Author Archives: Francoise Makanda

Maxime Lê Knew He Could Help

We secured 26 treatment carts thanks to you, and two of those carts were purchased through Maxime Lê’s crowdfunding campaign!

Maxime is a second-year university student at the University of Ottawa. If he is not busy with assignments or hanging out with friends, he is with his grandfather, a patient at the Heart Institute. Every Thursday, Maxime drives his grandfather to the Heart Institute for his weekly check-up.

One day as Maxime was waiting in the patient outclinic for his grandfather, he picked up the September issue of our Foundation Connection. In it, we listed a number of the pieces of equipment our doctors and nurses desperately needed before the end of the year.

Maxime looked at the mobile treatment cart and believed he could manage to get two for the Heart Institute. In mid-November, Maxime set up his crowdfunding page and within a matter of days, he had reached his goal!

We want to sincerely thank Maxime for giving with heart and everyone who contributed to his campaign.

Watch his story!

26 mobile treatment carts

Treatment carts are used in all areas of the Heart Institute to house and store the everyday supplies that clinicians need to provide, prompt, safe, and effective patient care.

Read the 2015-2016 Annual Report.

The Life You Touched: Helen’s Story

Helen attended her first meeting with the Women@Heart program in July. “At first, I didn’t feel like I belonged there,” she says. “But after attending a few sessions, I began to learn more about heart disease and its impact on women.”

Helen wasn’t aware that she had “SCAD”. SCAD stands for Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, which is a rare condition that occurs when a tear forms in one of the blood vessels in the heart.

“I felt fine in the morning. I was heading to take a shower when I started not feeling well,” she says. “It hit me very fast. I even cancelled a couple of appointments because I wasn’t feeling well at all. And then the chest pains started.”

Helen called her husband who immediately advised her to call 9-1-1. She was having a heart attack. While doctors knew she had had a heart attack, they couldn’t determine what had triggered it. Then they did an angiogram and discovered she had SCAD. She was cleared to go home the next day and provided medication and a referral to cardiac rehab to support her recovery.

Doctors and the team at the Prevention and Rehabilitation clinic encouraged Helen to join the Women@Heart program, but she was hesitant at the beginning. “I didn’t want to go. I’m a problem solver and I am curious by nature, but everyone kept saying to just try it so I did.”

Less than 20 per cent of women go to the Rehab clinic at the Heart Institute and yet, statistics show that women are more at risk of dying of heart attack following their initial medical intervention. Helen says that women are often overwhelmed with the information they receive once they leave the hospital. Others simply choose not to seek assistance, and return to their daily routine.

Helen participated in her first Women@Heart meeting in July. She liked it so much that she did her training to become a Peer Leader and graduated last November.

“The Women@Heart group is not just about sharing information. There’s a whole self-management process that needs to take place once a patient is out of the hospital. Unfortunately, women just don’t have the time to take care of themselves. The Women@Heart program allows women to absorb information and what’s great about it is that we convene every two weeks.”

Luckily, along with the Women@Heart program, the Centre offers various tools to help women take control of their heart health, like the CardioPrevent program and now the Virtual Care Program. Since following the program, Helen feels like a changed woman and is more confident about her health. More importantly, she’s made some lifelong friends who meet regularly for tea outside of meeting hours. Helen is eager to spread the word and encourages other women to educate themselves on heart disease.

“This program is absolutely worth it. It is a strong program that combines education, coping tools, knowledge and builds confidence. It links the mental with the physical which is so important for heart patients. Best of all, every participant contributes just as much.”\

Watch her story:

Read the 2015-2016 Annual Report.

A TEE has Already Helped Ryley

Ryley needed a TEE when he was admitted to the Heart Institute last November, but the 21-year-old aspiring filmmaker has needed help since he was born with congenital heart disease.

The first hours of Ryley’s life were spent in the operating room as doctors discovered six defects in his heart. It was discovered that Ryley’s heart chambers were reversed; he had a hole in his heart and an obstruction in his aorta that didn’t allow the blood to flow to his body. He underwent an extensive procedure to correct the obstruction to the aorta.

By age two, Ryley had undergone another procedure to close the hole in his heart, and he also needed a valve replacement. During the procedure, Ryley’s family was faced with more disheartening news: As doctors in Toronto worked on fixing the hole in Ryley’s heart, his aorta ruptured. While the rupture was deemed to be life threatening, luckily, he survived.

Ryley would undergo one closed and two open heart surgeries and finally needed a pacemaker because the electrical impulses in his heart were impaired. However, Ryley never let his complicated medical condition get in the way of his dreams. He made his first movie when he was 12 and since then, he has produced several short movies that he has posted on Youtube.

Once Ryley turned 18, he was transferred to the Heart Institute where he has been followed by advanced practice nurse Joanne Morin. Unfortunately, Ryley’s medical trouble followed as well. A year after his transfer, Ryley had a stroke, and he was immediately treated at the Heart Institute.

Then, last November, doctors at the Heart Institute, who had been continuously following his case, found a lump on his mechanical valve. Fortunately, because of the TEE, they were able to locate the lump. He remained at the Heart Institute a few weeks afterward, requiring an additional intervention.

While Ryley will need further interventions in the near future, for now, the filmmaker is continuing on with his dream. “I don’t want to do anything else but make movies,” he says.

We wish him luck and much success in his endeavours.

Watch his story!

Read the 2015-2016 Annual Report

Nazru Deen

Memoir chronicles Naz’s ‘No better life,’ thanks to the help of the Ottawa Heart Institute

My name is Nazru (Naz) Deen, and this is my story about how the Ottawa Heart Institute extended my life.

I was born in a small village in Trinidad eight decades ago, and then lived in England before arriving in Canada in 1968.

Professionally, I was a Superintendent of Education for the Carleton Board of Education. I have been married to my wife Bea for more than 50 years, and we have two adult sons and three grandchildren.

Although it had never really affected me in my early life, I was diagnosed with a heart defect as a teenager. But 20 years ago, my family doctor referred me to a cardiologist. His reasoning was: If an emergency situation arose, I would be with “the right person…and we can save you a lot of time.”

Becoming a patient

That’s when I was first introduced to the Ottawa Heart Institute, and to Dr. Luc Beauchesne. Unfortunately, Dr. Beauchesne had bad news for me; my heart valve had become so deteriorated that I was only functioning at about 25 per cent capacity.

And I was supposed to be travelling the very next week to Italy for a family reunion! Dr. Beauchesne told me I shouldn’t be going anywhere, because I was going to have surgery that summer.

I was sent home, and advised to never be more than a 20-minute drive from a hospital.

Close to home

Two weeks later, while I was playing golf with my wife, a storm was about to hit. We rushed off the course. That small sprint had me feeling short of breath and increasingly uncomfortable throughout that day.

That night, I made my way to the hospital and I was immediately admitted to the Heart Institute. While I hadn’t experienced a heart attack, Dr. Beauchesne wanted to keep me there at the hospital, and get me into surgery more quickly.

Within one week, I had a brand-new heart valve, and 10 days after surgery, I was home.

Post-surgery challenges

However, I had somehow picked up a bacterial infection and so I was rushed back to the Heart Institute. I was very lucky. The great doctors reacted with speed and urgency, and caught that infection before it could enter my bloodstream and damage the new valve or any of my organs.

I was sent home again, but needed to stay put for several weeks. Arranged by the Heart Institute, a nurse came to see me every day. “Normal life” resumed three months after dealing with the infection.

My greatest challenge was building back my strength and getting back to normal breathing again. I was very short of breath during that entire time, and became more conscious of how close to death one can become.

I followed the Heart Institute’s rehab program and increased the intensity gradually on the treadmill.

I also got back to playing golf. In fact, two years after I received my valve, the man I was playing with asked if I had ever been a patient at the Ottawa Heart Institute. I said yes. Suddenly I realized: this man was Dr. Jean-Yves Dupuis, the head of anaesthesiology! Given the many patients the hospital treats on a daily basis, I was amazed that he would have remembered me.

After my heart valve was installed, I have been having yearly check-ups. During my last annual check-up in November 2015, tests showed that my heart was receiving less oxygen than it should have been getting. I needed a pacemaker – and quickly.

Surgery couldn’t have happened soon enough: only two days after learning that I needed a pacemaker, I blacked out in the basement of my home. I went back to the hospital, and had a pacemaker put in within days. That was back in February.

Now it’s been a few months, and I feel that having the pacemaker has made a tremendous difference. I go to a special clinic for pacemaker wearers, and am due to go back in September. At that time, the staff will adjust it to the rhythm of my body and level of activity.

The heart is a phenomenal organ, and the Heart Institute is a phenomenal place.

Paying it forward

A wise person once said you can never pay back for all the good deeds from which you have benefitted: instead of trying to pay back, aim to pay forward. This has been a philosophy by which my wife and I have always tried to live by.

Meanwhile, I have had a storied life that many others have said to me is blessed. As such, I have written a memoir called No Better Life. The book is about my personal and professional life, as well as a celebration of teaching as a profession. I plan to donate all proceeds from book sales to three Ottawa charities, including the Ottawa Heart Institute.

The Ottawa Heart Institute is a ‘human’ place, amazing in every way. I’ve never been anything but ecstatic about the quality of service they have provided me. They are world-class not only for their second-to-none technical expertise, but because of their approach to service.

Only as a patient of the institute can one truly realize the tremendous quality of health care that we are privileged to enjoy.

As I near my 80th birthday, I feel eternally grateful to have had my life extended by the Ottawa Heart Institute.

To order a copy of No Better Life ($20 + shipping), e-mail Naz Deen at

The Camino de Santiago becomes ‘a walk for the Heart’

by Heather Moore

Walking the Camino de Santiago is a religious pilgrimage in Spain which attracts thousands of people to pray at the sarcophagus Saint James the Apostle.

For me, it has also been a walk of gratitude for the Heart Institute, which has given our family so much. We are all eternally grateful.

Walking has changed my life, and last year, I walked in support of the Heart Institute.

Many years ago, my doctor pointed out that my body was starting to show signs of neglect, and I was determined to do something about it. Following a presentation of a mother and daughter’s journey on the Camino Frances, I knew this was for me. I have since done four walks in my life.

The first one started at St. Jean Pied de Port in France and ended at Santiago in Spain. In the spring of 2004, I arrived in Santiago in 34 days, embracing the long days, fellow pilgrims, and community. I enjoyed it so much that five years later, I walked the Camino Frances in 2009 with two very dear friends and again in 2013 alone.

While I have never been a patient at the Heart Institute, my husband Brian has needed their help several times. In 2011, Brian suffered his first heart attack in England, just before Christmas and again in December, 2012 here in Ottawa at the gym with his trainer. In February of 2015, while he was on the treadmill, he had another heart attack, spending another few days in the care of the wonderful doctors and nurses at the Heart Institute.

Fortunately, he recovered well, continuing his walking and strength training to the point where he and I felt he could walk the first day of the Via de La Plata, my most recent walk, with me. I also thought this would be the time to give back to the Heart Institute in some way.

So for every kilometer I walked, I decided would give one dollar to the Heart Institute. From Seville to Santiago, it’s 1,000 kilometers, the longest pilgrim route in Spain. We donated $1,000 to thank all the caregivers at the Heart Institute who “keep my Brian going” and who have inspired me to “walk for the heart.”

This is the story of this amazing journey:

The Via de la Plata is the road less traveled. I knew I would be alone much of the path. Even though I would be alone in my thoughts, I was really not alone as I was walking for the heart.

I began the walk with Brian on August 25 in Seville at 7 a.m. Brian was walking the first day to share a bit of what the walk is about. He walked 28 km with me in the sweltering heat, both of us taking in these very special moments together. Once he left, I had 970 km to my destination, Santiago de Compostela. Once he was home, we texted or talked every day while I walked.

Brian, my husband.

Brian, my husband.

One of the many pilgrims who left an indelible memory on me was Marc, 47 years old and a true nomad living out of his camper in Portugal.

I told him about Brian and why I was walking the Via de la Plata, and then he showed me the very large scar on his chest. Marc then shared his medical story. One day, he was walking in France on a trail and was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. Realizing what was happening, he called for a cab to take him to the nearest hospital. Once there, the doctor confirmed it was indeed a heart attack and that he needed surgery immediately. He didn’t have any health insurance so the doctor told him there was cardiac surgeon in Paris who owed him a favour. So Marc was taken by helicopter to Paris and received lifesaving surgery. Within a short period of time, Marc was hiking again. Two months later he was walking the Via de La Plata. We walked together over very difficult terrain which included a challenging mountain. My steps became more committed no matter how difficult it was.



There were many days that were very challenging, and as I walked further north the weather cooled considerably and then it rained. The wind was so strong that I was almost pushed onto the road. While I became increasingly tired, I remembered my granddaughter Isla’s email the night before, “Strong legs, Grandma, strong legs.” She’s five years old. I kept going and was fine as my legs were “strong.” I was walking with lots of love in my heart.

El Camino blog photo (5)

Finally, I arrived in Santiago on October 4th, happily anticipating Brian’s arrival the next day. I felt strong and fulfilled. Both my husband and I are so fortunate to have walked together that first day, which is in a great part do to the wonderful care he was given at the Heart Institute.
We cannot say enough of the stellar care he received at the Heart Institute. Thank you!

Brian and me!

Brian and me!

Jennifer Zlepnig and Dr. Thierry Mesana

The Impact of Care: Jennifer’s Story

by Jennifer Zlepnig

I have been a cardiac patient at both CHEO and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute my whole life, and I have always wanted to reach out to those people who have cared for me along the way – most notably Dr. Wilbert Keon, the man who saved my life and whom I consider to be my hero. I have always wanted the opportunity to meet him and thank him for helping to give me, what I consider to be, a truly exceptional life. I also want him to know how much he has influenced and inspired me.

I was born with a cardiac condition called anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery, which I am told was incredibly rare in those days.

Jennifer Zlepnig

Jennifer and her mom

For years my parents lived with the fear that I would not live a very long life, but fortunately Dr. Keon was willing to do my open heart surgery when I was three years old and give me a chance at life. I am also told this was the first time that he had performed this particular surgery. While the surgery was successful, my prognosis was not clear as there were no other “cases” like mine at that time. People born with my condition had a 1 in 3 chance of living to the age of 10, while the majority would die by the age of 30.

Jennifer at a young age

Jennifer at a young age

I am excited to say that I have recently celebrated my 31st birthday and I am, without a doubt, one of the most active, strong, and healthy women to walk the halls of the Heart Institute. Thanks to the outstanding care that I have received throughout my life, I am living a full life and am doing things that I didn’t always think were possible. This past year in particular, I have truly begun to live the life of my dreams…

After having worked as a Registered Nurse for the past 4 years, I was accepted into Medical School at the University of Ottawa last fall, in the class of 2019. Growing up, I always talked about being a Cardiologist one day, but it was never something that I seriously considered until I was in nursing school.

As a nursing student I had the opportunity to train in various units at the Heart Institute, and it is then that I realized how much I wanted to pursue medicine and ultimately a career in cardiology. As a medical student, I have had the great privilege of meeting Dr. Thierry Mesana, the President and CEO of the Heart Institute, and was able to share my story with him and he shared with me his experiences as a cardiac surgeon.

I have also had the opportunity to learn from brilliant cardiologists like Dr. Christopher Glover and observe life-saving procedures. I am truly living my dreams and I could not be more grateful. I look forward to learning more from the outstanding medical team at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in the years to come and hope to one day make significant contributions to the field of cardiac medicine.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to extend my overwhelming gratitude to my hero, Dr. Keon; to my incredible Cardiologist and cardiac nurse, Dr. Luc Beauchesne and Joanne Morin; and to all of the staff at the Heart Institute who work so hard to give people like me the chance to live a full life – and the chance to live our dreams!

Watch her story!

Video Jennifer Zlepnig

Watch the video

Panzanella with Asparagus and Eggs

Panzanella with Asparagus and Eggs

Photo credit: Canadian Living
Adapted from Canadian Living

Enjoy the end of the asparagus season with this easy weeknight meal. Start to finish it takes 20 minutes and tastes fresh and delicious!


• 4 eggs, (shells-on)
• 2 slices (1/2-inch/1 cm thick) sourdough bread
• 1 tsp (5 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 bunch asparagus, (about 450 g), trimmed
• 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
• 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Dijon Dressing:
• 2 tbsp (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
• 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper

1. In saucepan, add eggs and enough water to cover by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm); bring to boil. Reduce heat; boil gently for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 4 minutes. Drain and run eggs under cold water for 2 minutes; drain. Peel eggs and halve lengthwise; Set aside.
2. Brush both sides of bread with oil. Place bread and asparagus on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning once, until asparagus is tender and slightly grill-marked and bread is grill-marked, about 7 minutes. Let cool slightly; cube bread and halve asparagus crosswise.
3. In large bowl, gently toss together bread, asparagus, avocado, tomatoes, red onion and basil.

Dijon Dressing: Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.

To finish: Toss salad with dressing to coat. Top with eggs.

Grilled Halloumi and Vegetable Salad

Photo credit:
Recipe source:

This easy weeknight meal uses chickpeas and halloumi to give flavour to summer vegetables. Chickpeas are a great way to include more plant based proteins in your meals. If you don’t have a BBQ, you can make this using a cast iron pan on the stove top.


4 zucchinis, cut into 1/2-in. diagonal slices
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
250-g pkg halloumi cheese
540-mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped parsley


• Preheat barbecue to medium. Whisk olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.
• Oil grill. Barbecue zucchini until tender-crisp, 3 min per side.
• Cut halloumi into 1/2-in.-thick slices, and barbecue until grill marks form, 2 min per side.
• Divide zucchini, halloumi and chickpeas among 4 plates. Drizzle with lemon dressing. Sprinkle with mint and parsley.


• Calories 422
• Protein 20 g
• Carbohydrates 31 g
• Fat 25 g
• Fibre 6 g
• Sodium 1035 mg