When someone with a pacemaker dies, the device goes to the tip. Instead an innovative Kiwi wants them to be re-used, and save lives all over the world.

Jude Mannion is not shy when it comes to talking about death. As a firm believer in bucket lists, her final wishes are planned in full, including donations she'd like to make and what music she wants played at her funeral.

The 55-year-old CEO is also no stranger to innovation.

She plans to combine her passions with her newest endeavor, the Pacemaker Trust, which could save over 300 lives per year by recycling a device that otherwise ends up in landfills.

Mannion is teaming up with a pioneering program from the University of Michigan which sterilises and tests used pacemakers for use in patients in developing countries. Millions of people die each year without access to these essential devices, and the cost to recycle pacemakers is infinitesimal.


Mannion is on the hunt for a corporate partner, which will help her in her mission to have New Zealand join the US in providing pacemakers to the Philippines, Pakistan, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nicaragua, amongst others.

"This is truly innovative, and it would be a waste if Kiwis didn't get on board," Mannion said. "We're just reusing something we throw in the bin; we're using it to save lives."

Over 30,000 people die in New Zealand per year. It's unknown how many have pacemakers, but Mannion estimates that she could recycle 200-350 pacemakers per year. If her project expanded to Australia, that number could reach over 1000.

It costs the university only US$50 to clean and test each pacemaker, and because they are light and small, the devices are easy to ship across the world. A new pacemaker costs between $5000 and $10,000.

"It makes too much sense for New Zealand to get on board with this project," Mannion said. "Once a pacemaker is removed from a body here, it belongs to no one, while in the US patients have to gift their devices."

Moreover, 70 per cent of Kiwis choose to be cremated. Pacemakers have to be removed before cremation or they risk exploding and damaging equipment. Once removed, funeral directors send pacemakers to hospitals, where they are disposed of.

A big portion of fundraising for this project would go to training doctors and surgeons overseas to implant pacemakers. Currently, the University of Michigan has set up a training program in Cape Town, South Africa to train surgeons so they can return to their home countries to perform surgeries and train other doctors.

Mannion is no beginner when it comes to crafting non-profit foundations and working with big business.


These charities include the Robin Hood Foundation, which partners big business with charities that mirror their interests, and the Mekong Club, created to fight human labour trafficking.

Mannion's newest venture, GoodGrace, aims to give people an easy way to express their final wishes. Users can store their preferences for burial or cremation, funeral services, and what they want done with their assets in an online "lockbox" that family and friends are given access to but can't edit.

"It's time we had a liberated conversation about our own death and dying. It will be irreverent, real, honest, and hopefully hilarious," she said.

For Mannion, recycling used pacemakers that would otherwise go to waste is another step in not only accepting death, but promoting New Zealand's cutting-edge spirit.

"Kiwis like to think that we're innovative. I'm just giving them a chance to prove it," she said.

Mannion hopes to officially launch the Pacemaker Fund in conjunction with World Heart Day on September 29. She is looking for a business partner in any sector that has an interest in leading charitable resourcefulness.


"New Zealand has innovation in every corner. We have it in manufacturing; we have it in food," she said. "We are a small country, but the world looks to us to be innovative."

Jude Mannion can be contacted at jude@goodgrace.co
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