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Heart failure patient launches determined mission from devastating diagnosis

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​​​Cartwright family
Heather Cartwright, (L), and her siblings, Brian and Meredith, have made a large donation to a project at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre focused on the causes and prognosis of those who have her condition. (Photo: Heather Cartwright)

Active, athletic and a picture of health, Heather Cartwright learned in her early 20s that the very thing she loved and was so passionate about could prove fatal to her.

"It was devastating news to get. I identified as an athlete. I was strong and fit," Heather recalls in a recent blog for Good Life Fitness, which collaborates with the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), through the Good Life Fitness Centre of Excellence in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Medicine.

"But I was told I wasn't able to do any of this again because it could kill me."

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Her lifelong dream of becoming an elite level rower was quashed due to a weak and failing heart.

Since that diagnosis more than 20 years ago, Cartwright has skirted death time and again. 

Along the way she learned that she has a rare, genetic cardiac condition and that her heart will only get worse. There is no cure.  Heather is fitted with a defibrillator.

Her physicians at PMCC, Dr. Heather Ross, a cardiologist, and Dr. Danna Spears, a cardiologist in PMCC's electrophysiology department, focused on the electrical workings of the heart. They monitor Cartwright closely.

Cartwright's personal experience, coupled with the novel work being carried out by PMCC's heart failure and inherited arrhythmia teams, motivated her to give back.

Along with her brother, Brian, and sister, Meredith, she has donated money and time to the Heather Cartwright Inherited Cardiomyopathy and Arrhythmia Project.

Watch a full video interview with Heather Cartwright here.

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