As a professional classical musician, Kristen Linfante’s career has always posed challenges. But she never imagined one of those challenges would stem from a debilitating nervous system disorder. Kristen suffers from dysautonomia, estimated to affect 70 million people around the world.
Dysautonomia can cause heart rate and blood pressure irregularities, dizziness, fatigue and a host of other complications. For Kristen, dysautonomia caused her to faint on stage during two concerts, collapsing on the floor.
“As a professional, it’s a worst nightmare come true,” Kristen said.
Kristen’s doctors were able to prescribe medication to manage her symptoms. But in June 2014, after a routine annual mammogram revealed the early stages of breast cancer, her doctors were forced to adjust the medications she was taking. The results were devastating.
“I couldn’t function,” she said. “I couldn’t get out of bed. I was at risk of dying.”
Kristen wasn’t the only one impacted by the reduced medicine regimen.
“I have two children,” Kristen said. “I felt as if I was less than I would have liked to have been.”
Fortunately, doctors soon found a solution: innovative medical technology. On August 16, 2016, Kristen received a pacemaker to help control her heart abnormalities.
“It’s a memorable day in my mind,” she said. “It’s like a birthday. That day, everything changed for the better.”
Kristen’s pacemaker helps regulate her heart beat with small electrical pulses.
“My weakness has been replaced by amazing strength that I didn’t know I could ever have,” Kristen said.
Now Kristen is living an active, fulfilling life. And, as it turns out, her device seems to have mended her broken heart in more ways than one.
“Very soon after I was implanted with my pacemaker, I met my partner, Jamel,” she said. “He knows the new me, which is a much better me.”
A connecting force in Kristen and Jamel’s relationship is their love of cycling.
“Before I had a pacemaker, I couldn’t tolerate riding a bicycle,” said Kristen. “I couldn’t ride a single mile. Now, I aspire to do 350 miles, which is a trip I hope to take one of these days from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.”
Kristen is just one of nearly 2 million people in the United States living with a pacemaker. For many of these people, a pacemaker has given them the freedom and the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.
“I have never felt as healthy as I do right now,” Kristen said. “My pacemaker has allowed me to discover the real me, the me that has no limitations and the ability to do absolutely anything that I put my mind to.”