Stephanie Martinson: Life Saver

A conversation with Stephanie Martinson, Racing Hearts founder and speech pathologist

by Lisa Van Dusen / Palo Alto Weekly

Armed with a matter-of-fact cheerfulness and her fellow Palo Altans' willingness to help, Stephanie Martinson, a part-time speech pathologist at the VA, mom and founder ofRacing Hearts, is on track to save a lot of lives. She talks with Lisa Van Dusen about her journey.

While climbing Half Dome, Stephanie experienced her first heart incident, revealing her hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- or enlarged heart -- ultimately launching her on a mission. More than four years later in 2012, she founded Racing Hearts, a Palo Alto-based, all-volunteer nonprofit organization that advocates for the installation of automated external defribrillators (AEDs) in every school, gym and other public places.

Stephanie describes the moment she decided to take action: It occurred on her daily "run to the trees," which helps her navigate the challenge of living with a life-threatening condition.

Stephanie shared that all that's missing to realize her vision for tapping into the life-saving potential of AEDs is more funding (approximately $700,000 to install them throughout Santa Clara County) and education about the prevalence, peril, and often hidden nature of heart conditions.

Her recent experience as a Leadership Palo Alto fellow reinforced the reality that it's all about relationships.

"You can't do anything alone," she said.

In fact, she is now collaborating with the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors -- led by Supervisor Joe Simitian -- to accelerate the installation of AEDs throughout the county. And she's teamed up with Stanford Health to produce the Racing Hearts 5k and 10k races.

As she anticipated her second implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) surgery less than 24 hours after this on-camera conversation, Stephanie already has plans for her life post-surgery. Although her doctors were skeptical that she could run a marathon, she declared that she "says yes" to running a marathon within the next year.

"That's my goal," she declared.

Host/interview, Lisa Van Dusen

Video, Veronica Weber

Production manager, Taylor Shoolery

This conversation took place on January 22nd, 2015