A Program of the Medtronic Foundation

Andrea Volfova
Bakken Honoree Andrea Volfova 

Andrea Volfova, 37

2015 Bakken Invitation Honoree

Prague, Czech Republic
Charity: Kenya Education Fund

Medical Condition: Cardiovascular disease
Medical Therapy: Pacemaker

I Want to Share My Inspiring Story

Andrea's "extra life"Inspires Me

Much of Andrea’s early life was characterized by limitations from cardiovascular disease. Andrea was raised in communist-era Czechoslovakia. This regime imposed strict regulations that made it difficult for her to live an active, normal life. In 1988, everything changed for Andrea when a young doctor examined her and recommended a pacemaker. Today, Andrea channels her energy and optimism into helping others live their lives to their full potential. She helps students in East Africa obtain an education through the Kenya Education Fund.

Andrea's Story

“I have a congenital heart condition (AV Bloc III), which was detected one day before my birth.

“This was back in 1978, at the height of so-called ‘normalization’ in then-communist Czechoslovakia. Sadly, my medical condition was the defining characteristic of my childhood. I was even a member of what was then known as the Association of Invalids. That status provided a few privileges seen as practical by my parents, such as free public transportation. But which at the same time, it excluded me from many social activities available to ‘non-invalid’ children, like school outings or summer camps. Teachers simply did not want to take responsibility for me, unless my mother was around.

“In 1988, my medical file was transferred to a young doctor, Jan Janousek. (Today, he is the head of the leading pediatric cardiology center in the Czech Republic.) After examining me, he suggested that a pacemaker would be a good solution for me. It was a great suggestion.

“Life began to change, gradually. Another turning point came in 1990, when my mother found an advertisement for a summer camp for children with disabilities. She signed me up right away…for two camps that summer. It was life changing!

“Throughout my life, I have always been engaged in one form of charitable activity or another, most recently with kids in Africa. I have also chosen humanitarian and development aid as my profession. Ever since getting the pacemaker, I am living a truly privileged life.

“Thanks to my good grades, I was able to obtain full scholarships to study at some of the world’s top universities, completing a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University in the United States (psychology) and later a master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom (development studies). After passing international recruitment, I got my dream job with the United Nations in 2005 and have worked in UN peacekeeping missions in the past 10 years, serving in places such as Darfur, South Sudan, East Timor and Burundi.”

Andrea's words of inspiration

“When I don’t have a blue, I use a red.” – Pablo Picasso

“We should not get bogged down by what we do not have, instead focusing on what we do have. At every moment, in the most mundane of situations, we have a choice about how we approach life.”

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$20,000 Grant Makes an Impact

The Kenya Education Fund (KEF) is dedicated to providing disadvantaged students in Kenya with the educational support and resources necessary to enable them to contribute fully to the growth of their country and the global community


Learn about other 2015 Honorees »

*Not everyone who receives this therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if this type of therapy is right for you. Please refer to Important Safety Information for Pacemakers.