A Most Unusual Christmas Party

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photograph of Jilinda Richer

Jilinda Richer

by Jilinda Richer, long-time HA member and featured guest blogger

When I met Leanne Lintula, Senior Product Manager, of Medtronic‘s Hydrocephalus Division at the Hydrocephalus Association Conference in Cleveland last summer, we chatted for a few minutes, and she gave me her business card, which I tossed onto a small table in our bedroom and promptly forgot.

Several months later, my husband, Ron, began using a new Medtronic Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), which, in conjunction with his Medtronic Insulin Pump, enables him to manage his diabetes without having to inject insulin 3 or 4 times daily.   Since I have a Medtronic valve shunt, I thought, “Wow– we’re the Medtronic Couple”!  I could just see our photo featured as a centerfold in the Medtronic  Annual Report!  (Fully dressed, of course.)

I e-mailed Leanne and informed her of our status as “Mr. and Mrs. Medtronic.”

“They might even send us a couple of coffee mugs to help spread the word about the impact of their products on folks like us!” I thought.

Well – when Leanne invited us to the Neurologic Division Christmas Party (in Goleta, CALIFORNIA!), I had to pinch myself!  They would fly us out to California, arrange for us to stay in a hotel for several days, and take us on a tour of their factory – all in exchange for our saying a few words about how Medtronic’s products had made a positive impact on our lives???

Ron and I were not the only guests at the party.  Another shunt patient, Eric, who had been an avid runner prior to his diagnosis, and following his recuperation, he not only returned to his job as a sales representative for Amgen, but he was also able to resume his athletic training – and complete a triathlon!!

The day after the party, we were treated to a tour of the Medtronic plant where my shunt had been made. I’d envisioned the creation of my Strata valve as being a typical manufacturing mass production process.  However, watching technicians meticulously trimming each valve individually – and using a microscope to do so with precision – helped me to develop a new appreciation for the skill and dedication required to produce these amazing tiny devices.  Also, Ron’s experience in the field of Biomedical Engineering enabled him to appreciate this process on a level that far exceeded my meager understanding.

The day after we arrived home, a FED EX truck pulled up to our door and delivered a huge gift basket of edible treats from the Santa Barbara area, a thoughtful thank-you gift from Medtronic.  We were able to share these goodies with family members over the holidays and still have a few left for ourselves.  We had a very merry Christmas indeed – and we hope that you did, too!

1 Comments for : A Most Unusual Christmas Party
    • Keren Peters Atkinson
    • April 13, 2011

    Jilinda, thank for sharing your interesting story. My 11 1/2-year old son has hydrocephalus and has had a shunt since he was six months old. He was diagnosed en-utero. What is unique about him is that in the last 11 years, he has never needed a shunt revision, praise God! He is a typical kid and has no memory of his surgery. From everything I’ve read, 85% of children with hydrocephalus undergo one or several shunt revisions in the first 20 years of life. Reading about your tour of the plant where the shunts are made helped me to understand and appreciate how a device that was put in his tiny body over a decade ago has ‘grown’ with him and is still working. I don’t know if my son’s shunt was made by Medtronic but I love knowing that someone, somewhere took meticulous care to create a device that has made his life possible. I cherish every tiny bit of information and insight that helps me understand better his condition. Again, thanks for sharing.

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