could become necessary later in life for a variety of reasons.

Marianella says she feels ‘very lucky’ to have survived the blood clot unscathed. Her memory was largely unharmed. Peculiarly, the only damage done was that she forgot the words to songs.

Perhaps even more importantly for her though, she is back running marathons again. In November, 2015 she completed the New York City Marathon – keeping pace with the race for 26 miles without missing a beat.