Sep 27, 2018

An Everyday Inspiration

Medtronic Global Champion Irma Grundling pursues her passion to run, despite Parkinson's Disease.

The South Africa native will join 19 other Global Champions at this year’s race on October 7.

The chores start early on Irma Grundling’s 25-acre farm outside Pretoria, South Africa. That’s because the sooner the work is done, the sooner she can pursue the passion she thought had been lost forever.


“I’m not a competitive runner, I’m a social runner,” she said. “But running is part of my life. If I can’t run I don’t feel complete.”

Irma and daughter Janine are running again – 12 years after the tremors from Parkinson’s Disease forced Irma to give it up. Diagnosed at just 46 years old – she could no longer run. She also couldn’t write, type, or cut her own food. And at work she struggled to make presentations to clients.

“I was trying to stop myself from shaking,” she said. “I would hold onto the podium and then pull the whole podium around. I realized people were looking at my shaking rather than listening to what I was saying.”

Ten years of medication provided Irma only limited relief for the tremors.  In 2016, Irma underwent deep brain stimulation, or DBS. Electrical impulses from a neurostimulator are directed to specific targets in her brain – helping to control the tremors.

Irma now feels well enough to run again, and is training to run the Twin Cities 10-Mile during the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon weekend in early October. She’ll join 19 other Medtronic Global Champions, all runners who have overcome health challenges with the help of medical technology.

“She's my hero. Always has been, even before Parkinson’s,” said Irma’s daughter, Janine, who will accompany her mother in the race. “She’s such a strong lady. She is a positive person. Every day she’s an inspiration.”

Before Irma was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, she ran more than 100 marathons throughout South Africa, including three grueling ultra-marathons (89 kilometers, or 55.3 miles). She’s not planning on running full marathons any longer. Irma hopes her ability to run in the Twin Cities 10-Mile, and sharing her story through the Medtronic Global Champions program, will help educate others about Parkinson’s disease – and DBS therapy that’s helped her manage her symptoms.

“This is a great opportunity for me. I want to try and make a difference in people’s lives,” Irma said. “I can tell people what DBS feels like to me. What to expect and what not to expect based on my experience. I think my story is a success story. I can do everyday things again, which I couldn’t before DBS. For me that’s success.”

Annually, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Medtronic Twin Cities 10-Mile bring together more than 30,000 runners and more than 300,000 spectators. This year’s race is on October 7. Follow the journey of this year’s runners on the Global Champions Facebook page.