At the Heart of Hope

Emily - Peter Munk

Emily walks the cardiac floor of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto

“Your daughter needs a heart transplant.”

The cardiologist’s words hung in the air, each syllable suspended between disbelief and utter nonsense. The stuffy exam room had suddenly become much too hot, almost claustrophobic.

The doctor with her lovely English accent was mistaken, of course. We’d seen so many specialists. We’d run the gambit in medical diagnoses and endured myriad doctors’ heartfelt advice to address our seventeen-year-old daughter’s intermittent chest pain, heart murmur, palpitations, and arrhythmia.  “She’ll grow out of it,” one well-meaning cardiologist had said. “All she needs is more exercise,” another offered. “We see lots of young women who feel a ‘twinge’ in their chest — it’s nothing to worry about.”

And these troubling words: “Maybe she should see a psychiatrist.”

For over a decade we searched and sought out doctors, paediatricians, specialists, heart patients, anyone who could help find an answer to Emily’s sometimes debilitating symptoms, to find a solution to her fatigue, and her inability to walk and run distances without getting winded. After all, Emily was a “healthy” young woman, getting ready to head off to university in the fall.

But a heart transplant? Come on.

The doctor paused, then continued. More bad news. She was admitting Emily to hospital immediately and directly from the cardiac clinic. Apparently, Emily’s heart health had all of a sudden become so tenuous, she might suffer sudden cardiac arrest and drop dead before we reached the Starbucks in the hospital’s lobby. No going home. No passing GO. No collecting $200.00.

She cried. We cried. How does one go from “it’s probably all in her head” to “she’s going to die without a heart transplant?”

We were about to find out. Come journey with us as we embark on Emily’s and our life-changing adventure that gets to the heart of hope…

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