Interview, My History, News

He is a pacemaker user and can be the next American Ninja Warrior: but he is already a champion

I have the opportunity to meet people with medical devices at many social networks. Meet Geoff Snyder, an incredible athlete who I started following last year by Instagram @g_snyder_ . Find out who is he, what he does, and their perception of how society views their condition of pacemaker user in your country, inspire yourself.

Name: Geoff Snyder
Age: 39
Type of medical device: Pacemaker 
First implant (month and year): October 1993
Physical Activity modalities: Bodyweight Training / Calisthenics, Rock Climbing, Basketball, Running, Tennis & playing with my kids
City/State/Country: Scotia, NY USA (Hometown: Fort Plain, NY)

pacemaker-synder-3How your life used to be before the implant?

I was 16 at the time of my first implant. To that point I lived asymptomatic, but was monitored routinely every 6 months through dr. visits with my cardiologist. I was born with a birth defect that affects the sinus node of the heart. Shorty after birth the dr.’s detected a slow abnormal heart rhythm. My cardiologist decided a pacemaker had to be implanted after a routine halter monitor test revealed that at rest, my heart rate dropped to 28 beats per minute. At this point in my life, my heart rate was only affected at rest. While exercising my heart rate was almost normal. I did have one episode the summer before I received my pacemaker. I was working out very hard in the weight room at my school when I became very dizzy. I went outside to get some fresh air and passed out. I passed out a few more times before my coach was able to get me in his vehicle and take me home. By the time I was home I felt much better. To this day, I am still unsure if my condition caused the episode or if it was some other factor.

If you was practicing physical activities before implant, something changed after it?

I was always very active before the pacemaker, which is probably why I have continued to be active. I’ve known no other way to live. At the time of the first implant I played basketball for my high school as well as track and field. Basketball is a contact sport, so I did have a few concerns about playing and getting hit in the location of the implant. My cardiologist assured me that I could continue to play basketball, but I should wear some type of protection over the site. There wasn’t any type of protective gear made for pacemakers so we had to create one. My parents, along with some help from a relative, devised a form fitting t-shirt that I could wear with a pocket that contained a cushioned pad that I wore over the pacemaker. I still play basketball and wear the shirt with protective padding. As I have gotten older my interest have changed. I live a life without restrictions from physical activity, but I’m also smart when I participate. I won’t play any contact sport without making sure that my pacemaker is protected.

How your doctor sees your physical activities?

I do a lot of rock climbing and calisthenics training. A lot of the sports I partake in require quite a bit of upper body movement and strength. I just recently applied to be a contestant on American Ninja Warrior and I waiting to hear if I’ve been chosen to be a contestant. I think the stigma that has traditionally gone along with people with pacers is that they can’t lift heavy weights or due a lot of upper body activities. This isn’t the case. After implantation you need to be careful for a period of time, due to the placement of the leads, but once things are set in place, you can work your way up too many of the activities you did before or have never tried. I never tried rock climbing or obstacle course training before I had the pacer. My cardiologist and electro physiologist are both aware of my activities and support them 100%. In fact, one of my motivations for training more often came after my kids were born and I had one of my annual visits to my cardiologist. I was in my early 30’s and it seemed like every time I visited my cardiologist I would have one more complication than I did the last visit (high blood pressure and A-fib) I also wanted to make sure that I could enjoy playing with my kids and not be one of those dads who sits on the sidelines and watches. Once I committed to a healthier lifestyle the results from my annual visits got better and better. Although I still take medication for high blood pressure (genetic), my dose is much less than it was 9 years ago. My cardiologist ends each of my visits with the same statement, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

How people in your country sees in generally people who use a cardiac medical device?

I think when people in my country hear that someone has a pacemaker they usually think of the elderly. I think they also sometimes stereotype people with pacemakers as weak, sick or feeble. I definitely break that stereotype. When I go to the dr.’s office I’m still usually the youngest patient there by 20 years. I always surprise people when they find out I have a pacer.

You had at some point to deal with preconception as a pacemaker user?

Early, when I first had my implant at 16, there were people who doubted that I could play basketball with a pacemaker. It even took some convincing for my coach to allow me to play. The first season I played after the implant my coach would only play me in short spurts because he was constantly worried that I would pass out or get injured. It took some time, but he gained my trust and along with that came more playing time. Now a days I don’t think much about it. Many times I forget I even have a pacemaker. Most people would never know I had one unless I take off my shirt and if I do usually no one ever asks why I have the scar and lump on my chest. I think in most cases, when people find out I have a pacer, I break the preconception. I think I have an opportunity to open people’s eyes to what it really means to be dependent on a pacemaker.

What kind of message for people you want spread with your posts?

I want people to see that you can live a full and happy life, even when you’re pacemaker dependent. I’ve never saw my pacer as a limitation, but more as a way for me to live the life I want to live. Life’s too short to restrict yourself if you don’t have to. I hope my message and posts are ones of motivation. I follow a lot of people on Instagram who inspire and motivate me on a daily basis. I want to be that person for others. Recently I was contacted by and young Instagram user who follows my posts and just had a pacemaker implanted. He told me that he looks forward to seeing my exercise posts. He thought he would be unable to do the same things he did after his pacer was implanted. He told me that I have inspired him and he knows that once he has completely healed he can go back to living the energetic lifestyle he had. That was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. I want to inspire people to want to be healthy. I want people to want to live a healthy lifestyle and not take their health for granted. I know I don’t. Most importantly, I want people to have fun and be happy.