Katharina Bauer: The heart of a champion

Jul 8, 2020

Competitive pole vaulting is not for the faint of heart. Competitors sprint down a track and launch themselves into the air, summoning enough velocity to clear a crossbar high overhead. For 29-year-old Katharina Bauer, pole vaulting is her life’s passion – or as she says, “her big love.” It’s not surprising that Katharina’s goal is to take her passion all the way to the Olympics. 

She wasn’t always sure that her heart was up to the challenge. As a child, Katharina was diagnosed with a condition that caused her heart to have a perilously high number of beats. A healthy human heart beats about 100,000 times a day. By the age of seven, she experienced 6,000 extra beats daily.i After undergoing her first heart surgery in 2009, her condition eventually worsened to 18,000 extra beats per day, leading to a second heart surgery eight years later.  

Despite these challenges, Katharina continued to compete as a professional pole vaulter and captured a gold medal at the 2018 German Indoor Athletics Championship. At a regular health check after the event, her doctor detected a different occasional, but abnormal, heartbeat – one Katharina learned can cause ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac death. The next day, she made the decision to get a subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD). 

In April 2018, she was implanted with the Boston Scientific EMBLEMTM MRI S-ICD System. The S-ICD system, which includes a pulse generator and lead placed just under the skin, monitors Katharina’s heart and will send an electrical shock if it beats abnormally fast - protecting her from sudden cardiac arrest. With continued medical supervision, Katharina returned to training, and just six weeks after the procedure, she cleared 4.20 meters at a competition. In the following year, she returned to the German Indoor Athletics Championship and won a silver medal. 

“I am grateful for every day, every jump and every training. I love that I can follow my passion,” she says. As she trains to qualify for the next Summer Olympics and become the first Olympian with a defibrillator to compete, Katharina no longer fears for her heart. “I turned it around,” she tells us. “There is no need for fear as long as you feel that fire inside.”

Safety information for the EMBLEM MRI S-ICD System is available here.

[1] Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-have-a-slow-or-racing-heartbeat/