the device life

medical technology expands to younger generations

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Continued: Littlest med-device patients are playing catch-up

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 19, 2013 - 7:49 AM

The hardest thing for them is “coming to terms that something is wrong with your heart,” Kobelinski said. “We need to check their devices. They can’t fall off the face of the Earth.”

Kobelinski knows what they’re going through. She was born with a heart defect that has required six open-heart surgeries, and her aortic valve had to be replaced when she was a child. Scar tissue from those surgeries later interfered with her heart rhythm, requiring doctors to put in a pacemaker when she was 17.

Her aortic valve is from Little Canada-based St. Jude Medical and her pacemaker is from Fridley-based Medtronic.

Like all children with devices who will grow up to be adults with devices, Kobelinski has endured a lifetime of tough choices.

As a teen, it meant that she played tennis instead of higher-impact sports. It also meant shopping for a prom dress that was not only pretty, but that would hide her scars and pacemaker lump.

And it meant getting a letter two weeks before her wedding saying that her pacemaker lead needed to be replaced. She waited months to do it; she wanted a more normal start to her marriage.

It also has meant making the decision to not have children. She doesn’t want to pass along the risk of heart disease to her baby.

Kobelinski hopes technology for the next generation of children will allow them to live longer, better lives. She wants smaller devices that won’t wear out, leads that don’t break and batteries that don’t need to be replaced as often.

Kobelinski knows such advances would also benefit her own health.

“I don’t want to have more surgeries,” she said.

Kobelinski is optimistic. Lifting weights and walking have strengthened her heart to the point where it relies less on the pacemaker. She can do more than she once could with her husband, Mike, who cross-country skis and bicycles. They even hope to adopt a baby.

But her top goal in life is a simple one.

“I want to be old with him,” she said. “Whatever needs to happen to get there, that’s what I want.”


Star Tribune staff writers Jim Spencer and Glenn Howatt contributed to this report.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428


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