It all started with an email from my Dad. He was describing this contest called the Bakken Invitation. I could win a trip to Hawaii and $20,000 towards my efforts in the Parkinson’s Community… “Yeah right” I thought to myself. It sounded too good to be true. Who really wins these types of things? It is like being at the mall and seeing a gorgeous car being given away. All you have to do is write your name and your phone number down, and it could be yours! Being skeptical, I pushed the email aside (sorry Dad) and forgot about it.
A few weeks passed when I got another email from my Dad. He was nudging me to look into applying for this contest. That same week, I started getting emails from Medtronic, (the company who creates medical devices, such as my Deep Brain Stimulator) stating that I had multiple people nominate me for the Bakken Invitation award and in order for me to be considered, I would need to apply. Ok, now you’ve got my attention…what is a Bakken and why am I being invited to apply?
With some research, I found out that Bakken was not in fact a Greek flakey pastry made with honey and chopped nuts. That is Baklava…. aren’t you glad I am here so you don’t make an embarrassing mistake? Bakken is the last name of the man who is the reason I am here writing this blog, regardless of having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 32. Seeing as this man has lived an incredible journey, I will give a “cliff notes” version describing his life’s adventures.
Earl Bakken or E.B. as I like to call him, is the co-founder of Medtronic and also developed the first external, battery-operated, transistorized, wearable artificial pacemaker in 1957. You might have not heard of Medtronic, but I am sure someone in your life that has been touched by its technology. Medtronic is the world leader in creating Heart Pacemakers, Insulin Pumps, and Heart defibrillators. They also are responsible for Neurostimulation systems and implantable drug delivery systems for chronic pain, common movement disorders, and urologic and gastrointestinal disorders. On top of E.B. being a huge part of the medical community, he is also involved in Philanthropy.
When people retire and moved to Hawaii, it is usually to slow down and focus on themselves, but not E.B. In retirement, he has been actively supportive of many groups in Northwest Hawaii that support the health and well being of its 30,000 people. I understand that a “cliff notes” version of his life does not do him justice, so to read E.B.’s official timeline, click here. So what is the Bakken Invitation?
E.B. knows the gift of extra life is powerful. And while each person chooses how to use their extra time, it is his enduring hope they consider how to give back… in big or small ways. This is the Bakken Invitation….
“What Are You Going To Do With Your Extra Life?”
Medtronic will honor 10 inspirational individuals with a $20,000 charitable grant and an awards celebration in Hawaii. This grant will help these honorees as they continue to Live On. Give On.
Sounds pretty amazing! I thought there was no way that I could be picked for a global award that included all medical devices, but just to be considered, I felt honored. In life, there will be moments when you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing at a specific time. For me, it was the day that I received the email that I had been picked as one of the 10 honorees for the Bakken Invitation. I was at work, sitting at my desk as my computer chimed, notifying me that I have a new email. Out of the corner of the screen, I see the words “Bakken Invitation”. I quickly clicked on the message and read:
Congratulations on being named a Bakken Invitation Honoree, recognizing your strength, courage and outstanding contributions to community. On behalf of Medtronic Philanthropy, we want to personally welcome you and extend our heartfelt congratulations.
I wish I could tell you what the rest of the email said, but I peed my pants…No worries, it was just a squirt, not a big mess. I grabbed my phone and called my Dad. I proceeded to read the email over and over again out loud. Then I paused to say, “I think I won…”. I sounded so confused, like I was trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics…. What does it all mean? Are unicorns real? What happens when we die?
I leave for Hawaii on November 12th and I am super-duper excited! To meet 9 other people who are giving back to their communities and doing incredible work is going to be pretty cool. I am proud to hold my head high knowing that I am apart of such a prestigious group of individuals that when faced with diversity, they reached out to help others…. Just like Earl Bakken.