Upon first introduction Inge looks, acts and functions better than the most medically fit person you’re ever likely to meet.
What’s so great about that, you may ask? Well, what separates this young woman from the crowd, besides her bubbly personality and sophistication, is that her heart refuses to beat more than 18 times a minute.
As the recipient of a pacemaker, literally from birth, today Inge is as confident and active as anyone her age.
“I was born two months premature,” she explains. “The doctors found that there was a disconnection between my upper and lower heart chambers, which caused my heart to beat well, just incredibly slowly - certainly not enough for me function normally.”
With a family history on her dad’s side of heart conditions, today her father and his brother are both kitted out with their own heartbeat regulators.
By dictionary definition a pacemaker is a battery-operated electrical device inserted into the body to deliver small regular shocks that stimulate the heart to beat in a normal rhythm, something that has afforded Inge a life, a career and a future.
“Growing up I was aware that I was different form the other kids, but I never suffered from any restrictions,” she continues. “I was a bit of rebel and seldom listened to good advice. Thankfully technology looked after me. Jokes aside, I quickly learnt that this small device inside of me is there for life, so I’d best learn to live with it, and today it’s as much a part of me as my favourite pair of shoes.”
With a heart rate that, quite simple doesn’t miss a beat (72 beats per minute to be exact), Inge’s first little heart shocker lasted a record breaking 15 years before it needed to be replaced and today her replacement sits comfortably, inserted under the skin below her right shoulder.
“Technology has improved radically in my life time,” she points out. “My first implant resembled a small brick; today it’s small enough to practically fit wherever you’d like.”
For a young woman who hates needles, having to deal with a whole lot more than merely a pinprick has been a huge challenge she needed to overcome. “I would rather swim with sharks,” she shrieks. That and the fact that she’s not welcome around microwave ovens and too close to a cell phone has seen her life heart focused.
As, if and when she decides to start a family, Inge has to weigh up the possibility that she could pass on her genetic flaw to her children.
“The biggest challenge for anyone who is fitted with a pacemaker is dealing mind of matter, rather than having to physically change the way you live, because it need not in any way. Certainly no more than any other healthy hearted person,” she says in closing.
“In my world it’s what makes me who I am – and that’s special. So I will tackle the future with as much spunk and optimism as I do today.
As the adage goes, “life is what you make it”, and Inge is proof that with a positive outlook, pacemaker or otherwise, not even the sky’s the limit.
[This is an edit of an article by Jason Curtis which originally appeared in HEART magazine, Spring 2007. The current edition is on sale now.]