Laird recently ran a marathon in Minnesota as a Medtronic Global Hero, which is an award given to 25 long-distance runners from across the world who benefited from medical technology, such as Laird’s defibrillator.
“Vigorous physical activity is not uncommon in a patient with a defibrillator; we actually encourage it. As doctors, we advise patients to return to physical activity soon after surgery because it is good for them physically and for their quality of life,” said Dr. M. Yousuf Kanjwal, Laird’s doctor and director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratories and the Center for Atrial Fibrillation at UT’s Heart and Vascular Center.
Laird was 36 when she was diagnosed in 1999 with ventricular tachycardia. The aerobics instructor said the diagnosis came as a complete surprise. When she first began having dizzy spells, she attributed it to too much caffeine until she passed out while running. Laird was determined to not let the heart condition stop her from exercising.
“I was so busy when I found out. I was married with two young girls. I thought I would not be able to do anything again,” she said. “But I remained positive and my main thought was not if I would be able to be active again, but when.”It is her positive attitude that helped Laird gain a nomination from family and friends to run in the recent Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota.
“It was very cool to take part in the marathon and meet the other Medtronic Global Heroes,” Laird said. “I didn’t understand how big of a deal it was until I got to Minneapolis. I think it is important for people to see men and women with heart issues still lead an active and healthy life.”
Living an active life is possible even with a defibrillator, and patients are actually safer when working out after having the device installed, according to Kanjwal. The defibrillator serves as a pacemaker and can shock the heart if there is a cardiac problem.
“Within a month, a patient can resume some form of exercise,” he said. “We discourage contact sports like boxing, football and lacrosse because a hit can impact the defibrillator, but most exercise is allowed.”
Laird switched to the doctors at UT Medical Center two years ago because of the personalized service and caring staff. She said the experience of her caregivers is unmatched, and she enjoys the encouragement she receives from the UTMC doctors. Laird had her most recent defibrillator placed in April at UT Medical Center.
“Dr. Kanjwal understands I live an active life, and he encourages me to keep doing everything I want to do,” Laird said. “What is most important is to listen to your body and yourself. If you are diagnosed, you can’t give up; you have to keep living.”