Category Archives: Patient Stories

A collection of all the patient stories.

Cardiac MRI saves Marianna’s life

The “picture of health”, Marianna didn’t realize that the sudden pain she was experiencing back in 2011 was a heart attack.

She wouldn’t know that until four years later, thanks to the newly-installed cardiac MRI at the Heart Institute.

However, back then she went to the emergency room of her local hospital and was diagnosed with a viral myocarditis, an inflammatory disease of the heart muscle. A corporal for the Canadian Armed Forces for the past 15 years, Marianna had just moved from New Brunswick to Chalk River, and in her spare time, she played soccer, tennis and swam. She recovered from the viral myocarditis six months later, optimistically believing that her heart troubles would soon be over.

But last January 10, 2015, just days before her 40th birthday, she again felt crippling pain in her chest. The pain was so bad, she described it as “unbearable.”

“I didn’t really know what it was but I knew something was wrong once more,” says Marianna. “I didn’t wait this time, I went straight to the emergency room.”

She spent three days at the Deep River Hospital and returned home with medication. Another cardiac event followed and she was admitted to the Pembroke Hospital. Soon after, she was quickly transferred to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute where they performed an angiogram within an hour of her arrival.

The results indicated that there was no obvious blockage in any of her heart arteries (otherwise known as coronary arteries). The angiogram did reveal that there was an abnormality in one of her arteries, which warranted further look into her heart.

Marianna was asked to stay another day so that she could go through the Institute’s brand new cardiac MRI. The newly-installed cardiac MRI offered clearer insight into her heart. It also saved her life.

cardiac MRI

That morning, because of its precise imaging capabilities, the MRI revealed that she had had a heart attack that day back in 2011. The images also suggested that her heart attacks may have occurred because of a small tear that was able to be seen on the angiogram.

“I was glad to be here at the Ottawa Heart Institute,” said Marianna. “It was a shock to me; I didn’t think I had had a heart attack. I am quite relieved that I finally know what’s going on.”

The next day, she received her prescription and she was on her way back home to her two-year-old daughter and husband.

Thanks to our community’s generosity, we were able to secure a cardiac MRI for the Ottawa Heart Institute, the first in Eastern Ontario which serves over 1.1 million people in the Champlain region.

“I received really great care at the Ottawa Heart Institute,” said Marianna gratefully. “I broke down at one point and the nurses were there for me. They were just human. They knew everything and they had all the answers to my questions.”

Una’s Story: The University of Ottawa Heart Institute gave me freedom to go literally anywhere

My name is Una Beaudry, and this is my story about how the University of Ottawa Heart Institute gave me my life back.

At 18 years old, I began having panic attacks—or, what I thought were panic attacks. I would be doing nothing other than sitting in a classroom at school, and my heart would inexplicably start racing. It was terrifying.

While I learned to live with it, I wasn’t able to enjoy the quality of life I had always hoped for.

Anywhere I went, even as I entered the first stages of my career, I lived in constant fear of experiencing another unforeseen panic attack. Whenever I was in a new environment, I had to make note of where all the exits were—just in case I felt my heart begin to race and needed to run out to my car to calm down. And to ensure my car was close by at all times, I even applied for and got a handicapped parking license plate.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I began to panic about panicking. It got to a point where I didn’t leave home for several months, afraid to go out into the real world for fear of having another attack.

For many years, this was my life.

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and put on medication. I soldiered on as best I could, aware that at any time, my body could once again turn on me. I’ve always been an avid runner. I love to run—so much, in fact, that I still did my best to go running as I was dealing with my panic attacks.

In 2003, I went for one of my usual jogs and noticed my heart rate monitor was all over the place. It didn’t concern me though; after all, I was jogging.

Una Photo Endurrun St1

But three days later, when I was sitting down in the front of the TV folding laundry, I felt my heart begin to race again. I put on the same heart rate monitor…and couldn’t believe what I saw.

My heart was pounding at 230 beats per minute.

My sister and brother-in-law drove me to the hospital. You can probably imagine how quickly they fast-tracked me through Emergency!

I was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia. It took four days, but the doctors and nurses were finally able to stabilize my heart. I was put on beta blockers and given instructions to live my life as best I could. Then I was sent home.

Over the next few years and months, my heart would still sometimes fall into an irregular rhythm. Having arrhythmia wasn’t an ideal way to live, but with medication and a diagnosis, I was starting to feel a bit more in control of my body. However, in 2009 during a surgical procedure to have my gall bladder removed, my heart once again decided to do battle with me.

While on the operating table, I went into SVT (supraventricular tachycardia). Again for no reason, my heart was speeding up.

The surgeons had to reboot my heart twice on the table, and once again while I was in recovery.

At that point in my life, my arrhythmia was not perceived as a serious problem, but a serious nuisance that could eventually turn into a problem. The symptoms had affected my personal life and work for so long. I was still only in my early 40s. I wanted to have a high quality of life. I wanted freedom.

It was at that time that I was referred to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute for
treatment. In 2009, I underwent a procedure at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute called a
catheter ablation.

Essentially, this procedure involves having a catheter inserted in your upper thigh, which then travels up through a vein into your heart. During the procedure, the doctors found the area of my heart that was “misbehaving”. They destroyed the disruptive tissue with high-frequency radio waves.

Remarkably, this relatively simple procedure had a major, not to mention immediate,
impact on my life.

Dr. Martin Green performed the surgery. I recently learned that he started the arrhythmia service in 1983 after he received training from one of its founders, in Maastricht, Netherlands. Back then, electrophysiology was a new discipline. Now, there are still only a few centres in Canada that can perform a range of complex procedures, and fortunately the University of Ottawa Heart Institute is one of them.

Afterwards, I told my doctor that I didn’t “feel” my heart any more. What I meant was that it was the first time in my life I had silence in my chest. I hadn’t known what it was like to not have palpitations or be aware of my heart.

It was a strange feeling—but, it was a normal feeling.

The day after the surgery, I was able to go out for a run. In fact, my cardiologist told me to throw my heart rate monitor away! And I haven’t stopped running since.

Over the last six years, I’ve raced full-on marathons—which, if you didn’t know, are more than 42 kilometres each! I participated in Ottawa, Rome, and Boston. Yes, the Boston marathon.

I have evolved into an “Ultra” runner, having run 3 runs of 100 kilometres last fall, and have a 100-kilometre race planned for later in 2015. And, believe it or not, I’m going to do my first 24-hour race in the fall, to see how far I can ru n in a span of 24 hours.

Una photo

None of this could have been possible without the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. I feel so blessed and lucky to have it and its services available in our city. Their wonderful staff saved my life.

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute gave me freedom to go literally anywhere. I am back at work, I can walk if I want, or I can run! I no longer feel anxious. I no longer have panic attacks. I am happy, healthy, and able to enjoy an excellent quality of life. I am living the life I always dreamed of.

Una Beaudry
Grateful Patient

Watch my story at last year’s Telethon


Angela’s Message: A Message to Remember

On September 25 2012, Angela Tanghe, a senior rehabilitation consultant in Ottawa died suddenly at age 40. Angela was a model of healthy living and work-life balance.

Despite her heart-healthy lifestyle, an undiagnosed congenital heart condition took her life, leaving behind her husband, five year-old son and two stepdaughters. Through the tragic loss, Angela’s co-workers found a way to remember her through meaningful events.

“Angela maintained an extremely healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, following a healthy diet, maintaining good work-life balance and most importantly, enjoying life,” says Caroline Workman. “We wanted a way to keep Angela’s memory alive, make an impact on staff and give back to the community.”

Angelas Message Team Website

Angela’s Message was started by Caroline Workman, an Ottawa Group Sales member at Great-West Life and Angela’s former leader, along with her colleagues Sara Trew and Laurie Weir. Angela’s Message is a series of events that takes place throughout May with plans to become an annual initiative.

The events promote heart health and a balanced life and raise money for the Canadian Women’s Heart Centre at the Ottawa Heart Institute.

Raise funds for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute with your friends and colleagues. Start your fundraising campaign today!

Related links

Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre
Fundraise today

Ryan’s Story: For Mother’s Day

by Ryan

My sister and I would be without a mother if it was not for the living angels at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Carley and I were raised by a single mother who lives and breathes for her children. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but you would never have known it. That’s because our mom put us first before everything and anything else. She may not have had money to spend on herself to even so much as replace her socks with holes in them; she was consumed with spending her every hard-earned dollar on my sister and me.

She was always there to hear our every sorrow, dilemma, bad news, happy news and everything in between. To that end, she has proudly served as surrogate mother of sorts to the very many friends my sister and I have had over the years. Her reputation as the ultimate mother is one that has always preceded her.

I consider myself the tough guy of all tough guys but even as I sit here writing this, it would be entirely dishonest for me to claim that I am doing so devoid of tears in my eyes.

Thanks to the medical staff at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute those are tears of absolute joy.

In January of 2011, my family’s worst nightmare delivered itself to fruition. Suddenly, our mother became seriously ill with multiple heart issues due to a viral infection in her heart. Mom was transferred to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

When we arrived we did so with the most intense hope and expectations. Yet still neither of us could fully grasp and comprehend what stood before us. From the very beginning, we were greeted with a sense of humour that broke our tension and level of care that put our minds at ease. They were so kind that Carley and I were left wondering if it was sarcasm BUT it wasn’t. It was exactly the kindness that it appeared to be.

The nursing staff went out of their way to tend to our mom’s every need and comfort level. Our mother was assessed by a team of doctors—NOT a single doctor but a team of specialists—that redefined world class! Dr. Calum Redpath and Dr. Haissam Haddad went to work like a symphony of pure and unlimited perfection. Perhaps what was most impressive was their human touch. They remained humble at all times. They spoke to us as if we were having a friendly coffee.

We asked them many questions to the point where I’m sure we must have been incredibly annoying and yet one and all took the time to provide us with the knowledge we sought!

Thanks to the Heart Institute my sister and I left Ottawa with a mother who is healthy and well.

She got to see her son get married and she will get to hold her future grandchildren. Thanks to the Ottawa Heart Institute we have a mother who is there to watch her family grow.

Thank you for giving us our mom back!

David’s Story: DMAC Dangler

In 2004, his father died of a heart attack and four years later, his mother lost her battle against breast cancer. In 2009, he would also lose his life: David Macdonald died at the tender age of 21 of bacterial infection at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The Macdonald’s are survived by his two brothers, Matt and Jon.

“It’s been six years and it’s still very difficult,” says Matt Kassner, his childhood friend. “I met David when we were in grade 1. We played hockey together and watched the Sens games. He was such a big Sens fan, he painted his basement red and had jerseys and Sens flags up everywhere.”

To Jamie Fitzgerald, David was a great teammate and a wonderful friend. “There was something about David that always put you in a good mood when you were with him,” he says. “His smile was infectious.”

“I met David when we were 2 years old,” says Kensy Jones, “what I remember most about Dave, is how he was always willing to go the extra mile to make someone else happy. He didn’t care how much time it took or what the circumstances were, he wanted to treat you like family, because that’s how he saw you. It was a special trait he got from his parents, and they were proud to see it in all of their boys”

David Patterson met David in Grade 7 and he will always remember how David made everyone feel welcomed and at ease.  “I thought he had a unique ability to make everyone around him feel welcome and at ease, that is until I met the rest of his family. I still remember coming home after playing road hockey in front of his house and emphatically asking my parents if we could move to their neighborhood.”

To commemorate his life, Matt, Jamie, Kensy and David, four of David’s good friends started a small campaign in 2010 with the selling of bracelets. The campaign was so successful, they launched a golf tournament two years later called the DMAC Dangler.

The tournament has grown ever since greeting over 150 golfers each year, and raising over $34,000 in support of the Heart Institute.

“We do this tournament for two reasons: To celebrate David’s life and give back,” says Matt. “It’s an amazing and positive day. It’s also a small high school/family reunion as David’s family from out of town, his two brothers and our friends from high school all come out and play.”

They are looking forward to another great day on June 26th at The Manderley Golf Course! Join the fun! You can purchase tickets to The DMAC Dangler Golf Tournament right here!

See you on the green!

Rick’s Story: A Triathlete With a Pacemaker

My name is Rick Hellard. I am 48 yrs old, a former professional triathlete and now coach, and I have a bad heart. I spent 10 days at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute because I was not allowed to leave. Here is my story!

Two years ago, I was cycling with my friends when I got booted out the back of the pack: That’s when you’re cycling behind everyone else. When you’re cycling and you’re booted out the back, it only means one thing: you’re 30 per cent weaker than the cyclist at the front. It should not have happened and I knew it. I was pushing myself very hard but I could not keep up. I wasn’t used to be being last, and although I felt my legs and lungs burning, I pushed through the pain because as an athlete, that’s just what you do.

At the end of our trek, my friends and I laughed it off, convinced that I was having a bad day.  The following week, things got worse. I did a foot race on Saturday, and a bike race the following day and my results were terrible.  I finally realized something was wrong and I needed to get it checked.

Photo Credit: Ottawa Citizen

Photo Credit: Ottawa Citizen

On April 16, 2014, I had a blood test and an ECG.  The following day, I returned to my normal activities unaware of what was to come. It was a normal day—I coached my swim group in the morning, went for a 12k run, had a meeting, ate lunch and got dressed to go for a bike ride…and then the phone rang. It was my family doctor with the results from the ECG.

“That was fast,” I thought as I answered the phone.

“Rick?” said the doctor, “You need to go to the hospital. Go to the emergency unit at the Civic now, they’re expecting you.”
“You’re not going to ruin my Easter weekend are you?”
“Yes I will” the doctor replied.
“Can I ride my bike there?”
“Absolutely not.”

Shocked but not frazzled, I went to the emergency ward at the Civic. On my way there, I left a message to my wife Nancy, since I knew she would worry.

As I walked in and announced my arrival at reception, the receptionist was stunned. She got a hold of my charts and did a double-take.

“You’re Rick Hellard?” she said. “People with a third degree AV block don’t normally walk in.”

I jumped the queue, was seated in a wheelchair and wheeled off to a bed where I underwent another ECG.  I was then wheeled off to the critical care unit. This happened within a span of ten minutes. I certainly did not feel “critical”.

My wife arrived a few minutes after and then came the doctor who explained to us my condition.

If you have a third degree AV block, the electrical signals are not sent properly from one chamber of the heart to the other. These signals are critical to making my heart contract and pump blood properly, but with my condition, my heart was pumping at a slower rate. People with my condition don’t walk in without a pacemaker.

The doctor said that they needed to do some tests to figure out why I had this condition, but only after Easter weekend. Four long days, I thought.

“Okay, I can come back on Tuesday,” I replied.
“You’re not leaving the hospital until this is done.”
“Can I go home and get some stuff, take a shower? I was just going out for a ride when I got the call.”
“You’re not leaving the hospital…at all!”

I was wheeled off to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute on Tuesday after the long weekend where they did more tests.  It was clear, I needed a pacemaker.

Me? A former professional triathlete and coach, a lifelong endurance junkie. Me? The guy who trains over 20 hours a week, year in and year out, for over 30 years. A pacemaker? Yes, me!

I was relieved because there was a solution and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute knew what to do.

On April 25th, they implanted a pacemaker. I was wide awake when they inserted it that Friday afternoon. The experience was mind-opening as I didn’t feel any discomfort throughout the procedure. I left the Ottawa Heart Institute the next day.

For all intents and purposes, I am fixed.  I would say that I am at 95% capacity with the hopes of getting back to 100%. I can handle that.  It’s way better than where I was before, that’s for sure.

There are so many people to thank that I would rather not single out a nurse or doctor. Everyone was incredible and exceptional. I am still here because of them!

I will forever be grateful to the staff at the Ottawa Heart Institute for giving me a new lease on life, and I plan to give back with my fundraiser Put Your Heart Into It.

On the Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend, my team and I will be cycling a 100 k, then racing the Ottawa 10 k on Saturday, ride another 40 k on Sunday and we finish it off with  the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon. That’s a grand total of 171 km for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. I can’t think of a better way of giving back. I owe them my life.

To athletes and non-athletes alike,take your heart health more seriously!  You could be saving your life!

Thank you to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Judy’s Story: I Use My New Lease on Life to Give Back

By Judy Hum-Delaney

WOW, you had it worse than I did,” a bubbly twenty-something girl said to me. We had just met at the Telethon and we were taking a break from answering phones that March afternoon. We were already showing each other our scars from our surgeries, a custom that only heart patients would understand.

Her name was Larissa Taylor and she was a heart transplant patient at the tender age of 20.

“What are you talking about? Yours was much worse: you had a heart transplant,” I replied in good fun. “No, no,”’ she said, “your body had to be cooled down and stuff.” Her mother who was sitting right next to her chimed in: “Your procedure seemed more intricate.” Oddly enough, the man sitting right next to her agreed…and he had had two heart transplants!

I had undergone a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE). A very complex procedure that can only be handled by expert hands, PTE involves extracting a deadly blood clot from a major blood vessel in the lungs. Only two centres in North America perform this surgery and one them is the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

I am blessed to have been given a second lease on life and I feel undoubtedly lucky that we have such a centre in our hometown.

When I was first diagnosed, I was given about two years to live. It has been four years since my surgery and I am here thanks to the Ottawa Heart Institute.

I was only 32 years old when I learned that I had developed pulmonary hypertension because of a pulmonary embolism, but the path that led to this discovery was as complicated as the procedure.

One day, at work, my heart started racing every time I stood up. I couldn’t breathe and I broke into sweats. I went to the hospital the next day and the initial diagnosis was that I had asthma. Upon further investigation, they discovered that I had a large blood clot in my left lung. I was prescribed blood thinners which should have resolved the clot in six months. After a year, the clot was still there. My wonderful hematologist, Dr. Marc Carrier, followed my condition. While it got worse, I was convincing myself that I felt better.

I learned later that blood thinners are enough to restore blood flow and prevent the development of pulmonary hypertension for patients who suffer a blood clot. However, a minority of patients will not respond adequately to blood thinners. I was in the minority.

I was cheerfully continuing on with my life as if it wasn’t literally passing me by. I got married in June of 2011 to my wonderful husband and we travelled to Mexico for our honeymoon. I later learned that the trip could have been very dangerous for me.

My husband and I

My husband and I

In early July, I had my one-year checkup and was referred to Dr. Fraser Rubens, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute who would understand my condition and could remove my blood clot permanently.

When I met, Dr. Rubens ran through my charts. By the look on his face, I could tell things weren’t good at all.  “We need to do open heart surgery to remove the clot in your lung.”

Is it really that bad, I thought? I felt great! After all, my sister also suffered pulmonary embolism years earlier and she never needed surgery.

“Surgery in like a year right? I feel fine,” I replied cheerfully.
“In August at the latest. September at the most, but I would rather not wait”
“But…I’m fine”
“Judy, if we don’t do it, you will die in two years”

I immediately panicked and began to sob uncontrollably. Dr. Rubens called Anne Stolarik, the advanced practice nurse for surgery, who came quickly into the room to console me. There was really no option; I had to do the surgery now or die in two years.

“If you do this surgery, you are buying yourself a future,” he said calmly. My surgery was scheduled two weeks after.

I had the surgery in the early morning hours on Tuesday, August 9, 2011. It wasn’t just complex; it was intensive. My body had to be cooled down to 17 degrees Celsius to protect major organs like my brain. They removed the clot in one shot! I was in a medically induced coma for two days following my operation.

What’s great about the Ottawa Heart Institute is that it’s not only about the patients; it’s also about the families. Throughout my entire stay, the amazing nursing staff made sure that my family was at ease and that they were included in every part of the process. The staff comforted them and truly tended to their needs. Even though Dr. Rubens was out of town on the weekend following my surgery, he still made time to see me that Sunday just to see how I was doing.

I was released from the hospital after one week. The average hospital stay is two weeks. Not a day has gone by that I don’t think of the care that I received and how lucky I am.

Anyone who has been through a near death experience knows that it changes everything. As I spent those five months recovering, I took that time to figure out how I would thank the Ottawa Heart Institute. In January 2012, I used my new lease on life to give back.

I volunteered at the 2012 Telethon answering phone calls and lending my hand where it was needed. Just last February, my community group “Ottawa Foodie Girlz” rolled up its sleeves to raise money for the Ottawa Heart Institute for Heart Month. The idea was simple: we reached out to amazing restaurants in Ottawa that were willing to donate gift cards as an incentive to donate during Heart Month. We raised over $1,000.

When Heart Month came to an end, I lent my hand once again to the Heart Institute by answering phones and showing my scars at the recent Telethon with other grateful patients who were there that day.

These days, I also give back by counselling patients who are candidates for the surgery. As for me, I am as good as new. The procedure went so well, it’s as if I never had a blood clot!

There are people who are afraid to go through this type of surgery. I understand because I was scared too, but there’s nothing to worry about when you have a truly world-class institution like the Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada.

Related links

Donate today!
Start a fundraising campaign
Get Involved

Anne-Marie’s Story: You Only Live Once

by Anne-Marie

Bonjour! My name is Anne-Marie and I was born with Tricuspid Atresia. I spent a lot of time in the hospital and I had a couple of surgeries as a baby and a few more in the following

My major surgeries were done at Sick Kids in Toronto (where I first learned to speak English since I am French-Canadian). When I turned 4, the doctors told my parents that I could have a Fontan procedure and there was a small chance that it would be successful since they hadn’t performed this surgery on anyone else this young at that time. My mom knew I was stubborn and wanted to live longer so she went with her instinct and said yes to the surgery.

The cardiologists said the surgery would give me a longer life but I would not live past 11 years old. Before heading to the operating room, the doctor asked me if there was anything I wanted after my surgery. I told him that I desperately wanted a bag of chips and a puppy! He was about to give me an answer when he saw my mom’s face: She was absolutely terrified of dogs. He turned to me and said: “You can have chips when you wake up but you will have to wait until your 11th birthday for the dog.” Tricky, tricky doctor!

I soon surpassed the age of 11 and the doctors told me that I was doing so well that they would wean me off my medication and I would be allowed to add more sodium into my diet. While that was nice, someone owed me a dog. I got my first puppy (Dési). My mother faced her fears and made a new best friend, and I got to eat chips. I was feeling great!

I had a normal and fun childhood. The only difference was, I couldn’t participate in gym class (which was horrible, because I had to go to typing class instead) and I was on a very strict low-sodium diet. Although I’m a sucker for salt, I still stay away from it to this day.

My teenage years were just like everybody else’s: I was reckless at times and I wasn’t always smart about my choices, but I survived it all and I had good friends looking after me.

When I was 16, I was on my first travelling experience alone. I went to the south of Spain for the summer to take Spanish classes. It was an amazing experience, but I had a mini-stroke while I was there and it was scary. When I returned, an MRI confirmed that I had had a huge blood clot on the right side of my brain. I felt so lucky that none of the symptoms were permanent. Since then, I have been taking anticoagulants.

It was also in my adolescence that the doctors told me that I could never have a child: it could kill me and the baby. At that age, I moved on to adult care at the Ottawa Heart Institute. The wonderful people there have been taking care of me ever since.

In my 20s, I started to develop pretty bad arrhythmias and my heart symptoms started to affect me emotionally. Before, I never felt different than anyone else or at least I didn’t take the time to think of it much. By the time I was 25 years old however, I realized that I had limitations and side effects of this heart malformation. It’s as if I woke up one morning as an adult and realized that my health wasn’t perfect and that I would have obstacles throughout my life because of it. They tried different drugs to manage my symptoms, but they were always there.

Before I turned 30, I married my amazing husband Matt. Our wedding was awesome, barefoot on the beach down South, with 60 close friends and family. We were so happy together. It is a bit difficult to see all my friends and siblings have children. We are, however, on a waiting list for adoption and my husband and I are lucky to be Godparents to five amazing kids!

Anne-Marie at Geiranger

Anne-Marie at Geiranger

Due to my symptoms and some complications that were arising, the cardiologists decided it was a good idea for me to undergo a revision to my original Fontan surgery. So, at the age of 33, I had an extracardiac Fontan at the Toronto General Hospital to try to fix some of the problems I had. During this surgery, they also did a maze procedure, they removed an aneurism in my heart and they placed a pacemaker in my chest (the pacemaker was a surprise when I woke up!). The recovery was very slow but I am feeling much better now.

I have days where I’m ready to do anything and other days where all I can really do is watch some Netflix and rest on the couch. Since this surgery, I have been taking more medication (anti-arrhythmia meds, anticoagulants and lasix). I’m hoping this recent surgery gives my heart a strong boost to keep on because I plan to live past 100.

I’m still at the Heart Institute. My doctor is Dr. Luc Beauchesne. He is great and so is Joanne Morin. She is always good at patiently answering any questions I have no matter how stupid they may be. I have appointments once a year although after my Fontan revision, I was visiting more often. Everyone is always so attentive and kind. I’m lucky to have the Ottawa Heart Institute close by.

When I think of my quality of life as an adult CHD survivor, I realize I have some obstacles. Yes, I have regular medical visits, surgeries, various daily pills, a pacemaker, limitations when it comes to family planning, my diet and exercise, BUT I feel so happy and blessed for everything I DO have. I don’t feel that my heart defect stops me from living a happy, healthy life. I go to the gym, I snowboard, I love trying any new activities and I travel A LOT.

My travels have led me to work at Disney Land Paris for a few months, swim with sharks, hike down inside a volcano, sleep in airports, and trek through so many different cities and National parks. My heart defect and health problems have not affected my career either. I completed an undergrad in psychology, a Master’s in counseling and a degree in teaching. Currently, I am a teacher at a high school near my house.

I know what keeps me happy and healthy: a positive attitude and the amazing people that surround me and constantly support me. I try to remember these following rules:

You Only Live Once, so live it up as much as you can!
You Only Have One Heart, so nurture it and
appreciate it as much as you can!

 The story was also featured in

Learn more about congenital heart defects.