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Caz grad one of 25 medical implant recipients, athletes honored

When Erin Howe was in middle school, she learned she could no longer play soccer because of her aortic stenosis, "basically, a leaky heart valve."

Going forward, Howe said, an internal "bitter rivalry ensued" between her heart condition and her love of sports.

"I kept wanting to do different activities and I kept being told, 'you can't actually do that, you can't actually do that,'" she said.

Howe was diagnosed when she was two, and throughout middle school and high school she was forced to compete in sports with minimal cardiac impact.

"I was never allowed to run or swim competitively," she said.

Howe graduated from Cazenovia High School in 1996 and, after college, moved to Colorado, where she lives with her husband.

In Colorado, she began training for her first triathlon, "recreationally, not to win anything." Until she went to a cardiologist who said, "'you either have to have surgery and get a new valve, or you have to stop all exercise immediately.'

"So, I obviously opted for the new heart valve," Howe said.

Now, Howe is one of 25 athletes worldwide selected to be MedTronic Global Heroes: runners with implanted devices who continue to pursue their passion for running with the held of medical technology.

Howe will be running in the 10-mile race in Minneapolis as part of the 2010 MedTronic Twin Cities Marathon, to be held Oct. 3.

The implanted pig valve has changed Howe's life.

"I went from kind of being always a little bit nervous and always being afraid of pushing my limits," Howe said, "and now the limits have been lifted."

Howe is excited for the weekend; she and her husband will run the 10-mile race together.

Howe is the daughter of Valerie and Gary Howe of Cazenovia.

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