Monika and Verna
Monika (L) and her mother-in-law, Verna, share a laugh between medical appointments in one of the waiting rooms at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC). Monika has spent half of her life travelling to PMCC – some two hours from her home north of Orillia – to manage a birth defect, and Verna has been a frequent companion on those trips. (Photo: UHN/PMCC)

They can wear many different hats: friend, confidante, nurse, doctor, therapist, dietitian, even drill sergeant. First, foremost and ultimately, however, they are caregivers.

Supporting a patient with cardiovascular disease to manage their heart condition can be daunting, depending on the severity of the diagnosis and complexity of the treatment regimen. Helping these patients with daily tasks, acting as an extra set of eyes, ears and hands to assist at a moment's notice or when required, is a role rife with responsibility.

During the second week of Heart Month, UHN News visited different areas within the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and spoke to family members and friends of cardiovascular patients to learn about what their caregiving role entails and what it means to those they support.

Meet Pat:

Pat accompanied his 89-year-old mother to PMCC this week for a procedure in the cardiac catheterization lab. The intervention represents a new chapter for Pat in his role as one of his mother's primary caregivers – a role that began almost 20 years ago when she experienced her first heart-related symptom.


 


"What that's like for me is a constant awareness of what her moves are during the day. Is she careful what she does, not knowing if I'm going to get that phone call where she is at the hospital?"

Pat, Caregiver for a cardiac patient


Meet Verna:

Too many to count. That's how many trips Verna estimates she has made accompanying her daughter-in-law, Monika, to doctors' appointments at PMCC, over the past 17-plus years. Monika was born with a rare heart defect, enduring her first surgery when she was just a few hours old. After being followed at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) for the first 18 years of her life, Monika has undergone more operations and frequent check-ups with adult congenital heart disease specialists at PMCC.

More often than not,  Monika's mother-in-law is by her side.


 

"Every time I see her phone number on my call display, the first thing that comes to my mind is where is she and is she okay, or is she just making a regular family call to our house."
Verna, Caregiver for a cardiac patient​

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