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Photograph of Carolyn

When a failing heart becomes heartfelt joy playing piano.



After being diagnosed with a serious heart condition, Carolyn dreaded the thought of open heart surgery. A new non-invasive procedure at Sunnybrook repaired her heart and gave her her life back.

In 2012, Carolyn was enjoying time at the cottage when she had a bad fall. The former nurse realized she had fainted and went to her doctor. An echocardiogram revealed a narrowing of one of the valves in her heart. Carolyn was referred to a cardiologist who diagnosed her condition: aortic stenosis, a common but very serious condition that restricts blood flow in the heart and can lead to heart failure.

At first, Carolyn’s symptoms weren’t severe, and her cardiologist made the decision to monitor her. Carolyn began to exercise and eat a healthy diet, but she knew she may eventually need surgery. Dreading the thought of open heart surgery and the long recovery, she persisted with her healthy lifestyle for six years.

My heart is now in tip-top condition.

Time to consider another option

In 2018, things took a turn. While attending a concert with her daughter, Carolyn suffered shortness of breath on the short walk from her car to the venue. She began to feel weak and tired all the time, and she knew it was time to consider surgery.

Carolyn went back to her cardiologist, who offered her a possible alternative. Sunnybrook was conducting a clinical trial for a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve implementation, or TAVI. Without the need to open a patient’s chest, the procedure takes less time and recovery is much easier – patients are often discharged the following day.

Carolyn’s procedure was on March 6, 2018. She was admitted at 7:00 am, on the operating table at 8:00 am, recovering in the ICU at 9:30 am, and went home the next day. She spent only 32 hours in the hospital.

A new lease on life

After the procedure, Carolyn has more energy. She looks and feels better and can walk up the stairs in her three-storey townhome without becoming short of breath. Her first post-op appointment was on April 3, and her cardiologist was happy to tell her that her heart is “in tip-top condition.” Now, Carolyn is enjoying her health and teaching her piano students.


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